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June is Foot Health Month

Why should we look after our feet?

The profession of podiatry launches their annual foot health awareness this month. More about Foot Health and the College of Podiatry later. As a podiatrist and independent author, I believe our work is vital to maintaining the Nation’s health. Foot health matters to all people, not the elderly or young but everyone. But surely every health profession, covering teeth to toes makes the same promise or uses a similar strap line? ‘Tooth pain,’ ‘back pain,’ ‘foot pain,’ is the worst type of pain!

Of course, we are all passionate about health. Why take up a career in health if you are not passionate. So, to kick start why feet?

Basic Principles

We need them to walk on? Yes, of course, but they are more than just wheels/tyres driving the body forward. They are shock absorbers and they change into levers. Anything that affects those two principle functions will impede the body’s progress. The forces that act against the ground when moving require absorbing. Muscles, tendons, fat, skin and correct foot adaptation help with this contact, but also bear the brunt of impact. The kangaroo has a significant bounce when hitting the ground with some 90kg weight and avoids harmful reaction forces. Tendons have built in elastic properties to harness lost energy so it is not wasted and can be used in the next leap. Humans do not leap but joints work together with tendons to achieve a similar aim; absorb and harness that energy to be used again.

As the body moves forward, leverage occurs making the foot  a rigid stable platform for our 50-100+kg bodies. Chimps, with similar foot anatomy cannot form levers around the middle part of the foot and adopt a curious walking pattern that is less efficient and harder to sustain for any distance. Movement involves walking, running or sprinting. Feet should not hurt while standing still or moving about, but they do suffer injuries. Podiatrists as foot health specialists have now established a greater focus on sports and recreational foot health adding their first degree with extended qualifications at Master’s degree and now doctoral levels. This means podiatry provides a wider service than considered traditionally.

Car analogies

Don’t you just hate having to pay out for new tyres on the car. The treads have worn or you have a crack in the wall. Foot skin is thickest under foot. It is the soul of contact (pun intended). If the skin weakens, breaks down, this becomes a big deal. Unlike tyres there is is no ‘Kwick-fix’. Infection, pain, ulcers… not nice; but what of their impact?

The body no longer wants to move as it did. Mobility crisis means giving rise to plenty of concerns for the podiatrist. Your foot health is letting you down and we need to find the source of the pain. Is it infection, skin quality problems, fixed deformity, or are those muscles and tendons not working? Has an old injury come back to haunt you? Arthrosis (a better term than arthritis) affects shock absorption. This is where joint surfaces are damaged; often through wear and tear. In some cases, we can replace joints, but it is best to deal with the problem before that is necessary. Muscles imbalanced with tendon strain are bad news for walking free from pain.

The go-to profession

Can we fix your foot? Yes, mostly.

Some 95% of foot problems can be helped, many cured with timely intervention. Lost days from work, impact on social life and family life, side effects from medication, weight gain, are all matters podiatrists have concern for working with patient’s GPs and other health professionals. Our aim: TO KEEP YOU MOBILE.

So, is Foot Health Month just another fad? No, it is an attempt by a caring profession to reach out to people to take a greater interest in their foot health. The College of Podiatry, the driving force behind Podiatry in the UK, hope to make 2018 a notable campaign. They have said,

‘We want more people to understand the importance of foot health as part of their overall health, and for people to visit a podiatrist when they need to – and to know when they need to!’

The campaign started around 1983 by The Society of Chiropodists and shortly after incorporated the modern name Podiatry. Foot Health Month focuses on health education. The College of Podiatry (educational and academic wing) hopes to deliver information in an appealing and engaging way.

Look out for information during June from independent podiatrists and the professional body, promoting itself now under the banner. Steve Jamieson, the Chief Executive Officer for The Society (the formal body and trade union) and College of Podiatry has been concerned about mixed messages from the various titles, one of which still retains the 19thcentury title, chiropodist. Lewis Durlacher Surgeon Chiropodist to royalty wrote extensively on the foot as far back as 1845. In 2011 the profession tried to change the name of its’ Society, dropping the term chiropody, but this was rejected. June should see another attempt to solve this anomaly. ‘Footlocker’ will be publishing more on confusing titles.

If in doubt about your foot health consult a podiatrist early. The profession has not changed to podiatry from chiropody overnight, but now offers wider scope and expertise, developing over the last 40 years in both the NHS and Independent sector. Foot Health Month was established by the Society of Chiropodists after an initiative around 1983-4 led to the first promotion but has no sponsorship as the largest body dedicated to Foothealth training. Today it has many sub-specialties from sports podiatrists to podiatric surgeons. There is no designated age group that has special attention alone, but of course patients with impairment of circulation ever remain an important focus as we strive to improve lives and prevent unnecessary limb amputation.

To find a podiatrist in your area you can go to https://www.scpod.org/ but do stay in touch with me at Footlocker. Thanks for reading – look out for the next article.


David Tollafield is an author and former Consultant Podiatric Surgeon








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