Originally, chiropodist was the preferred term used to describe foot care. Since the 1950s the term podiatry has gained currency in most parts of the world.
Podiatric medicine as we know it today as a medical specialty involving assessment, diagnosis and treatment of lower limbs, has descended from chiropody. In layman parlance chiropody is the old name for podiatry. In the UK podiatrist can be used as a title only by those registered with the Health Professions Council. Chiropody is really thought of as involving routine foot care, whereas podiatry involves more skill and higher education.
In the US, a podiatrist denotes a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, who is qualified by his education and training to diagnose and treat malaises related to the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. The first association of chiropodists in North America was established in 1895, while the first school of chiropody in North America began in New York in 1912. Since the early 1960s US trained chiropodists based in Ontario took the lead from their US counterparts and began to refer to themselves as podiatrist thus lending the term international support and fame. Thus we see that what began as chiropody in England metamorphosed into podiatry in the US and as has been mostly the case the American version soon gained international acceptance. Ironically in England the term podiatry came to apply to a more sophisticated version of chiropody.
Having noted the difference between the two terms, no matter how minor or subtle it is pertinent to point out that the two terms are used interchangeably, particularly in England. The fact of the matter is that whether it be called chiropody or podiatry, this specialty branch of medical science has an important role to play in peoples’ lives.