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Chiropodist or Podiatrist? Whats in a name?

One of the most frequently asked questions at our surgery is "What's the difference between a chiropodist and a podiatrist?"


The word chiropody derives from the Greek "Cheir" meaning hand and "pous" meaning foot. So the word "chiropody" roughly translates to "Hand-foot". However, it has been long been recognised perhaps the name isn't quite right as chiropodists only treat feet! Well, this certainly is the case but go back a few hundred years and you find that in the 17th century that chiropodists did treat both hands and feet but in time, the profession became more foot focussed.

In 1919, the American chiropodists decided to change their name to "podiatrist" to reflect more closely what they actually do. Simiarly in many European countries the word "podologist" was increasingly used.

So what about here in the UK? Well, the change of name has still not completely happened. Why not? Well, up until 1993 some University's still awarded degrees in "chiropody". From 1994 onwards this all changed as all chiropody degrees became "podiatry" degrees. In part, this was to reflect the significant change in curriculum which included many new techniques and more complex procedures but that was 20 years ago so why isnt the name fully adopted now?

The answer is probably one about recognition. Ask the average person in the street what a podiatrist does and many would say something to do with "diet or children". Ask them what a chiropodist does and almost all will know its to do with ones feet. So we have arrived at this situation where many private practices still use the term "chiropodist" as the general public automatically know services they are offering.

As far as registration goes the Health and Care Professions Council recognise both names and these are both protected titles meaning only those who have completed the recognised degrees can offer podiatry or chiropody services. Which title they choose chiropodist, podiatrist (or both) is up to them. So when you are next asked whats the difference - the answer is not a lot!

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