When X-Rays Were All the Rage at Shoe Stores

In 1927, Charles Brannock introduced a foot measuring tool called the Brannock device (pictured above) that made shoe buying easier. The T-shaped device continued to be used until 1993, when digital models were introduced. Prior to the Brannock device, x-rays eliminated the guesswork of shoe fitting through the use of a device called the Foot-O-Scope (pictured below). The basic design included a large wooden cabinet with an x-ray tube in its base and a slot where customers would place their shoe-clad feet. When the sales clerk flipped the switch to activate the x-ray stream, the customer could view the image on a fluorescent screen, showing the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes. The devices usually had three eyepieces so that the clerk, customer, and a third curious onlooker (parent, spouse, sibling) could all view the image simultaneously. Although the fluoroscope appeared to bring scientific rigor to the shoe-fitting process, the unregulated radiation exposure put countless customers and clerks at risk for ailments including dermatitis, cataracts, and, with prolonged exposure, cancer. After World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs, Americans began to pull back from their love of all things irradiating and it wasn’t long before the Foot-O-Scope disappeared.