Davenport provides pain-free steps
VAIL – Mike Davenport wants to change the world one step at a time. One pain-free step at a time.Davenport, who designs custom-made foot orthotics at Pepi’s Sports in Vail, knows the importance of movement and how debilitating walking with pain can be.”People have come to me with really messed up feet, and they’ve tried everything,” Davenport said. “The basic fact of supporting a foot changes peoples lives. They’ll feel a lot different.”For more than 25 years, Davenport has helped people find the right fit with ski boots. But several years ago, he sought to help people’s feet feel good no matter what they were wearing and started to make orthotics.”Your weight is always on your foot,” Davenport said. “(Orthotics) distribute the weight evenly, and it’s all about even weight distribution – using the whole foot to hold up the body.”Yes, there are medical orthotics designed to help alleviate pain and other problems that arise from lack of foot support. But sometimes medical orthotics are uncomfortable or, as is the case with many of Davenport’s customers, just don’t work. Davenport’s orthotics have a different feel.”They give you a spongy, shock-absorby feel instead of being hard,” Davenport said. “They make it feel like you are always walking in the sand on a beach.”What a feelingDan Munier, a chiropractor from Dallas with plantar fasciitis, had gone to great lengths to find a remedy for his foot pain. While on vacation in Vail, his wife convinced him to stop into Pepi’s and talk to Davenport.
“I’d been everywhere, and (Mike) fixed me in 20 minutes,” Munier said. “It was pretty phenomenal. (The orthotics) are a biomechanical fix.”For Munier, who spends all day on his feet, the orthotics provided a brighter outlook on things.”I used to dread waking up in the morning because I knew the second I hit the floor, it’d hurt like heck,” Munier said. “(Now), I don’t even know I have feet anymore. It’s a great feeling.”What also surprised Munier was how Davneport’s soft orthotics could be so effective.”I thought they were going to be the real hard type – the kind we have vendors wanting us to sell,” Munier said.Come backWhile working in New Zealand, Davenport honed his orthotics-making skills by trial and error. When he returned to Vail, he continued to pursue his passion of feet.Davenport sells his inserts for about $180, and he considers the sale more than a one-time offer, as he makes adjustments on the orthotics.”I tell people they’ve gotta come back until they are happy,” Davenport said.Most come back because they are happy. His out-of-town customers have returned to Vail and stopped by Pepi’s to purchase their second and third pair.
Linda Hutson of Cape Girardeau, Mo., bought a pair of orthotics from Davenport last year and came back again this year for another.”I loved them, but my dog ate them,” Hutson said. “I was most anxious to get up to (Vail) and get another pair.”Like Munier, and many of Davenport’s customers, Hutson had foot problems and had trouble finding a comfortable solution.”I have heel spurs, and I had some inserts made by a doctor, but they are real hard and don’t give,” Hutson said. “(Davenport’s orthotics) really make my feet feel comfortable.”Sure, there are the $15 inserts that you can buy at any shoe store, but none of them is personally form-fitted by Davenport’s innovative process.”It’s not like you can mail-order them,” Hutson said. “(Mike) did a real job on them.”While Davenport does not have a patent on his process, and he has seen people try to imitate what he does, he doesn’t feel too threatened.”I’ve already had this stolen from me before in New Zealand,” Davenport said. “They had the product, and they had people to make them, but they couldn’t sell them.”With the vast number of thank-you letters on the wall, it’s evident that Davenport can sell them and make an impact on people’s lives.”It took that guy three years to break down and do this,” Davenport said, pointing to one of the letters.
Not just painDavenport feels that more people should use orthotics, even if they aren’t experiencing foot pain.”It’s so misunderstood,” Davenport said. “For most athletes, it’s more the exception than the norm to have something supporting their foot.”Two years ago, Davenport went to the Dallas Cowboys and tried to sell his orthotics to them.”They let me make some for two players, who were on injured reserved,” Davenport said. “They comprehended it as only something a person with an injury would need. This is preventative and performance enhancing.”In addition to his letters, Davenport has plenty of physical proof of how happy people are – a box of customers’ old orthotics, worth thousands of dollars. “That’s why I save them; it speaks so much,” Davenport said. “For me it’s not about business so much as realizing that I have the ability to help so many people for relatively little money.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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