In 1940 the top selling brand of health-footwear was Lockewedge, named for a country doctor from Williamsburg, Ontario. Mahlon Locke was born on February 14, 1880 in Dixon’s Corners, Ontario. He studied medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and finished his education in Edinburgh, Scotland, returning to Canada as a doctor licensed by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In 1908 he began his medical practice as a general practitioner in Williamsburg, Ontario. The following year he became interested in foot manipulation as a method for treating arthritis. Combined with experimental orthotic appliances he called ‘cookies’, Locke slowly gained a reputation for successfully treating a number of foot-related ailments.
By the late 1920s Dr. Locke was becoming famous, even though his work was met with skepticism and even hostility by some in the medical community who felt his foot treatments were akin to faith healing. However, shortly after he treated American novelist Rex Beach for fallen arches in 1932, articles about Dr. Locke began to appear in magazines like Time and Cosmopolitan. Dr. Locke was soon overwhelmed with patients seeking his services. Alongside the bending and twisting of the foot and toes, his one dollar per visit treatments included advice on taking exercise, wearing properly fitted shoes with orthotic supports, and prescriptions for associated ailments, such as hypothyroidism.
By 1934 shoes were being sold with Dr. Locke’s testifying signature on the sole. Sources disagree as to whether the shoes were designed by Locke or just approved for sale by him. The ‘Lockewedge’ orthopedic shoe was made by The Perth Shoe Company in Canada, but different companies were licensed to make and sell the shoes in the U.S.
Dr. Locke died in early 1942 from pneumonia although his shoe brand existed into the late 1950s when Lockewedge and similar styles by other manufacturers had beecome known as ‘granny’ shoes. Dr. Locke himself was largely forgotten, although he is remembered by some in the medical community as a pioneer in the field of reflexology.