What’s the difference between a chiropodist and podiatrist?

Offering chiropody services in Oxford means we often get asked the simple question, what’s the difference between a chiropodist and podiatrist?

This blog post looks at some of these common questions, including top tips on how to look after your feet.

What’s the difference between a chiropodist and podiatrist?

The answer is that there is no difference, the 2 words are used interchangeably to describe the same thing… Essentially both a chiropodist and podiatrist are a foot doctor which both look at foot problems and care for foot health.

Chiropody is an historic term which has been used throughout the centuries to describe someone that specialises in the health and well-being of your feet. According to the Institute of chiropody and podiatry, it wasn’t until more recent years that the professional title of Podiatrist was created to recognise the specialist qualifications of the profession.

What are the responsibilities of a chiropodist?

A chiropodist or podiatrist seeks to rectify a range of foot disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Callus (hard skin)
  • Corns
  • Dry cracked heels
  • In-growing toenails
  • Tough thickened nails
  • Verrucae

Difference between a podiatrist and a nail technician?

This is also a question that sometimes gets asked, a podiatrist has the professional medical qualification which enables them to register with the Institute of Chiropody and Podiatry, it also enables them to treat a wide variety of foot ailments.

A nail technician, on the other hand, is someone dedicated entirely to looking after the beauty of your nails, including shaping and colouring. Their skills do not extend to the surgical management of your nails nor to looking after any other of the common foot ailments.

How does podiatry differ from orthopedics?

A podiatrist deals solely with your feet whereas an orthopedic surgeon deals with skeletal problems around the whole body. Your registered podiatrists may work closely with an orthopedic surgeon should you have any skeletal problems with your feet which require surgical intervention.

How do podiatrists remove a callus?

Foot calluses and corns on your feet can be painful, however, you should be aware that if you have diabetes, heart problems or any other form of circulatory disorder you should not treat the corns calluses yourself and should seek specialist help from a podiatrist.

A podiatrist is likely to take one of the following courses of action to remove a callus:

  1. Designing specially made insoles are going to your shoes which can take the pressure off of the callus area.
  2. Applying patches to your skin to help soften the hard area to facilitate later removal.
  3. Gently cutting away and removing the corn or callus.

Is wearing shoes too often bad for your feet?

Wearing shoes per se is not necessarily bad for your feet, however wearing poorly fitting shoes CAN be. If you have probably fitting shoes then areas of the shoe can run on your feet causing calluses and corns. These can be painful and tricky to remove.

How to deal with foot pain?

bones of your feet

image credit: myhealth.alberta.ca

Foot pain can be incredibly complex due to the complex nature of the construction of your foot.

Your foot contains:

  • 26 bones
  • 33 joints, of which 20 of them are actively articulated
  • Over 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons

Pain in your foot can also be caused by problems further up your leg. Even problems with your hip or lower back can mean that you change the way you stand or walk which can be transferred down your leg and cause problems with the complex anatomy of your foot.

This is where a podiatrist really comes into their own, being able to understand exactly where the pain is in your foot and how it is caused and then knowing the best way to treat it.

Would wearing high heels everyday damage your feet?

Wearing high heels everyday can cause a whole range of problems. Because your weight is artificially shifted forward onto the balls of your feet…

  • your knees need to push forward to rebalance yourself
  • your hips have to push forward to maintain balance
  • you have to hyperextended your back pushing backwards to maintain balance
  • the ball of your foot which has some natural cushioning can begin to thin overtime, this soft pad can actually begin to atrophy

We therefore recommend not wearing high heels every day and ensuring you have well-fitting and balanced shoes.

Common sports injuries that affect your feet

There are a range of sports injuries which can affect your feet and require access to a podiatrist, some of these include:

  • Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and can often be affected by repetitive sports injuries such as dancing or running. Overuse of the Achilles tendon can result in degeneration, this can be exacerbated with age.
  • Neuroma. quite simply this is a pinched nerve in your foot. There can be a variety of causes including wearing the wrong shoes, trauma or congenital problems with the shape of your feet. Neuroma is experienced as either pain in the ball of your foot or tingling and numbness, particularly between the toes or big toe whilst walking and the nerve is being irritated. Treatments to reduce the inflammation of the nerve can include shoe inserts to provide more support or possibly corticosteroid injections.
  • Plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue which stretches across the art of your foot and takes a lot of the stress when you walk. The typical site of pain is at the bottom of your heal.
  • Foot stress fractures. These can occur in people who participate in high contact or high-stress sports such as long-distance running, gymnastics, dance and football. The broken bone can be caused by a single intensive trauma all by repetitive stresses placed on feet and ankles. A lack of training and therefore building up of the support structures around a person’s foot and ankle can make someone more susceptible to stress fractures.

In summary, ensuring you train adequately before undertaking excessive exercise with sports and ensuring you wear correctly fitting footwear with good quality support is some of the best ways you can help to reduce your chances of having sports-related foot injuries.