Shoe-fitting fluoroscope

Shoe-fitting fluoroscope

Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were X-ray machines installed in shoe stores from the early 20th century up until about 1960 in the United States by which time they had been prohibited, and into the mid-1970s in the United Kingdom. In the UK, they were known as Pedoscopes, after the company based in St. Albans which manufactured them. Fluoroscopes were also used in shoe stores in continental Europe.

A fluoroscope was an approximately 4 feet high metal construction in the shape of an upside-down teacup, with a couple of steps for children to ascend. The child would then place his feet in the opening provided and while remaining in a standing position, look through a viewing porthole at the top of the fluoroscope down at the X-ray view of the feet and shoes. Two further viewing portholes on either side enabled the parent and a shoe shop sales assistant to observe the child's toes being wiggled to show how much room for the toes there was inside the shoe. One was clearly able to see the outline of the shoe including the stitching around the edges, as well as the bones of the feet. The exposure time would - at a retrospective guess - have been around 15 seconds.

The gimmick changed from decade to decade to better suit the financial market at the time, but the most famous sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed salesmen to better fit shoes and it was fun for kids to go to the shoe store. During the depression the most popular sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed the best possible fit which made for longer lasting shoes, which meant you didn't have to buy as many pairs for yourself, or your children.

The shoe-fitting fluoroscope was nothing more than a fancy way to attract potential customers. One could get the same fit by a simple measurement.

Exposure from typical machines ranged from 12 to 107 R per minute (0.1 to 1 Gy per minute) [cite journal|title=The Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope as a Radiation Hazard|journal=California Medicine|date=January 1950|first=Leon|last=Lewis|coauthors=Paul E Caplan|volume=72|issue=1|pages=27|id= |url=|format=|accessdate=2008-03-05|pmid=15408494 ] , however most of that dose applies to feet which are more resistant to radiation than other parts of the bodyfact|date=June 2008. The number of people that suffered foot cancer as a result is unknown.

In 1949, the danger of the fluoroscope was revealed and the machines were quietly phased out during the 1950s.


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