Origin of Institute for Preventive Foot Health

As is true for many innovations, one part vision and one part frustration sparked the idea for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH). Jim Throneburg—inventor of the Thorlos brand—was determined to help prevent foot conditions, not just try to fix them after the fact. He realized early on that the medical community was not engaging in the concept of preventive foot health because health care professionals saw him essentially as a "sock peddler" with ulterior motives. They viewed socks as little more than fashion foot coverings and could not imagine how a specially designed padded sock—and an approach to fitting footwear that included padded socks, inserts or orthotics and the feet as a dynamic system— could have real health benefits.

Jim concluded  there was a need for a credible, official third-party voice for preventive foot health based on independent research in order for the medical community to take the message seriously. Jim’s vision was based on his learning about how Thorlos clinically-tested padded socks were affecting people’s lives. The anecdotal evidence was mounting: customers were reporting  that Thorlos engineered padded sock products were enabling them to be more active, and that their activity levels increased over time. People felt better physically and emotionally. He also realized that, as he put it, “mobility is metabolism” and “movement is medicine”—the force that makes for a more vital life.

Jim concluded that preventive health care (called "wellness" today) was the answer to quality of life in one’s older years, and that health is wealth—that is, by preventing problems before they occur, people can avoid being plagued by rising medical costs. He saw that prevention was affordable, whereas “fixing” problems by intervening after breakdown was not.

Jim is known for stating that “preventive foot health is the cornerstone of preventive health practices.” This takes us back to his fundamental insight that “movement is medicine.” Prevention requires people to be involved in healthful activities such as running, fitness walking, tennis, jogging, or general cardio exercises and stretching. These aren’t possible if you don’t take care of your feet or if you are plagued with preventable foot conditions. As Jim realized, “if your feet are feeling bad, you’re not going to be doing as much activity, and therefore you won’t be as healthy.”

Mobility Key to Preventing Many Chronic Diseases

According to Jim, preventive foot health plays a critical role in many of the chronic diseases undermining health and driving medical costs today. As individuals, we can control two important aspects of wellness: nutrition and physical activity—and physical activity starts with your feet. The amount of activity you can do on your feet is an indication of the amount of good you are doing for your body. If you have diabetes, staying active will help reduce your blood sugar; if you have arthritis, regular physical activity will help  keep your joints flexible and lubricated; if you are overweight, getting active will help you attain a normal weight. That’s why your feet are the foundation of your health and wellness, and preventing any foot conditions that might stand in the way of your being active is vitally important.

Jim’s Dream Becomes Reality When he Meets Bob Thompson

Fate brought Bob Thompson to Jim at just the right time. Bob was retiring from his second career as a clinical pedorthist (he had been a healthcare administrator for 30 years). He had built a reputation in his community for his personal ministry and success in caring for the feet of patients with diabetes and arthritis. While serving as a consultant to foot care professionals, Bob stressed the importance of preventing foot problems before they occurred.  To design protective footwear for his patients, Bob followed a “systems approach” consisting of four components – physical analysis; use of padded socks; design and application of orthotic inserts, if needed; and the selection of appropriate, well-made and expertly fitted shoes. Long before he ever met Jim, Bob had incorporated Thorlos clinically-tested padded socks  into this system as his padded socks of choice, particularly to help protect against diabetic foot ulcers. 

In his retirement, Bob was thinking about how he might take his ministry of preventive foot health to a national level, but he lacked the resources to do so. On a whim, he reached out to Jim to solicit his thoughts on how to go about bringing his vision to life. Over several days of conversation they discovered they shared a similar passion and vision.  Jim recognized that Bob shared his dream and had the credentials to take this “shared ministry” (as Bob calls it) of foot health prevention to the public.

Jim and Bob merged their passions, ministries and missions in March 2008, when Bob accepted his appointment as the Institute for Preventive Foot Health’s first-ever executive director.  In that role, and with financial support from THORLO, Bob has found his national platform and he has promoted the Institute’s messages, expanded its programs and reach and helped create a national dialogue about preventive foot health awareness, foot protection and skin/soft tissue injury prevention.  Bob’s personal foot health care ministry and his passion and compassion are reflected in his commitment to helping everyone achieve greater mobility, improved general wellbeing and heightened quality of life—exactly the results Jim hoped the Institute would come to accomplish.

IPFH: The Expert on Preventive Foot Health Measures

Right now, consumers, caregivers and health care professionals can find a wide variety of information about foot conditions and their prevention and treatment by going online to www.ipfh.org In addition to education, IPFH supports cutting-edge research that will find the best practices for maintaining and improving foot health both therapeutically and through preventive and therapeutic practices anyone can adopt.