So what is a podiatrist? Podiatrists are foot doctors. They are also referred to as a chiropodist, a podiatric surgeon, or a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) - this is why you will sometimes see that a podiatrist has these letters after their name. A podiatrist is a specialised physician or surgeon who focuses on foot and ankle treatment, as well as the connecting part of the leg. These footcare experts can play a vital role in supporting older people to help reduce the risk of them falling. In addition to private practices, you can also find podiatrists working in a range of healthcare settings - from hospitals to sports clinics, research organisations and elderly care.
The Australian Podiatry Association (APA)
is the largest organisation which represents podiatry in Australia. Its purpose is to provide quality education and continuous professional development for podiatrists, support its members, offer networking opportunities, and promote foot health in Australia. It also holds conferences, offers a webinar library and hosts an APodA podcast.
If you have a foot or ankle problem, you can benefit from seeing a podiatrist. Below are some of the services they provide.
Prevent future foot problems or injuries
By undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of your feet and ankles, a podiatrist can advise on the best shoes to wear for various activities. Wearing the right footwear is one way of helping to safeguard against foot problems and injuries in the future - including general discomfort, pain, blisters and fractures.
Diagnose and treat foot-related problems
From injury rehabilitation programmes, to the prescription of orthotics to support your feet and improve leg function, a podiatrist is trained to diagnose problems which are related to the feet, and then recommend the best treatment options. People with long term conditions such as Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can be affected by foot issues. Podiatrists are able to provide much needed ongoing care for these patients, who can suffer from foot injuries and sores.
Manage long-term foot health
By assessing your feet, podiatrists can help to manage your long-term foot health via the diagnosis of any potential issues, and advise on the best course of action. They recommend ways to keep mobile and active as well as advise you on the best type of shoes to wear. Even if you have feet which are healthy in general, you might want to attend a single podiatry session in order to identify any work which needs doing, such as making changes to the way in which you clip your toenails, or the removal of hard skin on your feet.
Foot, heel and ankle pain
If you are experiencing foot, heel or ankle pain, you may need to attend a consultation with a podiatrist. They are able to diagnose the cause of the pain and then recommend treatment for your problem.
Foot injuries or pathologies
If you have sustained an injury to your foot, or another part of your body which is affecting the foot, a podiatrist can help to identify the best course of treatment. If you have a foot problem which is the result of an ongoing condition such as arthritis or Morton’s neuroma, a podiatrist is also trained to help. Podiatrists in this role might also be known as a doctor of podiatric medicine, or a podiatric physician.
Podiatrists can provide arch support for your foot in the form of orthotics, which are devices that fit inside your shoes. This can help to combat heel pain, which is the result of heels spurs, stemming from a calcium build up at your heel bone. Orthotics, which are often custom made, can provide comfort and cushioning, while supporting any abnormal movements which your feet may be making
An ingrown toenail is when the side or corner of a nail grows into the toe, instead of growing out. A podiatrist removes the ingrown portion of nail and can prescribe suitable medication for treating the infection. Podiatrists can treat this condition, as well as nail infections with other causes such as fungus.
A podiatrist can recommend the best treatment for warts on your feet. This could be a simple procedure under local anaesthetic, often using laser technology, Alternatively, your podiatrist might prescribe a wart removal preparation and supervise your use of it.
Podiatrists are able to detect fungal infections early, identify the cause, and put together a treatment plan. Treatment options include the prescription of oral or topical medication, and the removal of the infection nail (debridement), including any debris.
Diabetic foot treatments
Diabetes, when the body doesn't make enough of the insulin hormone which helps you to digest sugar, can lead to nerve damage in the feet, due to poor blood circulation. Calluses and sores on the feet are among the symptoms of this condition. A podiatrist can help to prevent the damage to the foot, which can even necessitate amputation in some cases. It is recommended that people with diabetes have their feet checked at least once a year by a podiatrist or doctor.
Calluses, blisters, hard skin and corns
When pressure on the heel and the ball of the foot becomes excessive, areas of skin can thicken and result in calluses, blisters, hard skin and corns. This is a protective response by the body, in reaction to skin rubbing against a shoe, bone or the ground. A podiatrist is able to reduce the volume of calluses, blisters, hard skin and corns without causing pain, with orthotics that fit easily into shoes.
Growing pains in children
A podiatrist can diagnose growing pain in children and recommend the best course of treatment. If your child has feet which look flat, point inward, or toes which do not align correctly, a podiatrist can advise on orthotics, braces or exercises which can help. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.
At your initial appointment with a podiatrist, you are likely to have a consultation which lasts around 45 minutes. You may be asked to fill in a new patient form if you have not previously attended the practice. This can include information on your medical history, such as details of any infections, injuries, surgeries or diseases. You may be asked to include information on any medications which you are taking. And you could also be asked to bring along footwear which you wear regularly, and the results of any imaging tests (ultrasounds or x-rays) which you have undergone.
Your consultation is likely to differ according to the nature of your specific issue. After supplying the podiatrist with information about symptoms which you have, they will conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your legs and feet, before discussing findings and advising on the best treatment options for you. In some cases, your treatment can be commenced at your first consultation. Your podiatrist would typically provide you with a treatment plan during this initial consultation, including any exercises or self-care measures which you can take at home.
What type of shoes do podiatrists recommend?
