Now his company, based in Cork for more than 25 years, is looking to the future and continuing its vital work.
Kennedy & Associates, founded in 1988, are prosthetic and orthopaedic footwear consultants. The company’s speciality is designing and manufacturing footwear for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, diabetes, polio, arthritis, and for accident victims.
Based at the Westside Centre, Model Farm Rd, the firm also builds custom orthotics (insoles) made from casts taken from a client’s foot.
The company has recently hired new staff, including a graduate of footwear design from De Montfort University in Leicester in England, and another employee with experience in engineering and draftsmanship.
Mr Kennedy’s aim is to help recruits to reach the standard needed to ensure the work of the company continues to the highest standard into the future.
He has made all types of shoes during his 50-plus years in the business. Past work includes dancing shoes for cast members in Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. He made his first orthopaedic shoe in 1964.
He worked as a designer with Keelams in Birr and Dubarry in Ballinasloe. He was also chief designer at Lee Footwear in Cork and a consultant for a London- based company where he worked with designers from Germany, France, and Italy.
Kennedy and Associates believe orthopaedic shoes can “make you smile when you look down at your new footwear”.
One person whose life has been transformed is ‘Jim’, who lost half his foot in an accident. After making a mould of what was left of Jim’s foot, the company designed a boot that allows him to walk unaided, leaving behind his prosthesis.
Another client was ‘Patrick’, who was told he would never be able to walk again.
“That was 12 years ago — he walked out of here leaving behind his crutches and has been walking unaided since,” said Mr Kennedy.
In a recent case, a woman in her early 40s who had spent the previous five years in a post-operation boot and had used a zimmer frame, walked out of the clinic fashionable-looking boots specifically engineered to get her body aligned and supported.
From consultation to the final product is generally about nine to 12 weeks, and involves three prototype fittings. X-rays are used to get a full picture of the person’s requirements.
“The challenges are very labour intensive; it can take up to 180 hours to make one pair of shoes but the value is in seeing people walking again without artificial aids.
“We deal with surgeons across the country, and have people travelling to the clinic from across the country and even from England.”
Mr Kennedy hosted the Orthopaedic Footwear Specialist 2012 International Conference in Cork. The programme featured topics including biomechanics and gait analysis, and a history of shoe manufacturing. Speakers had included Carina Eneroth, shoemaker to the Royal Family in Sweden, and Tony Slinger, bootmaker for the Queen’s House-hold Cavalry in Britain.
Mr Kennedy prides himself in giving a total commitment to his clients, many of whom are friends who have attended the clinic for years. “When I see a person in need, you do what you have to do.”