Category: Currents

Custom Foot Orthotics for Skiing and Skating

Skiing is a sport with no swing phase of gait i.e., the foot is in contact with the supporting surface at all times.

Skating, however, has a “swing phase” where the basic foot function is one of “position” and not of motion (not pronation followed by supination). In skating there is no change in foot position during the “swing’ to “stance”.

Both sports rely on the position of the foot to the supporting surface.

Little or no motion occurs within the foot; motion within the foot is not a consideration. Posting is not indicated because motion is not paramount within the foot (posting positions the rearfoot at heel contact only and there is no heel contact with these sports).

The rigid forefoot extension (it flexes to the transverse plane on weight bearing) keeps a constant pressure on the plantar surface of the toes creating a bio-feed back through the proprioceptors in the skin on the plantar surface of the toes. This feedback causes the posterior leg muscles to contact. (Stand up, then lean forward and notice that the posterior muscles of the leg contract to prevent you from falling on your nose. Now, stand up, then lift your toes off the floor and then lean forward and you will fall on your face).

This feedback enhances skiing and skating.

Good alignment of the rearfoot and midfoot enable greater plantarflexion of the first metatarsal into the supporting surface for increased inside edge control for skiing and more powerful propulsion for skating.


Northwest Podiatric Laboratory is an industry leader in custom foot orthotic and related technologies. Dennis Brown, a retired British soldier, elite athlete and natural-born inventor founded the company in 1964 and was joined by a biomechanics pioneer, Dr. Chris Smith, in 1974. With an exclusive blend of science, craftsmanship and innovation, the partners have built a company that utilizes proprietary production techniques and technology to produce orthotics with a unique shape and unparalleled performance. Northwest Podiatric Laboratory has helped over a million people suffering from foot pain to lead better, pain-free lives. Learn more at

Updated Healthcare Professional Search!

We have updated our Healthcare Professional search! Now featuring a map view, you can search for local Healthcare Professionals in your area that currently partner with Northwest Podiatric Laboratory.

Visit and simply enter your zip code or allow to share your location and a list will populate or you can view the locations on the map.

The Biomechanics of Heel Posting

When it was introduced in the early 1960’s, the rearfoot post was intended to invert the rearfoot of the orthotic (and the foot) a specific number of degrees enabling the subtalar joint to function around its neutral position. A rearfoot varus of nine degrees was given a varus post of nine degrees. (See Fig. 1). In theory, at heel contact the calcaneus would be inverted to the floor by nine degrees – so long as the lateral platform of the post was bearing the majority of body weight. (See Fig. 2). The subtalar joint would subsequently pronate as the weight shifted from the lateral platform to the medial platform. (See Fig. 3). The medial platform of the post was angled four to six degrees relative to the lateral post to facilitate physiologic pronation of the subtalar joint. When the medial platform was fully engaged with the supporting surface it acted as a terminal brake and subtalar joint rotation would cease. After this initial physiologic pronation ended the foot would subsequently resupinate to neutral and beyond producing a stable foot in preparation for propulsion.

This paradigm is erroneous. In the example above, when the medial platform is fully engaged in weight bearing, the distal medial aspect of the orthotic plate is five degrees inverted to the floor, a mechanical impossibility. (See Fig. 3).

With time, the high degrees of rearfoot posting steadily reduced to the customary four degrees (and sometimes 6 degrees) because of the potential for inversion sprains with the higher postings. Today, most rearfoot posts have a four degree varus lateral platform with a four degree medial grind off (See Fig. 4) to allow four degrees of rearfoot eversion at heel contact. (See Fig. 5). This means that resupination starts at the heel vertical position and is not dependent upon weight bearing of the medial platform. This change in perception requires some explanation.

In order to understand why resupination is not dependent on the medial platform of the post but rather the vertical position of the heel, consider the foot during the first 25% of stance as the foot contacts the floor. The foot contacts the supporting surface in the following sequence: lateral heel, then lateral forefoot, then medial forefoot and finally medial heel. (See Fig. 6). Medial forefoot contact and medial heel contact are almost simultaneous. Notice that the is everted on the rearfoot (locking the midtarsal joint) by the reactive force of gravity pushing upwards through the lateral forefoot. The same sequence occurs with the functional device: lateral platform of the heel, followed by the lateral forefoot and finally, the medial platform of the post. Thus, the eversion of  the forefoot on the rearfoot ultimately shifts the weight to the medial platform of the posts. The end-point of the eversion of the rearfoot is determined by the contact of the distal-medial aspect of the orthotic plate with the transverse plane and not by the medial platform engaging the supporting surface. In reality, the heel vertical position is the termination point of heel contact pronation no matter what degree of post is applied to an orthotic plate.

