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Do Good Feet's Claims Of Helping Foot Pain Stand?
Doctors Say Salespeople Can't Diagnose, Treat Problems
POSTED: 4:17 pm MDT September 15, 2005
UPDATED: 4:28 pm MDT September 16, 2005
What would you do to get rid of your foot, leg, or back pain? How much would you pay? Some Coloradans have paid more than $500 to a local foot store -- a company that said while it doesn't diagnose or prescribe, it can nontheless help.
Visit any Good Feet store and friendly salespeople approach you with an answer to almost any of your foot problems. But just how true are their claims? What should you believe?
7NEWS took our hidden cameras into several area Good Feet stores to find out. During the investigation, some salespeople seem to discourage going to a foot doctor.
"They're not going to make you any better because they're taking a mirror image of exactly how your foot is when you have them made -- and if you don't how your foot is, why make a mirror copy of it?" said a salesman during the hidden camera investigation.
But that pitch makes sense because Good Feet is in direct competition with podiatrists. The company has a system of pre-made, over- the-counter arch supports of various degrees and widths.
Podiatrists like Dr. Lon Horwitz custom mold each support to the individual foot but not before doing a full exam including x-rays and diagnosis.
"We can identify if it is a fracture, if it is an abnormal bone growth, if it is a bone tumor -- which are not that unusual in the foot," said Horwitz, president of the Colorado Podiatric Medical Association.
But according to the Good Feet sales pitch, that is unnecessary and more expensive.
"We don't do any molds of your feet because you're just going to get a hard or soft version of exactly what your foot is," said a Good Feet salesman.
"We are the only system that is actually a corrective system that actually works to realign the feet and correct the feet back to the way they're supposed to work and also correct the arches and bones in the feet," said one saleswoman.
"I feel like there are many great systems out there so that statement would not be 100 percent correct, that it's not the only system," said Good Feet owner Eric Kaplan.
Kaplan owns six Good Feet franchises on Colorado's Front Range, including four stores 7NEWS visited with our hidden camera. He was clearly surprised by his staff's statements, including the comment that going to a podiatrist wouldn't help customers.
"We do not condone specifically saying like, 'You do not want to go see a podiatrist because your foot is not going to improve going to a podiatrist.' No, I do not condone that," Kaplan said.
Jane Harmon works on her feet all day, so when she started experiencing severe foot pain, she visited a Good Feet store seeking relief.
Like other Good Feet customers, Harmon walked across a piece of paper so they could take an imprint of her foot. Based on that imprint, the representative tells the customer what's wrong and makes it clear that Good Feet can help.
In Harmon's case, she said Good Feet claimed she had fallen arches even though Harmon said that the saleswoman did not examine her foot or feel her foot.
"They don't do any kind of X-rays. They're not a doctor's office," Harmon said.
After wearing her $500 Good Feet arch supports for nearly two months, the pain persisted. So she went to Dr. Jim Anderson, a foot specialist and past president of the Colorado Podiatric Medical Association.
"Her first metatarsal -- the bone that leads down to the big toe joint -- was considerably shorter than it should be and that would cause more pressure there and therefore she would get this nerve problem," said Anderson.
Anderson said Good Feet salespeople had no way of knowing that. Anderson said they misdiagnosed Harmon.
Kaplan said his people won't know if that person has a hairline fracture of their heel or a bone spur or bone tumor "because we don't prescribe and diagnose. We are not doctors."
"What we tell people is what the arch supports are designed for. They are designed to help you with comfort, balance and support," Kaplan said.
Watching our undercover video, Dr. Anderson had other concerns.
In the undercover video, a salesman tells a customer, "Go see your doctor. Go spend $400 or $800 for something that's going to last you a year or two."
Anderson said that's not true.
"We have had customers who have had complete elimination of bunions and hammertoes or have at least seen a decrease in them," a Good Feet saleswoman said.
"Hammertoes, bunions - - a lot of that stuff is genetic," a Good Feet salesman said.
The salesman said that if those problems ran in the family, Good Feet could correct that.
"In terms of common medical practice now, the way you straighten a hammertoe is you have to surgically do that," said Anderson.
Kaplan said Good Feet products will not correct hammertoes and bunions.
"We do not advertise that it does, so the answer is no," he said.
Anderson said Good Feet and other over-the-counter arch supports certainly can help some people, but he cautions customers to be aware of the limitations -- both the product and the salespeople.
"There are patients that come into Good Feet who assume that (the salespeople) know what they're talking about. They may, many times, but many times, they may not. So, do you want to take that risk?" Anderson asked.
"We are going to work on some of the specific things we are saying to customers and the instances you have shared with me because it just doesn't work -- some of the stuff you are sharing with me," Kaplan said.
