What is Podiatry?

Podiatry is the medical specialism that identifies & manages disorders of the feet & lower limb. And just like other medical professions (Doctors, Dentists, Physiotherapists & Optometrists), Podiatrists have to be degree qualified & professionally registered to be able to practice.

Podiatry – but isn’t that the same as Chiropody?

One thing that many people get confused about is the difference between Podiatry & Chiropody. The simple answer is that Chiropody is an outdated profession ‘label’ (Think about how we now refer to Chemists as Pharmacists). A more complex answer would be that Podiatry has evolved from Chiropody into an internationally recognised, evidence-based medical profession that treats a wide range of foot & lower-limb related conditions.

At Street Feet we regularly visit hundreds of patients in their own homes, to undertake the simple, routine task of Foot Maintenance.  Many of our patients have very little wrong apart from the fact that they simply cannot reach their toes to perform the task themselves.  So why do these people seek the services of a qualified Podiatrist just to have their nails kept in order & any hard skin reduced?  And more precisely, why exactly should we as Podiatrists be any more suitable to perform these simple tasks, than say a Foot Health Practitioner, a beautician, or even a hairdresser that ‘has done a course in cutting toenails’? After-all, cutting toenails isn’t exactly rocket science is it? 

No, its not rocket science, but if you are maintaining other peoples feet (especially those over 60 years of age or those with serious medical problems) you do need to know all about Foot Science.

In the first few weeks of studying Podiatry at university, undergraduate Podiatrists learn the rudimental techniques of foot maintenance – cutting toenails & reducing hard skin with a scalpel. And although you need a high degree of mental focus & hand/eye coordination, these skills are not difficult to master, especially on those who are relatively fit & healthy with fit & healthy feet. Once they have managed this (& shown the ability to actually have the stomach to touch other peoples feet), student Podiatrists then spend a large portion of the remaining 3 years understanding the relationship between our physical bits & pieces (our Anatomy), how we work (our Physiology), how our body gets effected by medications (Pharmacology), how our body gets effected by disease (Pathology) & how we get effected by any external factors & stressors.

Once Podiatrists graduate with their heads full of fresh knowledge many join Podiatry teams within the NHS. It is here that they gain valuable experience in caring for patients with ‘at-risk’ feet (At Risk of developing a serious medical complication such as ulceration, gangrene or amputation), as well as learning to manage a whole range of complex foot disorders.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of points that would wave a ‘Red Flag’ to a Podiatrist whilst they are maintaining the feet of a patient:

  • Is there anything obvious relating to blood flow?
    • Does patient complain of pain when walking?
    • Does the patient get night cramps?
    • Is the foot cold & pale or hot & red?
    • Are there skin/nail changes?
    • Are the pulses present?
    • Do the feet swell?
  • Is there anything obvious relating to nerve or function?
    • Does the patient trip/fall a lot?
    • Do they have trouble walking?
    • Are the toes curled & gripping?
    • Do they mention tingling/numbness/sharp pains/cotton wool feeling/electric shocks?
    • Is there very dry/cracked skin?
    • Has the foot suddenly changed shape?
    • Has the hard skin pattern changed?
  • Is there anything obvious presenting on the skin or nails?
    • Are there any indicators of inflammation?
    • Are there any signs of infection?
    • Is that a new mole?
    • Is that really just a corn?
    • Is that a black mark in the nail?
    • Is the patient anaemic?
    • Does the patient have undiagnosed immune related problems?

The important point to make is when you choose a person to undertake maintenance on your body, be it teeth, eyes, ears or feet, always consider if they have the relevant qualifications, knowledge & experience in their specific Science & they possess the ability to question why something is happening.

Our Recommendations

The issue that we as human beings face is that our bodies alter as we age. Mentally we might feel 20, but physically, by the time we reach 60 years old, our bodies have altered dramatically, both internally & externally. 60 years old is also the age that we recommend a person should consider seeking the services of a Podiatrist. In addition, irrespective of you age, we would recommend that you only let a qualified Podiatrist maintain your feet if you;

  1. Have any serious medical condition
  2. Had any recent surgery
  3. Are on prescribed steroids, blood pressure, heart regulation or blood thinning medications
  4. Have been recommended by your GP