A good exam at your podiatrist’s office can be the simplest and most cost- effective way to get past any number of injuries that keep you from running your best. ( I know, one visit to my podiatrist netted me a “prescription” for nothing more than the right kind of running shoe, and I’ve been running pain-free ever since.)
Traditional exams require doctors to analyze your stance, your foot shape, muscle strength, flexibility, and gait through visual observation and physical tests. Not surprisingly, computer technology has given podiatrists another tool to help them make accurate diagnoses.
Digital foot imaging is a new system that helps podiatrists get a look at the way your foot works.
Dr. George Tsatsos stopped by our offices to tell us about the system, and to show us how it works. The system is pretty simple: It includes a sensor pad and a laptop with appropriate software.
“Basically, there are microchips in the pad,” Tsatsos says. “When a patient stands or walk on it, they measure the amount of pressure. The computer translates it into a graphic image.”
One advantage of the system is that it can help remove some of the subjectivity involved with the visual observation of the foot. Another advantage is that the pad can record the pressures exerted by the foot when a patient walks over the pad, giving a snapshot of the feet’s walking dynamics.
Another advantage is that data can be recorded and sent directly to special labs. They use this precise information to build custom orthotics that, according to Tsatsos, are more likely to fit the patient than orthotics made through molding techniques. “Return rates for bio-foam and plaster molding are around 15 percent,” Tsatsos says, “But with the new technology, it’s less than one percent. We haven’t had any return yet, and we’ve done 15-20 sets with the new technology.”
The final advantage of the system is that the images are easy to understand, and that gives us patients more information, so we can make better health-care decisions.