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Underneath the arches.. it's hell!; But now foot pain is a thing of the past for busy mum Sandra Willis, thanks to an ingenious new laser scanner that set her on the right path at last.


AFTER years of severe foot pain and hundreds of pounds spent on shoe inserts, Sandra Willis was in despair.

The 35-year-old mother of two feared she would spend the rest of her days unable to do little more than hobble.

But then she spotted the advertisement that has changed her life.

It was about a new type of laser foot scanner which sounded as though it might help, and in desperation she decided to give it a try.

The scanner, the first of its kind in Britain, computer-designed an orthotic device to support Sandra's feet - and now she is free from pain at last.

She has even run a five-kilometre charity Race For Life jog in aid of Cancer Research UK.

"A year ago I would not have even been able to hobble five kilometres, let alone jog it," says Sandra. "The pain in my heel was so excruciating that I walked like a woman twice my age.

"It was worse when I had been sitting or lying down. When I got up and put my foot to the ground it was like a dagger sticking into my heel. I was crippled with the pain."

Sandra from Selsdon, Surrey, suffered from plantar fasciitis, more commonly known as policeman's heel or heel spur. It is caused by a tear in one arch ligament at the bottom of the foot.

The condition affects around one in every 20 people and was nicknamed policeman's heel because the symptoms become worse when people walk a great deal, as do policemen on the beat.

The plantar fascia extends from the heel to each of the five toes. It acts as a guide wire to support the bottom of the foot, especially the arch.

If sufficient pressure is exerted on the bottom of the foot - enough to spread the toes or flatten the arch - a tear occurs.

It can develop suddenly or over a period of time, usually as a result of the way a person walks. A tear at the back of the heel often results in the bone developing a calcium "spur" underneath the foot.

Because you walk each day, the foot does not have a chance to repair itself. And even if you can "rest" completely the cause is still there in the way you walk, so the condition will soon return.

Sandra, mother of Stuart, nine, and Emma, eight, had seen a chiropodist and a podiatrist and paid nearly pounds 300 for specially made inner soles. But they didn't stop the pain.

Then she saw an advertisement about the laser foot scanner and the "Ortho-tek" orthotic device. Sandra was sceptical, but she was also desperate. "What could I lose apart from money?" she says. "The pain was unbearable and I just did not know where to turn next for help."

The optical laser scanner at the Nightingale Clinic in Carshalton, Surrey, developed in America, accurately measures thousands of points on the foot's many contours. Then it uses them to produce an exact model from which the orthotic device is made.

When worn regularly inside shoes, this corrects the imbalance in the foot. Eventually the calcium spur will disperse and the tear will repair.

The support must be worn permanently, or the foot will return to its normal walking method and the problem will return.

Sandra says: "It took around three months of wearing the orthotic device for 80 per cent of the day for the pain to disappear completely.

"It was fantastic to be able to get out of bed in the morning without feeling that searing pain in my heel. Last month, just 10 months later, I was able to take part in the Race For Life run.

"I realise I will have to wear the orthotics always, but they are very comfortable and there are various types which fit into different shoes, from trainers to court shoes.

"And now that the damage is healed I can go without the orthotics for a short time for special occasions without any adverse effects.

"Last week, I was able to go on holiday and wear open-toed sandals without the orthotics and not feel any pain."

Osteopath Les Bailey introduced the laser scanner and the custom-made Ortho-tek orthotics to the UK after suffering from plantar fasciitis himself. He says: "I became interested in foot biomechanics after suffering from my own heel spur nine years ago. I found that conventional ultrasound treatment, physiotherapy, over-the-counter arch lifts and cortisone injections did not work."

The scanner avoids older methods such as plaster-casting which were time-consuming, messy and not always accurate.

Patients place their foot on the optical laser scanner, and after measuring the foot it sends the information directly to a computer in the USA. There, another computer "corrects" the foot on screen and works out the specifications of the orthotic insert you need.

The device repositions the foot structure and achieves optimum skeletal balance.

There are a variety of different types, including classic, sport, comfort, slimfit, golfer, sprinter and men's and women's boots.

The cost ranges from pounds 100 to pounds 500, but the initial consultation is free.

"It is important to remember that twice our body weight goes through our feet 9,500 times a day," says Les Bailey. "Most of the time, we walk on hard, flat surfaces for which our bodies are not designed.

"But with your feet in balance you will be able to walk better, and not only your feet but also your knees, hips and spine will function more efficiently."

-More information from: Nightingale Clinic, 112 Nightingale Road, Carshalton, Surrey SM5 2EN. Tel: 020 8669 3818. Or visit the website:


STEP CHANGE: Sandra is delighted to be free of foot pain at last; THAT'S TORN IT: A damaged arch ligament - and a computer-designed orthotic shoe insert
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 25, 2002
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