If The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Customers have a variety of problems ranging from those caused by diabetes or arthritis to flat feet, heel pain, bunions or hammer toes. They need the right shoes for themselves, such as the best shoes for flat feet or heel pain and many foot problems. This article will tell you about Comfort Shoe Specialists. This store makes custom shoes to help relieve pain or other problems caused by an improper shoe fit.

Comfort Shoe Specialists 12143 Manchester Road Des Peres, Mo. 63131.

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Business Activity

More than 50% of the store’s customers are referred by about 200 physicians in the St. Louis area. Most of the customers have appointments, but walk-ins are accepted. The store also will fit customers with shoes from its inventory.

Executive

Edith James, 44, a certified podiatrist, started the company in October 1992. She has been in the shoe business for nearly 20 years, starting as a custom leather worker, making custom sandals. Having suffered foot discomfort herself, James was determined to find a solution to her problem and to help others. She learned how to make molded footwear from Dr. Gerald Cohen in St. Louis.

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Company history

James opened her store in the Olympic Oaks Shopping Center on Manchester Road in Des Peres after having worked with her former husband at Fischer’s Therapeutic Footwear, which is closing in mid-June. There were just two full-time employees when she opened her store, Michael Lukowski and James, and one part-time employee, Mary Holloran.

Employees

Every member of the staff is trained to give a full assessment of foot problems to each customer. Most get their training on the job, although there are week-long courses that employees take. Eddie Walter, who had been president of American Home Health Care in Virginia, and his wife, Gayle, joined the staff recently.

Comfort Shoe Specialists

Customers

Comfort Shoe Specialists has six female customers for every male customer. About 15% to 20% of the customers are diabetic. Athletes who are injured or need special shoes also have been clients, including former Blues’ hockey player Garth Butcher and Pat Leahy, who was a kicker for many years for the New York Jets professional football team. Many of the customers are over 40, an age when many people begin developing foot problems.

Products

Therapeutic shoes have come a long way since the days when “they looked like old granny shoes,” James says. There are 13 lines of shoes in the store now, and another line will be added in the summer and one in the fall. Among the women’s tailored shoes are Spiess and Theresia “Fits.” Most look like the typical shoe people wear with no indication they are custom-fitted or worn to deal with problem feet. They are available in a wide range of styles and colors. The shoes in a stock run from $80 to $250, while custom-made shoes cost about $650 a pair. Many shoes have inner soles or support built in. About 80% of the insoles are removable. The casual and walking shoes, such as Finn Comfort and Ecco, have shock absorbent heels, more cushion in the footbed and arch and metatarsal support.

James says as many as 88% of women wear shoes that are too small for them. “Our feet get larger with age,” James says. “Yet, people will wear the same size shoe for 20 years. Much of the problem is, people in stores just sell shoes, they don’t fit them. It’s incredible how ignorant we are about our feet. You know, 25% of our bones are in our feet. Eight out of 10-foot problems people have are caused by shoes that don’t fit properly.”

Some foot problems of children can be cured, James says, but they must be corrected before a child reaches the 12- to 14-year-old range.

Professional services

Southwest Bank is the company’s banker and Launhardt & Associates does the firm’s accounting.

Marketing

James and her staff call on physicians informing them of their store and advising them to send patients to them. If a customer arrives at the store with a problem and has not been referred by a doctor, Comfort Shoe will inform the physician of the assessment and ask the physician to refer future patients to them. About 20% of their customers have been referred to them by other customers.

The health of your feet becomes an important issue once neglecting them is no longer an option. And it’s human nature to solve problems only when they get out of hand. And when it comes to our feet, we don’t really care enough to make that extra effort, right? (LAMONT LY)

 

Article by John J. Christian

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