Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes (also named X-ray Shoe Fitter and Pedoscope), were X-ray fluoroscope machines installed in shoe stores from the 1920s until about the 1970s in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Switzerland.
A shoe-fitting fluoroscope was a metal construction covered in finished wood, approximately 4 feet (1.2 m) high in the shape of short column, with a ledge with an opening where the child (or the adult customer) would then place their feet in the opening provided and while remaining in a standing position, look through a viewing porthole at the top of the fluoroscope down at the X-ray view of the feet and shoes. Two other viewing portholes on either side enabled the parent and a sales assistant to observe the child’s toes being wiggled to show how much room for the toes there was inside the shoe. The bones of the feet were clearly visible, as was the outline of the shoe, including the stitching around the edges.
The side effects from this invisible light, called x-ray radiations, were not realized soon. The risk of radiation burns on the skin were known since Wilhelm Röntgen’s 1895 experiment, but this was a short-term effect with early warning from erythema. The long-term risks from chronic exposure to radiation (especially the increases of cancers) was fully understood around 1940-1950.
In the second half of the 20th century, growing awareness of radiation hazards forced the gradual of the Pedoscopes.
Interestingly, the representatives of the shoe retail industry argued that “the use of Pedoscope devices prevented harm to customers’s feet that otherwise would have resulted from poorly-fitted shoes”. Thus in their opinion, they benefits deriving from well fitted shoes would be more abundant than the side effects deriving from x-ray radiations”.