David and Sandra Ford’s partnership — in both marriage and business — has spanned nearly 30 years.
The two first owned a Decatur radio station and later purchased a shoe repair franchise that featured mall-based shops.
“We had many customers come in with things like leg length discrepancies, injuries or other issues,” David said. “It was that experience that really got me interested and prompted me to research into what I could do in that area, but more in depth.”
That research resulted in David pursuing a career as a pedorthist — one who modifies and manufactures footwear and devices to help with conditions of the foot and lower limbs — receiving his certification from Oklahoma State University in 1997.
He worked for Donna Robertson, a University of Alabama athletic trainer and established Birmingham pedorthist. At the same time, David served as clinical pedorthist for Alabama Sports Medicine (now Andrews), working with Auburn University athletics and as a consultant to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and numerous professional and amateur athletes.
When Robertson sold her practice in 2002, David and Sandra, who had received her certification as a fitter of therapeutic shoes, opened The Foot Care Center in Hoover, now known as Ford’s Foot Performance, at 3021 Lorna Road.
While David and Sandra saw patients, their son, Steven, worked part time in the clinic office while in college. In time, he decided to also pursue a career as a certified pedorthist, attending Kennesaw State University. He returned to go to work with his parents and was joined by his sister, Katy Ford Saunders, who, like her mother, was a certified fitter until she left to be a full-time mom. Today, Rachel Behan, Steven’s cousin, works as the lab manager.
“My parents had the business here and a great reputation with area physicians and patients, so I decided it was what I wanted to do,” Steven said. “It’s great to be able to keep the business in the family and I’m so glad we have.”
According to the Fords, they see patients ranging in age from 8 years to the 90s with ambulatory problems resulting from injury, congenital deformities or overuse.
The Fords said their typical process includes analyzing the client’s gait, making an ink impression of the feet to indicate pressure points and the height of the arches, and creating either foam or plaster models used to create custom devices.
“We don’t sell shoes but, based on the patient’s needs, are able to recommend the type they need and places that will help them find the appropriate shoe,” David said. “Then they bring the shoes back to us, and we make any adjustments needed in-house, including sanding, so the orthotic fit is perfect.”
According to David, about 50 percent of their patients are athletes, but “across the board” the most common condition the Fords encounter is plantar fasciitis, an injury to the ligament in the sole that runs from the heel into the arch.
“This can be caused by the inability of the foot to deal with hard surfaces or in those who wear ill-fitted or broken-down shoes,” David said. “This can include runners and walkers but also nurses, people who work retail or on a manufacturing plant floor. Most everyone is susceptible.”
According to the Fords, anyone having foot issues can come in for a consultation, but if the result requires a medical device, customers must get a prescription from a physician.
“If our patients want us to, we can refer them to a doctor,” David said. “We work with orthopedic surgeons, physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, pediatricians and many other medical professionals to solve the problems of foot imbalances, foot trauma and genetic foot disorders, and a lot of referrals are not only to help with foot problems but often to help avoid surgery.”
The Fords all agree the best advice for people who want to avoid foot problems is to purchase good, quality shoes and not to use them too long.
“These days, a great many shoe stores are self serve, and people buy shoes because they look good or are on sale and then wear them constantly for extended periods,” Steven said. “Most shoes are designed to last only six to eight months when worn daily.”