Feet First

A Toronto Orthotics clinic helps you put your best foot forward by Veronica Boodhan

feet provide your body with the support that

it needs. From your posture to your overall balance, maintaining proper foot health is important for your overall wellbeing.

So when experiencing discomfort in your feet, it is crucial to seek treatment to keep your feet healthy and active.

“A person’s posture can be compared to the foundation in a house. If there is a structural defect or the foundation fails and collapses on one side, then every part of the house above the defect is affected,” says Dr. John Hardy, owner of Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics. “Your feet form the foundation for your body and posture... [Changes in] the normal mechanics of the ankle, knee, hip and spine [can] cause premature wear and tear of the involved joints and lead to early degenerative changes such as osteoarthritis.”

Founded more than 30 years ago, Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics in Toronto has been dedicated to treating foot conditions that plague thousands of Canadians, including pain

experienced in the arch and heel (plantar fasciitis), front of the foot (metatarsalgia), toe and Achilles tendon, as well as heel spurs, hammer toes, ingrown nails, bunions, corns and callouses.

Hardy and his wife, Marz, who is a chiropodist and foot specialist, along with the clinic’s team of foot specialists, help to provide their patients with state-of-the-art foot care and custom-made orthotics. “Our clinic has always had a very keen interest in foot mechanics and how that relates to posture and the biomechanics of the spine. Very early in practice we saw that if the postural defects of the foot and ankle were addressed through proper correction with custom-made orthotics, many knee, hip, lower back, neck and even headaches were corrected,” he says.

Orthotics are offered in the form of custom-fitted foot supports, which are inserted into shoes to improve a patient’s balance by addressing his or her individual foot concerns.

“When a person is suffering from a

Fitting orthotics

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particular foot ailment that causes pain such as heel pain, arch pain, bunions, ingrown nails, corns and ulcers, it changes the way that they walk (gait). This eventually leads to problems of the ankle, knee, hip and spine,” says Hardy. “There is a saying, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. If you change the way that you stand and walk, you affect every joint above the foot.”

Academy Clinics uses state-of-the-art equipment to treat foot conditions, including laser and shockwave therapy, ultrasound, Doppler, interferential therapy, Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) and computerized foot scanning to create orthotics. They also use sports medicine techniques including stretching and exercise to help condition the feet and improve the patient’s overall health.

The team at Academy Clinics also works with other health experts such as medical doctors, orthopedic surgeons, dermatologists, radiologists and chiropractors, and have access to some of the leading forms of surgical equipment and treatments (in addition to ultrasound, MRI and X-ray) including computerized pain-free injections and needle- free injections.

According to Hardy, more than 70 per cent of professional athletes wear custom-made orthotics to help improve their posture and balance when competing in high-energy activities.

People with serious health conditions including diabetes can also find custom orthotics to be beneficial for improving blood circulation and helping to distribute their weight evenly, thus reducing pressure points in the feet.

752 Broadview Ave., Toronto M4K 2P1

“When a patient comes to Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics, we not only diagnose their condition but follow the treatment through until we are satisfied that we have done everything possible to correct and prevent the condition from occurring again,” explains Hardy. “The emphasis of our treatment at our clinic is not to just address the person’s symptoms, but to find the underlying cause and treat that. We then educate our patients about correct footwear, exercises, posture and what things, for that particular patient, to do or not so the condition doesn’t reoccur or is managed as best as possible.”

Hardy says that one of the most common misconceptions he has heard from his patients is that all orthotics are the same — something that couldn’t be further away from the truth. “[Orthotics] have to be custom-made with a casting from plaster, foam or a computerized 3D laser, as we do in our clinic, in order for the device to be effective and helpful for the patient. Many patients go to trade shows and buy [orthotics that are] one size fits all. They might be less expensive but they are usually not effective and can actually create foot and joint problems,” he says.

He adds that it is important to find a reputable foot specialist, registered with the College of Chiropodists of Ontario, since custom orthotics are often covered by employers’ extended insurance plans. That was the case for one patient for whom Hardy helped create custom orthotics to improve his severe lower back pain due to fallen arches (bilateral pronation).

“He had just retired from the health benefits department and they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of people claiming for orthotic benefits and

Dr. John A. Hardy shares his expert tips for preventing skin and nail fungus.

1. Know what athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) looks like — usually white macerated skin between the third and forth interspace that is itchy — and treat it early and effectively.

2. Take care around public areas, changing rooms and swimming pools. Wear flip-flops, dry your feet well and change on top of a clean towel.

3. Let your feet breath. Air out your shoes and don’t wear the same shoes on consecutive days.

4. Keep your toenails trimmed and clean, as well as the instruments you use, keep them clean and sterile and don’t share them.

5. Wear cotton or natural fibre socks and leather and breathable uppers in shoes.

6. Only attend nail salons that have adequate levels of hygiene when getting manicures or pedicures. Avoid whirlpools that do not have a removable liner.

Make sure that all instruments and files are sterilized and that the environment around you looks clean.

7. Foot specialists, such as chiropodists and podiatrists, specialize in the treatment of the foot and nail. If you notice anything abnormal, make sure to consult a doctor.

It is also transmittable, which is why extra caution should be taken in shared spaces such as showers, bathrooms, gyms, locker rooms and swimming pools.

