Podiatry involves the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the foot, ankle, lower limb and its associated structures. It encompasses both conservative care for existing complaints, and corrective management for acute and chronic conditions.
Chiropody and podiatry are often seen as one and the same thing, and this can cause some confusion. Podiatry is the modern day medical name for the pre-existing profession chiropody.
The name was changed in the UK to podiatry in 1993, and is the internationally recognised name for a foot specialist.
In order to practice as a podiatrist, a three or four year BSc (hons) degree is to be successfully completed. Podiatry is provided by specialist trained practitioners called podiatrists. In order to use this title, they must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC ensures that each podiatrist or chiropodist adheres to a professional code of conduct and performs continual professional development (CPD).
You can check your podiatrist or chiropodist is registered on the HCPC website.
In addition, your podiatrist will be required to hold professional liability and indemnity insurance to ensure both they and their patients are covered and they are safe to practice. There are several professional bodies which a podiatrist can become affiliated with. The most common of these is The College of Podiatry.
Podiatrists can treat a comprehensive list of complaints. Often the presentation of a conservative complaint can be linked to a problem which would benefit from corrective management and vice versa.
In the table below, we break down what's covered in both conservative and corrective podiatry treatment.
Podiatry also plays an important role in the management of long-term health conditions such as:
Conservative care includes:
Corrective management includes:
During your initial consultation, your podiatrist will perform a full subjective assessment; listening to your complaint and details of the presenting problem, documenting all medical history, including your general health and lifestyle.
They will then perform an objective assessment with your consent. Skin colour, tone, texture and temperature will be observed, alongside a vascular and neurological assessment to identify any deficit which may be underlying or linked to any pre-existing medical complaints.
If relevant, your podiatrist may also perform a biomechanical assessment, observing you standing, walking and non-weight bearing. Ranges of motion will be assessed and leg length observed. Hands-on examination of the affected areas may be necessary.
Your podiatrist will then discuss their findings, form a diagnosis and discuss treatment options available. They will also talk through a management plan, including you in the decision-making process at every opportunity.