Many technological innovations that have emerged have not survived the test of time, for various reasons. One of these is the pedoscope, an at the time high-tech X-ray device launched in the 20’s, where you simply stuck your feet in an X-ray to see how the feet fit in the shoes.


The one usually attributed to inventing the pedoscope is Dr. Jacob Lowe, an American who modified a medical x-ray machine and at a major shocking convention in Boston in 1920 and Milwaukee in 1921 presented his invention. He filed a patent application in 1919, but it was not granted until 1927, and then he attributed it to the Adrian Company of Milwaukee. It was also Milwaukee that was the largest area in producing pedoscopes, and about 15,000 machines were made and sold mainly in North America but also to Europe before one begun to pay attention to the health hazards caused by the X-rays, and during the second half of the twentieth century they were eventually banned. Now they are an interesting historical object.

Old advertisement for the pedoscope.

Old advertisement for the pedoscope.

The pedoscope worked so that the customer, often children since they have difficulty describing how the shoes feel, but also adults, stuck their feet with the shoes on in the machine. Through a viewing window for the customer and two on the sides where parents or shop assistants could watch, the X-rays made it possible to see the foot and toes contours against the edge of the shoes, and make an assessment of the fit. At this time also children’s shoes often had a proper toe stiffener as well, so it was not that easy to press down and feel the toes as we usually do on children’s shoes today.
In US they were found in many shoe stores of various kind, the Swiss brand Bally was one of the most offensive companies in the use of the pedoscope in Europe.
Nowadays the old X-ray machines are just museum pieces, many shoe museums has one in their collections.

A certificate that was used by stores who had a pedoscope. Photo: Kalmar County Museum. Top image: The Telegraph

A certificate that was used by stores who had a pedoscope As you can see a test of weight distribution was sometimes also used. Photo: Orau. Top image: The Telegraph