“Fungal infections are often unsightly. With nail fungus, the nail becomes thickened or discoloured... Nails can become brittle or can crumble, and may lift from the end of the digits, and in some cases debris collects beneath the nail and becomes malodorous,” he explains. He says that moisture can often cause the fungus to grow, which is why toenails tend to be more susceptible to nail fungus than fingernails.

Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics has recently invested in a new laser treatment to treat nail fungus. The Q-Clear Laser by Alma is a groundbreaking FDA-approved treatment that targets the patient’s individuals nails to destroy fungal spores. To continue to destroy the infection, a traditional Nd:YAG laser is also used during the treatment.

“Our laser has been in operation for only a few months, but we are already seeing nails clearing after only a few treatments in nearly all of our patients,” says Marz. “One of my patients who I have been caring for over 10 years has had nail fungus, which was slowly

Marz Hardy, D.Ch., B.Sc. (Podiatric Medicine)

getting worse despite all the creams and fungal remedies we had at our disposal. I never suggest oral pharmaceuticals as the chance of liver and kidney damage is not worth the risk. After only three laser treatments we can see that her nail is now growing out normally and we are certain we have finally found a cure for this patient.”

One of the most common concerns patients tend to have is that the laser treatments are painful. The Hardys reassure them that it is a painless procedure with little to no discomfort. Following the treatment, patients are able to walk and return to their daily routines.

The treatments are usually performed in sets of five, each spaced a month apart. During each treatment, the patient’s footwear is also sterilized with ultraviolet light, and they are provided with tea tree oil, which is known for its antimicrobial properties to prevent the re- growth of fungus.

Marz says that laser treatments are the most effective method to treating nail fungus.

“Nail fungus is almost always quite difficult to get rid of. There are no silver bullets that will make it disappear in a day, week or month. One of the reasons is that fungal infections are a systemic infection and is not just under the

Damage caused by toenail fungus

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skin but usually deep and through many layers of skin,” she explains. “Even with laser it takes time and you have to wait for the infected nail to grow out which usually takes at least nine months. Once it is cured, it can easily come back if the person doesn’t practise proper hygiene and properly care for their feet.”

It is important to look for warning signs of nail fungus, which can include discolouration and change in texture (brittle or thickened nails).

“While some see the fungal infection as purely cosmetic, when the nail becomes thickened, heavily discoloured and crumbly, it can cause significant embarrassment and self-consciousness,” says John. “It can become painful in shoes, develop corns down the sides

of the nails and also become impossible to cut or trim, causing ingrown nails. In addition, it becomes a source of nail fungus that can constantly re-infect the skin of the foot.”

Since some patients may be self-conscious of their feet prior to the treatment, nail fungus can heighten this emotion. Therefore, at Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics, the Hardys offer their patients a comforting and relaxing atmosphere with trusted equipment.

“Our clinic is constantly striving to provide the best possible foot care by using the latest technology and techniques possible,” says Marz. “You will also be warmly greeted by our team of professional health-care providers who love their profession and are dedicated to their patients.”

Dr. John A. Hardy is the owner and office manager of Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics, where he also works as a consultant. Marz Hardy, D.Ch., B.Sc. (Podiatric Medicine), is a member of the College of Chiropodists of Ontario (CCO), Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine (CFPM), Ontario Society of Chiropodists (OSC) and American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). In 2006, she was also the first chiropodist in Canada qualified in Active Release Technique (A.R.T.). » » 416-465-8737

752 Broadview Ave., Toronto M4K 2P1

[he] was trying to contain costs without really knowing much about them other than their cost. Needless to say that was the end of the discussion about orthotics on that visit. He was treated for eight weeks and was discharged after his low back pain subsided. He had a relapse about a year later when the subject of orthotics was suggested once more and he decided that he would give them a try. I told him the worst thing that can happen is that he will feel better,” recalls Hardy.

“He received his orthotics and came back four weeks later to tell me his back pain was gone, he had no more knee pain and he felt better than he had [in] four years. He told me that if he knew how beneficial they were, he would not have tried to limit them as a benefit on their health plan. That patient never ever had back pain again.”

Orthotics typically last two years for adults before they need to be replaced. For children, the orthotics should be replaced once or twice a

Marz Hardy, D.Ch., B.Sc. (Podiatric Medicine)

Using a computerized laser scanning casting machine

year, or when their shoe size has increased. “Many people who suffer with foot

problems do so because of muscle and bone misalignments of the foot and ankle. Each foot has 26 bones, plus two sesamoid bones. That means that more than 50 per cent of your body’s bones are located within your foot as well as countless ligaments and muscles to form an amazing organ that is responsible for balance, support, propulsion and posture,” says Hardy. “Your feet are with you for life.” Dr. John A. Hardy is the owner and office manager of Academy Foot and Orthotic Clinics, where he also works as a consultant. Marz Hardy, D.Ch., B.Sc. (Podiatric Medicine), is a member of the College of Chiropodists

of Ontario (CCO), Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine (CFPM), Ontario Society of Chiropodists (OSC) and American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). In 2006, she was also the first chiropodist in Canada qualified in Active Release Technique (A.R.T.). » » 416-465-7837



Toronto, ON Chiropodist Academy Foot and Orthotic


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