It should be remembered that the best quality shoe may not be the best variety for your foot. Before you buy shoes, it can help to have your feet measured when you are standing, and to note the length and width. In terms of podiatrist recommended shoes, some people may find that a larger shoe size is the most comfortable. For those who are starting to increase their physical exercise, lightweight shoes with a small low drop heel can be the best option. For everyday use, women might like to wear shoes which are roomy, with removable foot beds. Podiatrists typically advise against plastic shoes, which can cause pain and blisters.
Do I need a doctor’s referral to see a podiatrist?
You do not require a referral from a GP to see a podiatrist in Australia. You can call your local podiatrist and make an appointment at any time.
Where can I find a bulk billing podiatrist near me?
Are you looking for a bulk billing podiatrist in your area? Localsearch will give you a listing of local, trusted and accredited podiatrists near you, as well as the opportunity to read patient reviews. Rely on Localsearch for a bulk billing podiatrist in your area.
Is podiatry covered by private health insurance in Australia?
In Australia, private health insurance is generally divided into general treatment cover, hospital cover, and ambulance cover. It is general treatment cover - also known as extras cover or ancillary cover - which gives insurance for treatment from an ancillary health service provider, such as podiatric treatment. How much cover you have will depend on your specific policy.
What qualifications do podiatrists need in Australia?
There is a clear pathway to becoming a podiatrist in Australia. First, you need a Bachelor of Podiatry degree, and then you need to complete post graduate courses such as a Graduate Diploma, Masters or PhD. Podiatrists must register under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
(AHPRA)'s national registration scheme and accreditation scheme.
What is an orthotic?
A foot orthotic is a medical device which is prescribed by podiatrists. It fits into your footwear. Orthotics serve the purpose of focusing parts of the foot - such as the forefoot, midfoot and hind foot - relieving pain and helping to promote good foot posture. Orthotics for the feet can be compared to how glasses work for the eyes. Orthotics can fit into many different types of shoe and can be used by people of all ages. They come in a broad variety of sizes and shapes - the specification of an orthotic will depend on the footwear they are being used with, and the condition which is being treated. Orthotics are typically made from soft foam, carbon laminates, or hard plastic.
Should athletes visit a podiatrist?
Athletes can benefit from visiting a podiatrist - both for the prevention and the treatment of sports injuries. They can take advantage of screening and assessment of movement and posture, as well as treatment for injuries in the foot and lower limbs which have been sustained while playing sport. Among the typical conditions and injuries which athletes can see a podiatrist about are; ankle sprains, caused by sudden movements in sport; plantar fasciitis, which is arch fascia inflammation caused by over stretching; Achilles tendonitis, involving inflammation of the Achilles tendon due to excessive pronation or overuse of the foot; runner's knee (chondromalacia patella), caused by patella misalignment and causing wear of the cartilage around the knee; and shin splints, involving shooting pains down the shin, as a result of running on hard surfaces.
You may even find a sports podiatrist who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of foot problems concerning athletes.
What are tips for healthier feet?
To find out how can you look after your feet better, and reduce your visits to the podiatrist, read our tips:
Clean and dry feet properly
It might sound obvious, but that doesn't make it any less important! Keeping your feet dry and clean is integral to good feet hygiene. After cleaning your feet thoroughly with soap when you bathe, you should always ensure that you dry them well. This can help to combat the development of fungal organisms, eliminating the wetness which they can thrive in. Podiatrists recommend washing and drying well between every individual toe.
Cut toenails carefully
You should use best practices when cutting your toenails. Take care to cut your nail straight across, and do not trim too close to the skin underneath them. You should steer clear of significantly rounding the corners of your nails, as this can lead to ingrown toenails. When cutting your toenails, be sure to use larger clippers which are designed for toenails, rather than fingernails. Cut your nails when they are dry rather than wet to avoid mishaps, and make a higher number of smaller cuts, rather than trying to cut your nails in as few cuts as possible.
Wear shoes that fit and support your feet
Ensure that you wear shoes which fit you properly. If your shoes are too tight, they could potentially lead to long term foot problems. Look for broad and well-rounded shoes that offer plenty of room for the toes, with a stable and wide heel. Steer clear of pointy shoes, as these can cramp the toes, causing calluses and ingrown toenails.
Keep foot skin hydrated
Your shoes should allow air to circulate, as this is part of keeping your feet healthy and dry. Leather is one of the shoe materials which promotes good air circulation. If you tend to get sweaty feet, you can consider shoes which are manufactured from breathable fabrics such as mesh.
What should I wear to a podiatrist appointment?
The key to choosing attire for a podiatrist appointment is simple - keep it comfortable! Wearing comfortable, loosely fitting garments for your lower half will allow your podiatrist to access your feet and lower legs easily. Shorts are an option, as are trousers which roll up easily. If you are coming straight from work to your podiatrist appointment and are wearing restrictive clothing, then worry not - you can always bring a change of clothes in your bag. Podiatrists will always do their best to ensure that you feel comfortable.
How long do podiatry appointments last?
Your podiatry appointment is likely to last around 20-30 minutes, but an initial consultation could take longer-around 45 minutes. A podiatrist appointment leaves enough time for your treatment, and other podiatry needs to be met. Essentially, the exact length of your appointment is likely to be determined by the treatment you require. Aim to arrive five or ten minutes early for your appointment, so that you do not feel rushed and have ample time to fill in any forms which need to be completed.