If you are about to book yourself in for a pedicure before you jet off on your next beach holiday, you may be interested to know more about podiatry before you do.
While a foot massage and getting your toenails painted may feel like a nice treat, it won’t do much for any serious foot problems, such as corns, callouses and fungal nails. And while nail polish may look pretty, it won’t be doing your toenails much good either.
So, what’s the difference between getting a pedicure and seeing a podiatrist?
What is a pedicure?
A pedicure is a beauty treatment for the feet and toenails offered at most beauty salons.
It’s a cosmetic treatment similar to a manicure. Pedicures vary considerably from a simple exfoliating foot scrub, removal of cuticles and trim and shape of the toenails to longer treatments involving foot soaks and massage
Painting of the toenails is generally included in all pedicures but is optional.
A pedicure is a therapeutic treatment, and there’s no doubt the treatment is extremely pleasant (unless you have unbearably ticklish feet). Pedicures can be extremely soothing and relaxing, so if you spend a lot of time on the go, they can be a useful way to de-stress.
There’s no reason why you can’t get regular pedicures if your feet are in good condition. But, if you suffer from any foot problems, an appointment with a podiatrist may serve you better.
Pedicurists are generally beauty therapists who are trained to carry out a number of cosmetic treatments, such as facials, waxing and massage. The NVQ qualification for providing pedicures can be completed in a single day!
What is podiatry?
Podiatrists are health care professionals who are trained to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs. They also offer preventative treatments and help to keep people mobile and active. They are experts in treating foot pain.
Podiatrists train for 3 or 4 years to degree level.
As well as academic work, trainees must complete approximately 1,000 hours in a clinical setting. CAs pre-information from the Sussex Foot Centre, conditions podiatrists treat include:
- Dry skin and cracked heels
- Corns and callouses
- Ingrown toenails
- Athlete’s foot
- Heel pain
- Plantar fasciitis
- Sports injuries, such as Achilles tendonitis or shin splints
- Capsulitis/Bursitis in the joints of the foot and ankle
What is a medical pedicure?
Just to confuse matters a more recent term seen in the foot care industry is the medical pedicure. This is an upgraded pedicure offered in a beauty salon environment. The treatment may be carried out by a nail technician, supervised by a medical doctor or by a qualified chiropodist or podiatrist.
As it’s a relatively new term, always check with the salon what the qualifications of the person carrying out the medical pedicure are to be clear about the type of treatment on offer.
Why seeing a podiatrist beats a pedicure, tootsies down!
Even if you have perfect toenails, the removal of hard skin is much more effective when carried out by a qualified podiatrist or chiropodist. They have an extensive selection of tools for removing hard skin and adhere to strict hygiene and sterilisation procedures.
Some pedicurists use tools similar to podiatrists to remove hard skin but they may not have the same rigorous hygiene and sterilisation techniques and standards adhered to by podiatrists. That is the main reason for those with diabetes or compromised immunity should take extra care with pedicures. The risk of infection from a small cut or nick is too high.
If you have a compromised immune system as a result of diabetes or HIV, or if you have a vascular disease or circulation problems, pedicures are NOT advisable. It is recommended instead that you see a podiatrist regularly, as they are fully trained to deal with foot symptoms associated with complex medical problems.
Another problem best dealt with by a podiatrist is any fungal infection. Toenail fungus is incredibly common. What does it look like? Anything from slight discolouration on the toenails to yellowing and black spots. The slightest toenail fungus will be aggravated by traditional nail polish. A podiatrist will help to treat the problem, not mask it with nail polish.
A podiatrist is able to diagnose and treat any niggling foot pain and can carry out a gait analysis to determine the type of shoes and insoles you should be wearing. Seeing a podiatrist will rid your feet of hard skin, get your toenails clipped into shape and get rid of any nasties. It’s an all-encompassing foot health check.
It’s a big step up from a foot bath and a lick of polish.
For more general tips on foot care, check out this handy foot care guide by the NHS.