Canadian feats – Dr. Locke shoes

Dr. Locke shoes, c. 1940

Dr. Locke shoes, late 1940s

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.


Advertisement for Dr. Locke shoes, 1937

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.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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14 Responses to Canadian feats – Dr. Locke shoes

  1. Rebecca Clement says:

    This is such a fascinating story and I can not believe that this gifted doctor does not continue to attract historical acclaim for his accomplishments. The Piccadilly theatre should be restored as a tourist attraction, and as a tribute to Dr. Locke.

    • Jonathan says:

      We will be telling his story at the Fashion History Museum next year, as part of our exhibition ‘Fashioning Canada Since 1867’

  2. Ronald F Draper says:

    I bought a pair of Dr Locke shoes at a Thrift store. They look nearly new, took a bright shine. They have # 23 inside. Are these shoes 70 years old. I was 11 in 1943

  3. John Casselman says:

    I am Dr Locke’s great grandson and grew up in the village of Williamsburg. If you require more information for your research I would be happy to provide it to you.
    John Casselman

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for the contact. Your great grandfather is a bit of a mystery! Do you know if his archives are in any particular institution, or if there were any archives that survived?

    • Abbie Williams says:

      John, I am researching my great uncle, Ira E. Swart, born 1891, an artist who apparently hand carved animated figures for Dr. Locke shoes probably around 1940 era, not sure on the dates. I think they were for store windows. Any information you might have would really help. I have a picture of one of them showing a man fitting a shoe on a seated woman. Thanks, Abbie Williams

      • Jonathan says:

        Sorry, I am not familiar with these figures, but they sound interesting! I will keep my eye out for any info I run across abou tthem, or Ira Swart. Good luck with your research.

  4. John Casselman says:

    We are in possession of most of his artifacts including apparatus, literature and even his diploma. Fortunately his wife, my great grandmother lived into her 101St year so we had a direct line to first hand accounts of events that took place in his career.

  5. Lindsay Graham says:

    Hi! I just acquired a pair of Dr. M W Locke vintage shoes that are labelled No. 4 Made in the USA. Do you know how old they might be? Thanks!

    • Jonathan says:

      Sorry, no. They tend to all look very much alike as well since they are designed primarily for comfort rather than style.

  6. Christiana says:

    I also found a pair of these at a thrit store and love them so much. Cant believe how old they could be. No. 10 is on the inside of my shoes.

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