Creating custom footwear solutions

By Dinethra Nandakoban, 4 April 2019 , Comments

Northcott’s onsite Pedorthist Craig Scott has been creating bespoke, handmade medical grade footwear for over 35 years from our Parramatta office. Find out why Craig’s skills are so in demand and high risk foot clinics are referring their patients to him.

As a Pedorthist, or a specialised bootmaker, Craig Scott is trained to create custom footwear made to size. But what makes Craig unique is he is one of the last remaining pedorthists in NSW making shoes for people with disability that are individually designed to fit the shape and size of feet or lower limbs.

“All the footwear jobs you see here are essentially the jobs no one else can do, they’re too complex,” says Craig. “Custom footwear or boot-making is a dying trade.”

Craig is a true craftsman who uses plaster casts of customers’ feet to hand cut and stitch leather shoes. Starting from scratch, each plaster cast is a unique mould of the customer’s foot, from the curve of the inner sole to the shape of their foot from heel to toe.

Accommodating bunions, hammertoes, and dropped metatarsals are all part of his service.

“I create custom semi-rigid orthotics that are flexible,” says Craig. “This means if someone has an ulcer or diabetes there is a little bit more movement in the shoe to adjust.”

These semi-rigid orthotic casts are customised to the pressure points each individual experiences, enabling Craig to create a unique, comfortable fit.

Craig’s passion for craftsmanship is apparent when you speak to him. He began his apprenticeship with Northcott, 35 years ago when the organisation was known as The NSW Society for Crippled Children.

“Thirty-five years ago we became the leaders in creating custom footwear,” he says.

And now his work has no bounds.

Creating medical grade orthoses

Even though each pair of his shoes is created to last a lifetime, Craig often creates multiple pairs for his customers over time. He has literally seen children grow up wearing his shoes as their feet grow, or their mobility changes. He even has a customer who travels from Griffith for several pairs of shoes at a time!

“For kids, I can fit orthoses into school shoes rather than creating new custom shoes. So all parents have to do is to buy new school shoes as the child’s feet grow,” says Craig. “And even more helpful, the customers’ shoes look just like their friends’ at school so they don’t feel different.”

In the workshop, Craig is currently working on creating custom boots for someone who has a short broad foot with a bunion, a prominent ankle bone and foot that rolls over.

“She should have an AFO (ankle foot orthoses),” says Craig. “But because of the structure of her ankle bone, she wouldn’t tolerate the pressure of the plastic over her bone.”

So Craig has created a custom-made boot that mimics an AFO. The boot has a very wide sole so when she stands, instead of her ankle rolling over, the boot gives her ankle stability and support. This enables her to walk with greater ease and independence by keeping the foot in a neutral position.

Working alongside Northcott’s Orthotics service

Craig also works with local businesses that create artificial limbs for amputees, and Northcott’s Orthotist, Vandeth Chhun, to create orthoses for customers.

Craig and Vandeth’s work complements each other.

“When I see a new customer, I’ll make an assessment on what type of medical grade footwear is needed,” Craig says. “Then if the customer needs more than bespoke footwear, Vandeth would see them as well. I’ll get her opinion to do an assessment of their muscle tone and range of movement of their leg and foot to prescribe whether an AFO or KAFO [Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis] is required.”

Craig mentions one customer, whose leg goes into hyper-extension when she stands (that’s when your knee joint bends beyond 180 degrees). Vandeth had recommended this customer use a caliper.

“The problem was the customer couldn’t find a pair of off-the-shelf boots that would fit the KAFO or caliper, so that’s where I come in,” he says.

Craig has handcrafted a pair of knee-high leather boots for the customer as she was really worried about how her legs would look in the boots and caliper.

In response to the customer’s concerns, Craig and Vandeth created a KAFO for her left leg, which was hidden within a knee-high boot. They then created a matching standard knee-high boot for her right leg. By adding a heavy bulk lining to the right boot, Craig was able to make the customer’s legs look cosmetically the same. This approach meant that the customer can wear a skirt or a dress with confidence, which was important to her.

Craig says there’s always a demand for the work he does.

“The reason our customers are happy is we talk and listen to them before creating solutions. It’s important to understand their needs before making boots they’re not going to be happy wearing,” says Craig. “That’s what sets us apart from other services like ours and why customers keep coming back to us.”

Would you like to learn more about Northcott’s custom footwear service?

If you are an NDIS customer and are interested in custom shoes, you can contact Craig for a quote by either calling 1800 818 286 or completing the online enquiry form.

Related content

Read more about Northcott’s Orthotics and Custom Footwear service, to find out whether you could be eligible for custom footwear.

See the 3D printed AFOs process in action here.



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