by Bob Longworth MSc DPodM

When Andy Horwood left Leeds in 2016 to get married and live near Glasgow, Lee Short and I took over his practice and started ‘Podiatry Clinics (Yorkshire) Ltd’. He trusted us to look after his patients which we took as a massive compliment.

Since then, he’s been working on a textbook, the first volume of which came out this week and gives a clinician everything they need, to understand what’s going on when a patient presents with a problem.

Looking back at my career, I can divide it into two parts: what I did before doing the Masters in Clinical Biomechanics and what I did after. That MSc was in part written by Andy and his 25+ years of teaching experience are distilled into these books.

I first came across him when he sent me a letter about a mutual patient. It was 1996 and I had just moved up to Leeds from London. I had made some casted insoles for a patient (it was how we did it back then, time consuming and expensive for the patient) which hadn’t quite worked. Instead of coming back to see me the patient had seen Andy who recognised the fault (“…I think you may have supinated the foot slightly whilst taking the cast…”) and had corrected it with a small amount of posting. “Cheeky Git!” thinks I, “who does he think he is”….etc.

The next week I got an invite to a Biomechanics Conference by the company who made the insoles and in with it was a newsletter, that mentioned a new prescription variant for orthoses called ‘A Horwood Extension” – the brainchild of one ‘Andy Horwood’ – “That must be the same guy” thinks I – so at the conference I asked the organiser if he was there, and we were introduced. He struck me as an open, thoughtful guy who was generous with his time “Come down to the clinic and I’ll show you around” and we’ve been friends ever since.

When I worked at the Leeds General Infirmary in the 90’s I used to run a Thursday evening Biomechanics meeting for Podiatrists in the Yorkshire area. It ran monthly for 10 years, and we would have sessions on practical techniques, researchers talking through their papers, medical reps demonstrating stuff……I would get anyone who was willing to impart some knowledge for free. Andy would ALWAYS step in with something new if we were short of a topic. None of this “I don’t want my competitors knowing what I know” but a genuine will to expand the education of a profession that was (and often still is) stuck in the 70’s.

At the end of the 90’s Andy was involved with a group of like-minded Podiatrists who wanted to advance the profession by creating a Masters degree that was aimed at enhancing the clinical application of Biomechanics to improve patient outcomes. The Masters in ‘Clinical Biomechanics’ was born at Staffordshire University and continues to run 25 years later.

Before the MSc I would just blindly follow what I’d been told at college and later at conferences. “You have to do it this way” “The important thing is to keep the foot in this position then everything will be alright” “It’s all about this particular joint and its axis” “It’s about allowing movement in a certain plane”. Bobbing between one model of foot function and another with no real foundation for why these might be.

The Masters taught us to go back and read the research around a subject. To question why. To critique what was being said. To look at the mechanical properties of body tissues and work out why a tendon or joint or whatever might be over stressed. When you draw free body diagrams to show this visually, the reason behind a patients problem becomes more and more evident.

Lee and I were students on the second cohort to do the Masters and it changed our outlook and in lots of ways our lives. We used to share the driving down there for weekends, share B&Bs and became close friends. We had kids at the same time and worked together in the NHS for many years. He was living in Bridlington at the time so became a permanent fixture on our sofabed in Leeds every Thursday night. I wouldn’t have gone into business with anyone else.

in 2004 after completing my Masters, I was asked to assist Andy in teaching his “Origins and Principles of Biomechanics” module and have joined him every year since in spreading the word to interested practitioners, be they Podiatrists, Physios, Osteopaths, Orthotists…..anyone who looks at how the body works to work out why it goes wrong benefits from this course.

To now have his thoughts expanded and ordered in this text is a joy to behold. Packed with references to back up everything he says, he has gathered cutting edge knowledge and weaved it into a coherent master class – a must have for anyone interested in Biomechanics. It should be the go-to text for all Podiatry schools. Why on earth are they STILL teaching stuff from the 70s when there is everything you need right here – right now.

For all the former students of the module – here’s how you should have done those Free Body Diagrams…..

Bob Longworth MSc DPodM

Book available here

Clinical Biomechanics MSc details here