Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes, also Pedoscopes, were X-ray fluoroscope machines installed in shoe stores from the 1920s until about the 1960s in the United States (by which time they were prohibited), and into the mid-1970s in the United Kingdom. In the UK, they were known as Pedoscopes, after the company based in St. Albans that manufactured them.Fluoroscopes were also used in shoe stores in continental Europe.
A fluoroscope was a metal construction approximately 4 feet (1.2 m) high in the shape of an upside-down tea cup, with steps for a child to ascend. The child would then place his or her 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 exposure time would have been around 15 seconds.
The gimmick changed from decade to decade to suit the market at the time, but the most famous sales pitches were that the fluoroscope allowed salesmen to better fit shoes and that it made it more fun for kids to go to the shoe store. During the Great Depression, a popular sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed the best possible fit, which made for longer-lasting shoes and implied that customers would not have to buy as many pairs for themselves or for their children. In reality, the shoe-fitting fluoroscope was little more than a way to attract potential customers because essentially the same fit could be obtained by simple measurements.
Exposure from typical machines ranged from 12 to 107 R per minute (0.1 to 1 Gy per minute).
At the peak of the device’s popularity in the early 1950s, about 10,000 machines were in use. In 1949, the danger of the fluoroscope was revealed and the machines in the United States were quietly phased out during the 1950s.