Podiatry focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions associated with the feet and lower limbs. These conditions include:
- Corns and callouses
- Ingrown toenails
- Skin and nail disorders
- Foot injuries and deformities
- Diabetic foot conditions
Podiatrists also carry out biomechanical analyses, and prescribe customised foot orthoses to address causes for increased stress and injury.
How to become a podiatrist in Singapore?
Podiatrists undergo a 3 or 4 year long undergraduate programme. Subjects include health sciences, foot and ankle musculoskeletal pathology, administration of local anaesthesia and pharmacology.
Singapore currently does not offer a Podiatry programme in its universities – most podiatrists are qualified from Australia or the United Kingdom. You can find podiatrists working in hospitals, private clinics and polyclinics.
Here are some common misconceptions that podiatrists often encounter in Singapore!
1. Podiatrists only cut toe nails, corns and calluses
It’s true that treating corns and calluses are the “bread and butter” of basic podiatry care. But podiatrists do more than just remove hard skin.
Podiatrists are also specially trained in the assessment and treatment of paediatric (children) lower limb conditions, sports injuries, ingrown toenails, and diabetic foot wounds.
2. Podiatrists will make you wear hard insoles and ugly shoes
Yes, there are certain limitations if you need to wear insoles. But that doesn’t mean you are restricted to ugly, grandma shoes.
For example, customised slim fit insoles can be made to fit into flats, loafers, low heeled shoes and certain open toe sandals. It’s best to bring along your shoes when you visit the podiatrist so that he/she can advise if the shoes are appropriate for insole use.
3. I can just buy corn plasters from Guardian and Watsons to treat my corns
Contrary to popular belief, corns do not actually have “roots”. But they do have a central core of hard material made up of keratin.
A corn forms as a result of friction and pressure due to tight footwear, or you may have an inherited foot structure that contributes to that excessive pressure (for example, people with high arches usually get calluses/corns at the bottom of their 1st and 5th metatarsal heads).
The salicylic acid contained in corn plasters can remove the outermost layer of hard skin, but please be extra cautious and avoid using them on your grandmother with diabetes or fragile skin – it can also damage healthy skin! If the real cause of why the corns form in the first place is not addressed, the corns will still come back.
4. Bunions are only caused by tight shoes. Once I change my shoes, my bunions will go away
Tight-fitting and pointy shoes can cause the bunion to be more painful, but they are not the real cause. So ladies, the good news is that it’s not entirely your fault if you have a bunion!
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited foot structure which causes instability of the forefoot, similar to how flat feet can also run in the family. Early treatment and management by your podiatrist can help to prevent your bunion from worsening.
5. The shoe shop salesman says shoe type needs to match foot type
The traditional method of choosing a pair of running shoes based on the shape of our arches is still widely used.
- Pronated (flat foot) – Stability/Motion Control shoe
- Neutral (normal arch) – Neutral shoes
- Supinated (high arch) – Cushioned shoe
This method of selecting shoes is flawed because every foot is different! We can take two “overpronators” (collapsed arches) and put them both in motion control shoes, but one may find them comfortable while the other feels the opposite.
In the end, it all comes down to which pair of shoes is the most comfortable. If you still have issues finding the right running shoes, you can always consult your local sports podiatrist for advice.
6. An ingrown toenail can be cured by cutting down the edges of the nail. There’s no need to see a Podiatrist
Without the use of proper tools to cut the nail edges, there’s a high chance that you may still leave a sharp nail edge behind. Cutting down the edges can also cause the skin to grow over the nail edge, thus causing the nail to pierce into the skin when it grows longer.
Some patients will require surgery to re-shape the nails to prevent this condition from happening. There are also ways where Podiatrists can remove the sharp nail edge without much pain using proper podiatry tools.
Where can I get more information about the Podiatric profession?
The Podiatry Association Singapore is the local professional association for podiatrists. If you wish to find out more about podiatry in Singapore, please visit Podiatry Association (Singapore).
Radiance Fong is the principal podiatrist at The Sole Clinic. Prior to joining The Sole Clinic, she practised as the anchoring sports podiatrist at Changi Sports Medicine Centre. She has also volunteered her professional skills in major London marathons. Outside of work, she enjoys many kinds of sporting activities.