The difference between chiropody and podiatry

One of the most frequently asked questions is: ‘What is the difference between chiropody and podiatry?’ The truth is chiropody and podiatry are the same thing. ‘Podiatry’ is just a more modern and internationally recognised term to describe the practice.

Chiropodists and podiatrists are part of the same profession. They have the same qualifications and in the UK the titles are interchangeably. However, today more practitioners are adopting the term ‘podiatry’ to describe their services. This is to reflect recent developments in clinical practice and to align with other countries. Fundamentally, chiropody and podiatry deal with the same degree of assessment, diagnosis and treatment of the lower limb. 

History

Professional foot care has been practised since the Egyptian era. This is evidence by bas-relief carvings, which can be found at the entrance of the tomb of Egyptian physician, Ankhmahor in Saqqara. The first written records of foot problems can be traced back to ancient Greece. Greek physician, Hippocrates described the look and texture of corns and calluses in his writings. He also expressed the need to physically remove hard skin on the feet to promote foot health. It was Hippocrates who invented the first foot scrapers.

Throughout history, chiropody has been practised all over the world. A number of historical figures – including Napoleon and U.S President, Abraham Lincoln – regularly sought chiropody treatment. Despite a growing recognition and demand for chiropody as time went on, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that chiropodists were formally recognised as professional physicians.

The first society for chiropodists was opened in New York in 1895. This was followed by a British society, in 1919, which opened at the London Foot Hospital. Since then, a number of professional journals on the practice have been published. These have given the study of foot care (‘podology’) greater significance. It is thought many basic skills practised today by foot doctors originate from the first half of 20th century.