"You go in there because you are in pain and you want relief and you believe that they are selling you a product that is going to help you," Harmon said.
As a result of 7NEWS' investigation, Kaplan said he has put new emphasis on training, having several meetings with his employees, and making sure they understand they can’t make unfounded claims which imply diagnosis.
Experts say there are over-the-counter arch supports that can be helpful to some people but the folks at Good Feet have no way of knowing why you are having pain.
There is shop in the UK www.profeet.co.uk similar to goodfeet stores also produces orthoses without Podiatrist evaluation. I am sure if hidden camera was place it would reveal the true nature of the selling technique.
There is shop in the UK ww w.profeet.co.uk similar to goodfeet stores also produces orthoses without Podiatrist evaluation. I am sure if hidden camera was place it would reveal the true nature of the selling technique.
However, to my mind it highlighted the need for pods to be careful in prescribing too. Certainly in the UK a great many pods now prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) devices in preference to casted devices.
Somewhere around 90% of UK pods are doing OTC in preference to casted devices (verbal info given to me this week by the head of the biggest manufacturer of OTC devices in the UK).
I have no way of knowing if pods who routinely prescribe OTC devices carry out diagnostic testing of any kind before prescribing (tests would normally include x-ray if indicated, and/or 2nd opinion in some cases).
I suspect that in many cases tests may be limited or inappropriate. In fact just a slightly longer version of the "gait analysis" carried out by the Goodfeet Stores.
Last edited by davidh : 18th September 2005 at 01:49 AM.
Reason: sp mistake
I did something like this for years before I had podiatry training....it is what made me more and more keen to understand better what was happenning.
The issues revolve closely around the claims you make and the expectations you cultivate in your customers....keep these things well under control and I can't see the problem.
It is very glib to say that "salespeople" can't diagnose........but what is a surgeon selling when he tells someone they need surgery?....his services for which he will take money......funny about that.
I don't see all that much difference myself.
It's just about being careful to stay within the boundaries of your skills.
I noticed an advert in the Weekend paper in Perth WA advertising foot orthotic therapy and the source was human movement biomechanists and not a podiatrist in sight.
Podiatrists have never had exclusivity when it came to foot orthoses on any continent on Earth. That is a myth and unlikely to ever become fact. Ownership may be commendable but no outside authority recognises this and as a profession we need to accept we operate in a highly competative foot health market.
The specialist study of biomechanics does inform but it also asks more questions that it provides answers for. To date there is no independent evidence to support the use of foot orthotic intervention no matter what quasi logic is proffered. Under these circumstances apparent disadvantage from "inappropriate" foot orthotic prescriptions (and there is little literature available to support this situation exists) must remain insignificant within the general population. Now conditions do apply of course but are rare exceptions and whilst off the peg (OTC) devices continue to match bespoke shells efficaciously, then commercial economics would determine the cheaper the unit costs, the better.
As an aside, I am reminded of the Consumer's Association (UK) several decades back when they completed a review of Bunion Shields and found no quantitative data to support their use. In the subsequent write up specific comments were made, had more consumers complained of the poor results from their purchases then suppliers would be forced to withdraw bunion shields. In the same way I think we need to be mindful that many foot orthoses end up in a drawer and are never worn, no matter where they are purchased.
Now conditions do apply of course but are rare exceptions and whilst off the peg (OTC) devices continue to match bespoke shells efficaciously, then commercial economics would determine the cheaper the unit costs, the better.
Sorry, I just loved that sentence so much I wanted it repeated.
Cameron is right, we do not have trade rights, jurisdiction or ownership of any kind over orthotics. What we have had, however, is a more thorough and reasoned approach to their prescription and manufacture. (OK, so the theory behind them is looking ever more dodgy, at least we have plenty of happy punters who don't mind empirical over RCTs and who have experienced symptomatic relief).
We have been careful (usually) to state the limitations of orthotic therapy, thus avoiding the 'cure-all' approach which so often results in ill feeling in clients when reality strikes. We have also taken steps to exclude, compensate, treat and address other conditions present which will not respond to orthotic therapy. By doing this we have kept the whole orthotic thing pretty clean.
The problem arises not with the Phil Carters of the world - who have always used honesty as a yardstick and sales banner (and most successfully too). The problem is when the term 'orthotic' is used to describe anything shoved in a shoe by anyone regardless of trade, talent or timing. The indiscriminate and uninformed public, when things go wrong, are likely to form a blanket opinion (inevitably negative) about 'orthotics' in general.
In shoe devices, when recommended and even moulded by non-Pods can be really useful, as the ethical salesperson knows when to refer the punter on for further investigation. It is the unethical lot that endanger our carefully developed and fragile reputation as orthotic therapy practitioners.