Going above and beyond to find the right shoes

As a volunteer with the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, Diana Dobson used to cover several kilometres a day visiting businesses looking for fundraising dollars.

But, at one point, her feet were so sore that she almost quit.

Dobson, 60, has foot drop, which means she has difficulty lifting the front part of her foot. She would sometimes lose balance and fall. She used orthotics and had trouble finding shoes wide enough to accommodate them.

“I could never find the right fit,” she recalls. “My feet ached.”

One of Dobson’s friends recommended she try shopping at Brainsport. Dobson still remembers visiting the store for the first time 10 years ago and meeting owner Brian Michasiw, who refused to stop trying until they found a shoe that was wide enough, had appropriate arch support and was comfortable.

Dobson was once again able to pound the pavement looking for donors.

These days, Dobson has a brace over her left foot, which makes finding shoes even more complicated. She uses a walker and is no longer fundraising. But Michasiw and his staff are still finding her shoes that work, despite the added complications.

In extreme circumstances — such as Dobson’s — Brainsport partners with the SaskAbilities Council to modify shoes. In Dobson’s case, SaskAbilities takes an extra wide New Balance 928 walking shoe and attaches a hook near the toes so Dobson can attach her brace.

Dobson’s modified shoe.

Michasiw not only acts as a go-between with SaskAbilities, but also delivers the finished shoes to Dobson, who relies on Access Transit to get around.

“I can’t do that with everybody, but I’m just trying to help Diana be able to walk and live a healthy active lifestyle in her context,” Michasiw says.

Michasiw says customers like Dobson with unique fitting needs are a big part of who Brainsport serves, despite what many people seem to believe.

He says people frequently walk into the store and say they feel like they don’t belong there because they are not serious runners.

“I’ve been trying, it seems daily, to dispel that we’re a store for elite runners when I feel we’re in fact a store that will help people live a healthier active lifestyle — and that’s whatever that means to that person,” he says.

“I really wish more of the world could see the Diana-Dobson-type fits because it illustrates what we do as a store. And honestly, it’s just so meaningful to fit someone when you can make a difference where they can actually have some self mobility.”