Historical Biomechanical Timeline

The RMPI faculty members, adjunct faculty and volunteers are eager to enhance your educational experience in the science of biomechanics as it applies to the lower extremities. Furthermore, as committed health care professionals and academians, they are committed to continuing to explore biomechanics, historically and futuristically and incorporate innovative theories into clinical trials.  By studying the evolution and timeline of published articles as educators, healthcare providers and students, we are able to begin understanding the complexities of the human foot. For centuries, through the evolution of mankind, individuals with varying circumstances have been applying bandages, strapping, bracing materials and shoes as a means to protect, heal or align the human foot with the leg.

Dating back to Royal Whitman, MD, who in 1896, historically, developed the first "flatfoot brace”, created from rigid metal with a theory that the human foot needed a firm foundation to support a collapsing arch. Over the years, leather was a popular material used for arch supports and foot inserts. By the 1950's, the various fields of science, medicine and academia along with podiatrists, orthopedists, anatomists and PhD's specializing in kinesiology sought to understand the complexities of the human foot. It was determined that this new specialty needed its own name versus being an offspring of Kinetics and Kinesiology, giving birth the Science of Biomechanics. It was through a multi-disciplinary approach, each discipline working parallel to one another that allowed insights into how muscles functioned, and most importantly, the timing mechanism of the muscles. As the axes of the feet were studied it was determined that muscles have their leverage and strength dependant upon where the muscle attached, where it's pulley system was located, how perpendicular the muscle and it's tendon was to the axis of the foot, and how many axes a particular muscle/tendon crossed over; giving the foot it's profound integrity to withstand forces and provide locomotion to the bi-pedal human. The published works of Inman PhD, MD, lead rise to many of the theories on human locomotion that are considered the foundation of biomechanical sciences.

During the 1950's, Merton Root, DPM, set forth on a mission. He was publicly quoted in the year of 1954 as saying "if within the next five years, I can not find the cause to the symptoms that I am seeing and develop a treatment that gives a more definitive result, I would leave the profession". Because of the contribution that Dr. Root and his associates, Dr's Orien and Weed made to podiatric medicine and allied health professions, he is known "as the Father of Podiatric Biomechanics". For the full text of this quote and the written publication please visit the link to the author William Eric Lee DPM BSc (Hons) SRCh Podiatric Biomechanics - A Historical Appraisal and Discussion of the Root Model as a Clinical System of Approach in the Present Context of Theoretical Uncertainty.

With a firm foundation established as the "root" to solving chronic and unresolved pathologies, when theorized, applied, and properly incorporated into a biomechanically engineered foot orthosis or lower extremity treatment modality, we can expect better patient outcomes. Dr. Root, understanding the locking mechanism of the midtarsal, allowing the foot to become a rigid lever for propulsion, introduced the world to Rohadur; a rigid thermoplastic. A material that would withstand body weight and mechanical forces applied to the foot. Eventually composites such as fiberglass and graphite were used which offered less weight and slimmer design for dress shoes and athletic shoes. While multi-density materials are widely used internationally in varying softness or firmness, it is through the biomechanical science that consumers, healthcare practitioners and manufacturers are able to develop products that provide comfort, stability, function and realignment of osseous (bone) and prevent musculoskeletal injuries to adolescents and adults.

The historical publications of medical literature, marking the evolution of the biomechanical sciences as it relates to foot typing, arch supports, inserts and foot orthoses has been provided below for your enlightenment. If you have any questions or would like to add published historical data to this document, please contact us at www.rmpi.org or email us at: online@rmpi.org. With due respect, this list is a not a complete list of those who have contributed to the sciences. Please also consider viewing the History of Biomechanics Lecture presentation provided by Dr. Kevin Kirby via the link provided below (please paste into your web browser):   

Please Visit:  13h30 Kirby Evolution and History of Podiatric Biomechanics.Belgium.2012.pdf


