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Pedorthists examine a doctor's prescription for a patient and then design and fit therapeutic footwear to treat the problem. This involves first discussing the prescription with the patient and examining the patient's feet. Pedorthists begin the task of further evaluation by making impressions of the patient's feet to get the exact measurements and contours correct. Next, a plaster mold is created from the impression to be used as a model in choosing or creating the footwear or device.
If the foot problem can be corrected by using footwear that has already been created, pedorthists will make minor adjustments to this ready-made device to fit the patient's needs. Sometimes, pedorthists must design new footwear that meets the specific needs of the patient. Usually, pedorthists will request that the specific design be made by the technicians in the lab.
After pedorthists have followed this process, they must evaluate the footwear or device to make sure it was made correctly and will function as it was intended. They try the footwear or device on the patient to make sure it fits. If the fit is not correct, changes must be made, since improperly fitting footwear may cause further damage to the patient. Often, pedorthists must oversee several trial fittings, making numerous adjustments to be sure the footwear is absolutely correct.
At this point, pedorthists instruct the patient in how to properly use the new footwear or device. They answer questions the patient may have about the device, referring certain questions to other members of the medical team.
Pedorthists conduct follow-up visits to track the patient's progress and to gauge how well the footwear is working. Frequently, changes must be made after the patient has had a chance to try out the footwear on a daily basis.
Pedorthists maintain precise records of their patients' footwear needs and problems. They must be very detailed in these records, since many adjustments are minor. Also, these final records are used to create a report for the doctors to inform them of the treatment applied.
Many pedorthists specialize in certain areas. These include adult foot deformities, amputations, arthritis, congenital deformities, diabetes, geriatrics, overuse injuries, pediatrics, sports-related injuries, and trauma. These more specialized pedorthists focus on one or two of these conditions and create comprehensive treatments, which include preventive, corrective, and accommodative measures. Pedorthists create treatments that try to prevent the condition from developing, but when it does, they then attempt to correct the disorder. Finally, they try to accommodate the condition to alleviate as much pain as possible for the patient.
Pedorthists don't just work in the patient care segment of medicine. Some work on creating new, innovative techniques, materials, and treatments to be used in their field. They may research how to make better shoe inserts or ankle braces. Or, they may try to find the cause of certain conditions so that preventive treatment can be developed. Finally, pedorthists who are researchers use tests to improve the products and treatments being currently used.
Pedorthists may incorporate computer-based techniques when designing footwear and devices. They may use computers to create three-dimensional models instead of the traditional methods of model creation.
Some pedorthists may take their skills to places where the demand is high. For example, nursing homes tend to have a high number of residents with foot conditions that a pedorthist can treat. Also, pedorthists may conduct clinics at hospitals to heighten public awareness about foot care and possible treatments.
Pedorthists have a wide range and variety of footwear and devices to select from or modify to suit their patients' needs. Some of these include arch supports, ankle supports, lifts, inserts, walking shoes, brace shoes, surgical boots, and custom-made shoes.