Success story: Vertical Orthotics
A technology breakthrough based on perseverance and imagination
Vertical Orthotics has designed and manufactured a unique product whose value in the field of podiatry is driving growth throughout Australia, with global markets beckoning. The company has developed its technology and its business by carefully selecting specialist advice and assistance, including that of the NSW Department of State and Regional Development.
Realising the vision
Mr Smith, who originally worked as an orthopaedic lab technician for many years, realised that this static fitting system was too subjective. He believed that the ideal arrangement was to have the cast made in a weight- bearing position, with the patient standing up, to obtain the most accurate alignment. “I was told that this was impossible but I persevered and eventually stumbled upon the solution,” Mr Smith said.
Neil Smith is the founder and managing director of Vertical Orthotics. He has invented a new device and developed it into a product that has the potential to ‘side-step’ the competition. It deals with the process of producing highly accurate inserts in footwear to help correct foot alignment and gait problems. He has tested the product through highly reputable third party research and used the outside expertise required to refine the product, build the business structure, and develop the essential marketing strategies. The Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD) has played an important role in helping the company progress through each of these stages.
Orthotic devices straighten the feet and, in turn, help correct upper body problems. Until Neil Smith’s invention, the procedure involved the patient being in a sitting or prone position while the feet were held in what was thought to be proper alignment prior to making a plaster cast, which then allowed the appropriate shoe insert to be made.
“Essentially, the patients stand on foam plates and their natural standing position is found; the heel is aligned for both feet, followed by the same process for the forefeet. They then step out of the mould and we have an exact replica of the feet, taking into account the varying forces that are unique to every individual and only identified by the weight-bearing method.”
Establishing the credentials
Three years ago, Mr Smith produced the first prototype of his Foot Alignment System (FAS), which now takes all the conjecture out of the required shape of the device and the accompanying modifications on the cast. He had the device tested by the Podiatry Department at LaTrobe University against the prevailing static method and the device was confirmed as clearly superior in terms of its accuracy, reliability, comfort and control.
Mr Smith had the system patented and he then refined the prototype prior to entering into a series of licensing agreements with podiatrists who undertake the alignments and then send the casts to the Vertical Orthotics laboratory where the inserts are made. The company operates license agreements in four states and expects the network to grow rapidly as marketing and industry referrals unfold.