  1. Anatomists first attempted classifications in the eighteenth century by describing foot characteristics of various races and cultures.
  2. The nineteenth century placed emphasis on the obvious flatfoot; with curiosity regarding the length of the second toe.
  3. By the twentieth century, countries were beginning to foot type based upon country, place of birth and even religion and another attempt to classify feet by occupation.
  4. Royal Whitman, MD - Author; Developed the first developmental flat foot brace (foot orthotic) made of metal (1896)
  5. Military Surgeons established a first, second and third degree flatfoot rating (1919)
  6. The major developments in the early twentieth century were in the development of force plates and the understanding of kinetics. The team headed by Verne Inman (1905–1980) and Howard Eberhart (1906–1993) made major advances in America shortly after the Second War. David Sutherland (1923–2006) and Jacquelin Perry pioneered clinical applications in America and Jurg Baumann (1926–2000) in Europe. It was not until the advent of modern computers that clinical gait analysis became widely available.
  7. The Hiss Classification was the first, intelligent, clear, logical and honest attempt at classification. (1949); and set into motion, contemporary methods which allows consideration of midtarsal joint position and motion and resulted in classifying the foot into hindfoot, midfoot and forefoot.
  8. Dr.’s Root, Orien & Weed – Authors; are known as the “Founders of Podiatric Biomechanics” (1950’s); incorporated rigid plastics into foot orthotic design; following the lead of Royal Whitman, MD.; and discouraged the usage of flexible materials. Much controversy exists today; but biomechanically; the foot needs a firm foundation to support it.
  9. Superfeet Worldwide LLC – Develops the first rearfoot posted biomechanical insert/orthosis for the retail market (1977)
  10. Richard Lundeen, DPM - Author / Patent: Polysectional Posting; published the Dual Axis Integrated Functional Foot Orthosis (the founder of intrinsic rearfoot posting – 1977)
  11. Langer Biomechanics Group - Patent: Dannanberg Kinetic Wedge Posting (1980’s)
  12. Richard  Blake, DPM – developed the Blake Inverted; posting the foot 25 – 50 degrees inverted for chronic, unresolved pathologies (1981-1983)   Spenco compared to Blake Inverted Orthoses: http://www.udel.edu/PT/davis/Inverted_orthoses_mechanics.pdf
  13. Ronald Valmassy, DPM, MS - Author / published 9 foot types (1986); Clinical Biomechanics Of The Lower Extremity
  14. Kevin Kirby, DPM, MS - Author, popularized medial heel skiving and thus termed this technique the Kirby Skive (a method of creating intrinsic posting within an orthosis; applied to the positive cast; originally described within a heel cup, in the 1900’s) (1992)
  15. Dennis Shavelson, DPM and Liz Henry PT - Author / patent: 16 foot types; patent: Foot Centring (TBD)
  16. KLM Laboratories, California (& perhaps others) develop "Library Systems" developing pre-fabricated custom orthoses
  17. Roberta Nole, MS, PT, C.Ped - Author / published 24 foot types; patent pending: 24 Quad System; Copyright: 24 Foot Types The first pre-fabricated forefoot posted, biomechanically oriented insert/orthosis for the retail or allied health market place; also incorporating hindfoot posting for specific foot types.

For additional reading:

Anatomy Of The First Ray - Wm. Glascoe, PT, ATC, HJ Yack, PhD, PT, Charles L. Saltzman, M.D. http://www.physicaltherapyjournal.net/content/79/9/984.full - Recommended Reading Prior To Attending Level 2 Course

A Historical Appraisal and Discussion of the Root Model as a Clinical System of Approach in the Present Context of Theoretical Uncertainty - William Eric Lee DPM BSc (Hons) SRCh Podiatric Biomechanics - Biomechanical Examination Of The Foot - Volume I - Root, Orien & Weed (link coming soon to website; please visit the internet to access this document).

Normal And Abnormal Function Of The Foot - Volume II - Root, Orien & Weed

Compendium of Podiatric Biomechanics – California College Of Podiatric Medicine - Thomas Scarlato DPM; for video interviews visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IKyk5g3MxI

Gait & Posture - Verne Inman, MD - http://www.gaitposture.com/article/S0966-6362(06)00322-5/abstract

Clinical Biomechanics Of The Lower Extremity – Valmassy DPM

Foot Orthoses – Principles And Clinical Applications – Kent K. Wu, MD "Highly Recommended For ABC/BOC Pre-Cert Exam)

Foot Orthoses And Other Forms Of Conservative Foot Care – Thomas Michaud DC


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