Practice The myth is that podiatrists won’t give you a second thought unless you’re laid low with foot pain. In actual fact, although podiatrists do specialise in the lower body, podiatry is essentially the treatment of gait and posture problems, which could be located anywhere from your neck to your toes.
But as Cardiff podiatrist Gareth Bamsey explains, many gait and posture problems do stem from the feet. “It’s a skyscraper’s base that makes it so sturdy,” he says. “Take a look at the foundations of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and you’ll soon see why the tower’s neighbours have got something to worry about.”
Minimum qualification Anyone can practice as a podiatrist, but to be a state- registered podiatrist you require a three-year BSc in podiatry.
Injuries treated All foot injuries. These include plantar fasciitis (heel pain), bone spurs, hammer toes, bunions and severe toenail and blister pain. Also, leg problems caused by improper foot plant.
When to go When a leg or foot injury – even a blister or an ingrown toenail – causes ongoing problems or forces you to change your running gait. If you don’t seek treatment you risk another related injury.
What to expect While examining your foot, the podiatrist will listen to your description of what hurts and how you became injured. In making a diagnosis, the podiatrist may take x-rays.
Although some podiatrists have treadmills and video cameras in their office for gait analysis (typically for overpronation cases), they often learn as much from inspecting your running shoes, so be sure to bring them along to the appointment.
Case study Bamsey recently treated a 31-year-old suffering from pain in the right knee, just below the patella. The patient managed to clock his 50 miles a week, but felt sore afterwards. After consulting his GP with little success, and with the pain becoming worse, he visited Bamsey.
A biomechanical study revealed that he overpronated; not drastically, but enough in over 20 years of running to erode the cartilage in his knee. The runner was given a pair of tailor-made orthoses and instructed not to run for a week. Over a month the runner returned gradually to his usual mileage. He no longer suffers pain, and considers his orthoses just another part of his body.
Cost of treatment Just as with all of these specialists, podiatrists can charge what they like, and prices vary vastly. Limited consultations can cost £15-£80, and subsequent treatments from £20-£100. Orthoses can be priced anywhere from £15-£200, depending upon what they’re made from, what your problem is, and where the podiatrist’s practice is.