Many medical conditions can cause problems with the feet, and when you pair these problems with ill-fitting shoes, complications and even amputation can occur.

Andrew Hoar is a sixth generation shoemaker and certified pedorthist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

“I assess various foot deformities and problems with people’s feet, to enable them to walk normally or pain free,” says Hoar. “The most common conditions we see are patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis. Diabetes takes up, probably, half of my practice, we have polio, spina bifida.”

Wearing the wrong shoe can cause serious complications for many of these patients.

“Fifteen percent of diabetics will develop a foot ulcer and 80 per cent of amputations we do are done on diabetics that start out with an ulcer on their foot, which is usually caused by their shoe,” says Hoar.

Hoar assesses a patient, then makes a custom insole or shoe, or modifies an existing shoe to fit their needs.

Blair Pike was born with spina bifida. He says his feet are always evolving, making Hoar’s work even more important to him.

“I’ve had toe amputations and ankle fusions and this kind of thing, that one pair of shoes that I might have at one time wouldn’t work for the altered form of my foot,” says Pike.

The 72-year-old has been wearing special shoes for much of his life.

“It really started to affect me when I reached the age of about 14-years-old and I had problems with my feet. The toes were pulling up and that kind of thing,” says Pike.

Hoar is the man responsible for Pike’s custom footwear, but he’s not the first in his family to work with Pike.

“I remembered being down on Bedford Row and I thought it was his grandfather, when in fact it was his great-grandfather,” recalls Pike.

Hoar says he always knew he wanted to go into the family business – it came naturally to him and seeing the difference his work makes in patient’s lives has turned into a rewarding career.

“Quite often we’ll have a patient come in who is unable to walk due to the pain in their feet and they present in a wheelchair and when we’re through they’re up and walking out the door pain free,” says Hoar.