If you’ve always thought of foot orthotics as a modern invention, think again! Let’s take a look at the captivating story of foot orthotics, from awkward beginnings to modern-day technology.
The first known orthotic foot devices date back almost 2,000 years! Layers of wool were inserted into sandals to relieve foot strain and fatigue, giving the wearer — who almost certainly spent most of the day on his or her feet — a bit of extra cushioning.
The first recorded use of arch support occurred in 1865, when Everett H. Dunbar of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, inserted leather “lifts” between the insole and the outsole of his shoe, giving extra support to the arch.
The First True Foot Orthotics
The Whitman Brace, which debuted in 1905, is considered the first true foot orthotic and was introduced to the world by Boston orthopedist Royal Whitman. The device, a stiff metal arch support flanged around the heel and the arch, was popular among orthopedic surgeons because of Whitman’s reputation in the field — even though it was bulky, heavy, and distorted the wearer’s shoe.
In 1910, Dr. William Scholl (yes, that Dr. Scholl) came out with a much lighter, more flexible metal support called the Foot-Easer. As you may have guessed, millions of pairs sold over the next several years.
Orthotics in the Footwear Industry
The 1920s and 30s brought a wave of “corrective” shoe production. These shoes promised to prevent, correct, or relieve a wide variety of foot issues. Over time, these corrective shoes became a major part of the footwear industry — and a very lucrative one, too.
The demand for corrective shoes was so high that at one point, there were nearly 1,000 different brands on the market, including 200 “doctor” shoes. The advertising campaigns for these shoes became so outrageous that, in the late 1940s, the Federal Trade Commission was forced to issue cease-and-desist orders. In the wake of this discouragement, the corrective shoe business faded away.
Modern Foot Orthotics
Twenty years later, orthotics gained new traction as materials became lighter, more flexible, and stronger. By the 1970s, when jogging became trendy and athletic footwear was on the upswing, foot orthotics developed even more rapidly. Athletes reported more and more foot and lower limb injuries, and the orthotics industry responded.
Soon, athletic shoes came with orthotic features such as flared heels, contoured sole inserts, and underfoot cushioning. Doctors began specializing in sports medicine, which included orthotics as a standard part of treatment. Today’s orthotics look nothing like the crude Whitman Brace — a fact that orthotic wearers everywhere have reason to celebrate.
Looking for Foot Orthotics? Call BioTech!
At BioTech, we can help you with everything from custom molded shoes to diabetic inlays. Of course, foot orthotics is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services we offer! Contact us today for all of your prosthetic and orthotic device needs. We are here to serve you!