Increasing the value of the rearfoot post may be counterproductive. With higher degrees of posting a more inverted position is possible at the initial portions of heel contact but the subtalar joint must pronate further to reach the vertical end point. Remember the end point is determined by the distal medial aspect of the orthotic plate rather than the medial platform of the post. In other words, increasing the value of the rearfoot post increased the amount of pronation of the rearfoot at heel contact.

As stated before, most rearfoot posts will theoretically invert the rearfoot by four degrees and this is quickly followed by pronation to the vertical. Such a post theoretically mandates four degrees of motion that terminates with a vertical heel at the end of the first 25% of stance. An unposted device has no such mandate for motion and may not undergo the desired four to six degrees of motion at heel contact.

Rearfoot posts should be utilized with most function orthotics to assure physiologic pronation as well as shock absorption. This is especially true for any foot this is aximally pronated at the moment of heel contact such as heel spur syndrome and sinus tarsi syndrome. In the latter case, a higher degree of motion may be desirable because the symptomatology is dependent on the impact of body weight onto an immobilized subtalar joint. Controlled motion is the best long-term therapy for this syndrome.


Written by Chris Smith, DPM, Former Vice President and Medical Director of Northwest Podiatric Laboratory and Professor Emeritus of Biomechanics at the California School of Podiatric Medicine (CSPM) at Samuel Merritt University.

COVID-19 Update

NWPL closed on Friday, March 20 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic


As a manufacturer of medical devices, NWPL is classified as an “essential business.”  However, for the last 1.5 months, we’ve chosen to drastically limit time employees spend at our facility to maximize safety.




Production/Turnaround time

Smaller-than-normal crews will operate four days a week to process and fabricate orthotic orders.  Due to restricted manufacturing capacity and safety-related changes to workflow, in-lab turnaround time will temporarily be 10 business days instead of NWPL’s standard four or five business days.   

Shipping and Receiving

All orders sent to NWPL – SmartCast orders, casts or impression foam – can be received Monday through Friday.  Completed orders will ship most days, Monday through Thursday.

Customer Care

Customer Care will be available 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (PST), Monday through Thursday (Tuesday through Friday the week of May 4).  Contact Customer Care at 800-443-7260 (leave a message, if needed) or email


Our Accounting Team will continue to primarily work remotely.  Most days (Monday through Thursday), a member of our team will be available via phone to process payments or answer billing questions.  Call 800-675-1766 (leave a message, if needed) or email for additional assistance.

All other inquiries

Call 800-675-1766 (leave a message, if needed) or email


We’ve spent many hours developing safeguards and implementing policies that ensure our employees are working in a safe environment.

We’re delighted to take small steps forward that allow us to protect our employees, keep NWPL moving ahead and provide healthcare professionals and their patients with amazing custom foot orthotics!

Thank you for your continued patience during this challenging time.

Stay well!


The NWPL Team

Staying safe at NWPL

The health, safety and well-being of our team is a responsibility we take very seriously.

From being far ahead of the curve by offering great health insurance, paid sick leave and 401(K) matching to investing in an employee-led Wellness Committee, NWPL invests in its employees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve doubled down on our health and wellness focus.

Kudos to Tam, NWPL’s Accounts Receivable Specialist (and the newest member of our team), for sewing awesome masks to help keep our team safe!

Small contributions can go a long way.  Thank you, Tam!

Stay well!

A Blast from the Past: NWPL in the 1980’s

Northwest Podiatric Laboratory is synonymous with out-of-the-box thinking, the relentless pursuit of revolutionary ideas, materials and technology, and exceptional customer care.

We merge the quality of traditional hands-on techniques with the convenience and performance of cutting edge technology. The result? Amazing solutions for foot pain! This isn’t a newly created marketing initiative to drum up sales…it’s baked into our DNA. Our laser-focus is evident in the millions of people we’ve helped over 50+ years. The spirit of Northwest Podiatric Laboratory is beautifully captured in the introduction to our 1989 company catalog. Back then, the technology was different and the hair was bigger, but our core remains unchanged.

