I got my first orthotic at the age of seven and have gone through many different variations since . Prices that I have paid have ranged from €40 to €300 per pair . There are many different practitioners but yesterday I visited the best of them all .
Over 20 years ago Jempi Wilssens made orthotics for two of the best cyclists of the time , namely Sean Kelly and Greg LeMond . LeMond was so impressed that he stated that he would not have won the 1989 Tour without them .
Over the years technology has helped Jempi and his company Runners Service lab refine to perfection the total body measurement necessary to produce the perfect orthotic .
Currently Philip Gilbert along with many other top professionals such as Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez use the rslab orthotics to great effect .
The procedure begins with an interview where all of your details and sporting requirements are taken into account .
This is followed by a full scan of your spine which notes any anomalies in your pelvis or leg length differences .
Next up comes the ‘Flamingo’ test , where you stand one legged on a measuring plate for one minute per leg .
Then it’s time to head on over to the 14 meter running track . Here you undergo a number of different tests all of which are captured on both a measurement plate hooked up to a pc and a video camera for further analysis .
I had to do running , walking and squat tests in this area all of which took approximately one hour . During this time my cycling shoes were also analysed and measured for the cycling specific orthotics.
Koen Wilssens looked after me on the day . Koen is the company founder Jempi’s son and is also a very successful and accomplished runner and athlete in his own right . I think that this is very important as only a person with a sporting background can fully understand the needs of a sportsperson . There is a world of difference between the orthotic needs of a pensioner heading to the shops and an athlete who will be putting their body under extreme amounts of stress .
When all tests and analysis were complete Koen brought me into the canteen for a delicious lunch . Then I headed off for a look around the quaint Belgian town of Bevern for three hours whilst my orthotics were being made .
Upon my return once again I had to undergo a number of tests on and off the running track with the new orthotics fitted . Adjustments were made and when Koen was totally satisfied with the finished product was the measurement and analysis complete . I then asked Koen for a pair of shoes that I could wear everyday as I am on my feet all day long . He brought out six different pairs which would be best suited to my orthotic prescription and once I had settled on the three I liked the most he once again had me do a number of tests on the running track to find which would give the optimum combination of fit and support .
I was finished the total procedure by five pm and just had to wait a little while for my taxi back to the airport to arrive .
To say that I was impressed by the thoroughness and professionalism of the whole procedure would be an understatement .
The total cost of the taxi to Bevern and back to the airport along with lunch and the measurement and two sets of orthotics was €400 which , given that I paid €300 and had to wait weeks for a set back in Ireland seems like pretty good value indeed .
Runners service lab can be contacted via their website at runnserservicelab.be and the Bevern shop is the main one , although in a few months time a new purpose built industrial size facility is opening which will also combine a full bike fitting and testing centre .
The following video gives a good illustration of the procedure involved ;
( As an aside my travelling companion on the journey was an Apple iPad which really has been very handy . Waiting in the airport I read ‘Bad Blood’ by Jeremy Whittle on the Amazon Kindle app whilst on the flight itself I watched a full length movie that I downloaded for 99 cent via iTunes . I am now writing this blog post aboard my Aer lingus flight back whilst listening to ‘The Cinematic Orchestra’ via itunes in the background . )