Report from Professor Wesley Vernon OBE – President, Society of Shoe Fitters

The Society of Shoe Fitters, in conjunction with the Healthy Footwear Guide group has been working hard on its first ever conference on shoe fitting. I am pleased to announce that everything has now been arranged and the conference which is entitled “Fit not Frumpy: How shoe fitting can benefit everyone” will take place on 19th September at the University of Northampton.

Tickets for this event are now available via the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fit-not-frumpy-how-shoe-fitting-can-benefit-everyone-tickets-25259811777

The cost of tickets which includes access to all presentations, trade stand area, refreshments and a light lunch is £50 (full delegates), £35 (students). The event will provide an opportunity to learn about different perspectives on shoe fitting, to find out about new research relevant to shoe fitting and to meet people from other backgrounds (e.g. health care, the research community) who share a common interest in footwear and good shoe fitting. We hope that as many members as possible will be able to attend the event, which we anticipate will not only be educational, but also enjoyable and will lead to attendees making new contacts and friendships.

 

As usual I have been thinking about footwear matters again this week. Footwear is once more in the news for all the wrong reasons – this time in relation to the story reported by the BBC entitled London receptionist ‘sent home for not wearing heels’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-36264229). While I have been around long enough to appreciate that not everything reported in the press is always exactly as it seems, on the face of it, this article does raise some important issues.

 

I worked for the NHS as a podiatrist for many years and during this time had the regular and quite difficult task of attempting to persuade patients to change their chosen footwear in order to improve their foot health situation. While it would have been helpful in some ways to have been able to insist on such changes, this was not a route one should ever think of going down and it was important to recognise that one’s chosen footwear style is a very important personal choice. The only solution was to find a compromise between the shoe styles I wanted to see my patients wearing and the styles that the

patients themselves wanted to wear by personal preference. The key task I had was to ensure that whatever style of shoe the patient chose for themselves, that they did so from an informed perspective and that they fully understood the implications of wearing styles that may not have been conducive to their individual foot health situation.

 

I also provided reports on a number of occasions in which employers had insisted that their workers wore certain footwear despite being advised by some individuals that the footwear they were being forced to wear was painful and causing them harm. When, on occasion, actual serious harm did result from these situations, personal injury claims were inevitably made against the companies concerned.

The conclusion I came to was that apart from employers requiring their workers to wear footwear considered essential within their working context (i.e. safety shoes, black shoes, clean shoes etc.) insisting on employees wearing shoes of a particular style when being advised by the employee concerned that harm and discomfort was being experienced could be a serious mistake which could potentially lead to major problems for both worker and company concerned. Within certain “reasonable” parameters as dictated by context, footwear choice is therefore very much a personal matter and as long as that choice is an informed one and made within context, should be left to the individual shoe wearer.

 

I hope that these thoughts are stimulating and I wish you all the best and look forward to seeing at least some of you at the conference event in September.

Professor Wesley Vernon OBE – President, Society of Shoe Fitters

 

SSF Secretary, Laura West, adds… “As Shoe Fitters we have the same dilemma Wes and advise student members ‘fit their head before their feet’. If the customer desires shoes that don’t fit, the only way is to find other items that will fit like a glove and let them work out if it is worth the pain! We only hope if it is children’s shoes, parents will continue to be advised by their shoe fitter not their child!”