Northwest Podiatric Laboratory company catalog, 1989:

Our laminate orthoses are fabricated from high performance materials used in the aerospace industry. Our unique processing of these materials, such as multiple layering of fiberglass and carbon fiber graphite cross layers within epoxy resin matrices, has resulted in state-of-the-art orthotic materials.

The new materials allow our orthoses to be inherently stronger and significantly thinner than all conventional orthoses, including rohadur, polypropylene, TL-61 and subortholen. In addition, our technological advances, such as “Triplane Tailoring” have enabled us to create orthoses that can be made flexible or rigid independent of thickness. Thus we are able to specifically design the internal structure of orthoses to control and transfer force factors according to the demands of the individual foot, specific activity and your Rx.

Northwest Podiatric Laboratory, Inc’s. ongoing research and development of orthotic applications using aerospace materials and technology has resulted in a close working relationship with the aerospace industry. Because of the sophisticated requirements of orthotic applications, our innovations in processes and materials have directly resulted in advances in aerospace technical development and international patents for Northwest Podiatric Laboratory, Inc’s. unique line of orthotics.

Christopher E. Smith, DPM., is presently a Professor of Podiatric Biomechanics at the California College of Podiatric Medicine and has over twenty years of professional teaching experience in his primary field of clinical and theoretical biomechanics. He is widely acknowledged by both his students and colleagues for his critical evaluation, attention to detail, specific insights and nuances and his preoccupation with the stability of the midtarsal joint.

His insights and experience have been major factors in the success of numerous world class athletes, including several United States Olympic Gold Medalists. Along with Dennis Brown, President of Northwest Podiatric Labs., he is engaged in ongoing research and development (as pictured above) of high performance composite materials and their application to functional foot orthoses.

Dr. Smith’s expertise, direction and knowledge have been instrumental in our development of our uniquely effective line of rigid orthoses that restore proper function while providing utmost patient comfort.

Dennis Brown is the main organizing and creative force in our team of experts. His experience in the design and fabrication of orthotics spans more than two decades. Holder of numerous worldwide patents, his ability to grasp theoretical principles and extend them beyond the ordinary continually results in breakthroughs in orthotic materials and fabrication processes.



Northwest Podiatric Laboratory is an industry leader in custom foot orthotic and related technologies. Dennis Brown, a retired British soldier, elite athlete and natural-born inventor founded the company in 1964 and was joined by a biomechanics pioneer, Dr. Chris Smith, in 1974. With an excluisve blend of science, craftsmanship and innovation, the partners have built a company that utilizes proprietary production techniques and technology to produce orthotics with a unique shape and unparalleled performance. Northwest Podiatric Laboratory has helped over a million people suffering from foot pain to lead better, pain-free lives. Learn more at

Ask NWPL – Info on Rx form

Question: Why does NWPL require so much patient information on the Rx form?


Answer: At first glance, age, weight, height, sex, activities and shoe type may appear superfluous. This information, however, is vital. It’s significance is apparent once we understand some concepts of composite orthotics (like NWPL’s Superglass). Let us begin by taking a step into the past. With thermoplastics, increased thickness is necessary to increase rigidity. Thicker is stronger and thinner is more flexible. Unlike thermoplastic materials, our Superglass orthotics have a true graduated flex range that is independent of the thickness of the device.

Shoe size, width and heel height are important considerations because these factors determine the final shape and dimension of the device. If we know the shoe size, we will check the cast/scan against standard lab sizes. Heel height is especially important when the device is for higher heeled shoes. Remember, for any shoe over 1.5″, the casts must be modified so the device will not rock on the shank of the shoe. Implicit in this modification is the lack of biomechanical control.

Shoe type is very important. While the length and width of the foot are readily determined from the anatomic markings on the casts/scan, we must consider the footwear when determining the precise dimensions of the device. A low dress shoe fits the foot much more snugly than the same size athletic shoe. Consequently, the devices must be fabricated to lesser dimensions.

We can make orthotics for nearly any shoe type, however, we recommend a lace-up shoe with a half inch heel. By giving us complete information, we can specifically engineer your prescription.