This article explains the role of the podiatrist and explains how a podiatrist can help your family. There are also great tips on recognising problems and taking care of your feet.
What is a podiatrist?
A podiatrist (or chiropodist as they are also known) is a professional skilled in the care and treatment of the feet, toe nails, toes and lower legs.
Podiatrists will diagnose and treat minor aliments such as corns and calluses through to serious problems, such as complications arising from diabetes. They also treat accidents and injuries to the feet.
Podiatrists can help you with:
- Deformities of the feet
- Athletes foot
- Problems with the arch of the foot
- Diabetic complications
- Sports injuries
- Problems with posture and the way you walk (gait)
Most podiatrists work in their own clinic, but they are also found in hospitals and outpatient clinics. They may also visit patients in their homes or in rest homes.
In New Zealand podiatrists undertake three years academic and clinical studies through a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in podiatry through a polytechnic course.
One of the world’s most famous podiatrists was Dr William Mathias Scholl. Initially running a Chicago shoe shop specialising in comfort shoes, William Scholl became so concerned for the wellbeing of his customers that he went to medical school to learn more about feet.
Dr Scholl’s first foot product was launched in 1904, and in 1907 he set up the Scholl Manufacturing Company to provide products that optimise the health and wellbeing of people through their feet. Dr Scholl later took his company worldwide and also set up the Illinois College of Chiropody and Orthopaedics. In 1959 the Scholl Exercise Sandal was developed and became a global hit. Dr Scholl died in 1968 aged 86.
When should my child or I see a podiatrist?
When you or your child are experiencing problems or pain in your feet or lower legs.
You especially need to take good care of your feet if you have diabetes, circulatory problems or heart disease and conditions such as arthritis or gout.
Some symptoms to look out for:
- Redness or swelling in your child’s toe nails or between the toes
- Warts (verruca) on the foot or sole
- Misshapen toes
- Numbness of the feet
- Corns, calluses, hardened skin
- Ingrown toenails
- Sores that will not heal on the foot or legs
- Sport injuries in the feet, heels, lower legs
- Heel spurs – pain in the heel
- If your child’s feet look abnormal
- If you child does not seem to be walking properly
Pain in the knees, hips and legs can sometimes be related to problems in the feet.
How do I find a podiatrist?
- Look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book
- Visit the website of the New Zealand Society of Podiatrists, see link below.
- Speak to your local practice nurse or pharmacist to see who they recommend
Expect to pay around $40 – $70 for a one hour consultation.
What will they do?
- Take a history of the problems you or your child are experiencing
- Examine the feet
- Perhaps order X-rays or other tests
- Conduct a video gait-analysis test to see how the feet function
- Treat the problem using a range of options including medication, orthotics (special inserts into shoes), support strapping, special shoes, minor surgery such as removing corns or warts
- Provide information on preventing further foot problems
- Give information on the most suitable shoes to wear
- Podiatrists may refer you or your child to other medical professionals, if they feel you need help that is beyond their scope
What can I do to take care of the family’s feet?
Good foot care for children involves:
- Teaching your children to do warm up/cool down exercises before and after sports
- Buy specific shoes for sports
- Ensure shoes fit correctly and do not rub
- Inspect their shoes for unusual wearing patterns that may indicate a problem with gait or posture – shoes normally wear between the back and outside of the heel
- Keep a good eye on your children’s feet for problems
- Treat and cover blisters and cuts on the feet
- Seek treatment for corns, calluses, warts, itchy skin, painful feet
The importance of good foot care for people with diabetes is emphasised as severe complications can occur.
Useful websites & articles:
This link takes you to the website of the New Zealand Society of Podiatrists
For information on other Health Professionals in New Zealand, see our great articles in this section.