Podiatry is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of foot disease and deformity. The term is from the Greek word for foot (podos) and means "to heal the foot." Until recent years this specialty was called chiropody, literally meaning "to heal the hand and foot." References to physicians who treated abnormalities or injuries in the foot are found in ancient Greek and Egyptian writings. The first modern text on chiropody was published by D. Low in England in 1774, and was titled Chiropodologia. Physicians who specialized in foot treatment appeared first in England in the late eighteenth century. Later, during the nineteenth century, so-called corn cutters roamed the rural areas of America. These often-untrained, unschooled therapists traveled throughout the country offering help for those who had corns, bunions, blisters, and other discomforts of the foot.
To help establish professionalism and standards within the profession of chiropody, the National Association of Chiropodists (NAC) was founded in the U.S. in 1912. In 1917, M. J. Lewi coined the name podiatry. Not until 1958, however, was the NAC renamed the American Podiatric Association to reflect the greater popularity of the new term.
Podiatrists must have at least two years of college to be accepted into a school of podiatry, where the student undertakes four years of medically-oriented study with a special emphasis on the foot and its diseases. The graduate is a Doctor of Podiatry.
Podiatrists can diagnose and treat common foot ailments and deformities. They can prescribe medications and perform minor surgeries, such as removal of corns and ingrown nails. A podiatrist can treat a patient with an abnormal walk, one leg shorter than the other, or a foot turned in or out by recommending braces, special shoes, or other devices. A wedge or lift placed appropriately in the shoe can turn a foot to face the proper direction or correct an abnormal walk. It is especially important that young children who have such abnormalities see a podiatrist; since children's bones are still developing, corrections started early can become permanent as the person grows.