Evolution of Podiatry

Podiatry used to be called chiropody, referring to the professional treatment and care of people’s feet. Bas-relief carvings at the entrance to Ankmahor’s tomb in Egypt show feet and hands being attended to, dating it back to around 2400 BC.  Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC), a Greek physician considered the Father of Medicine, describes calluses and corns and why this hard skin needs to be removed. The skin scrapers he invented were the original scalpels. Suffice it to say that professional – and personal - foot care goes way back.


By the 1800s, chiropody was a respectable and established profession. There are references to President Abraham Lincoln being treated by a chiropodist for “troublesome corns” and ingrown toe nails. The first professional chiropody  society was created in New York in 1895; the first school opened in 1911. Chiropodists were independently licensed to treat feet, ankles and legs. By the start of World War II, practitioners educated in the US would receive a Doctor of Surgical Chiropody degree. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the schools granted what is now a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).


Today, a DPM holds a doctoral-level degree that the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) defines as “that profession of the health sciences concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the human foot, ankle, and their governing and related structures, including local manifestations of systemic conditions, by all appropriate methods and means.”


Training includes extensive education and board certification. Podiatrists have trained in diagnosing and treating foot and ankle conditions and diseases, and biomechanics of the foot and ankle. They are experts in neurological, dermatological, vascular, and musculoskeletal systems of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists perform more foot and ankle surgeries than any other medical specialist. They are licensed to:

  • Conduct medical histories and physical examinations

  • Order and evaluate X-rays, ultrasound, MRIs, and other studies

  • Diagnose and treat injuries and disorders

  • Prescribe medications

  • Set fractures and other structural abnormalities

  • Perform surgery – reconstructive and microsurgery

  • Administer sedation and anesthesia

  • Prescribe and fit orthotics, insoles, casts, and prosthetics

  • Perform and order physical therapy


In the US, podiatric physicians and surgeons complete four years of post-baccalaureate medical school, followed by several years of residency. DPMs are state-licensed where they practice. Many will add to their credentials by pursuing Board Certification from the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM), which certifies medical and orthopedic care; and the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS), which certifies surgical care.  


Modern podiatry offers a wide range of services, from basic care for common problems to highly specialized diagnostics and solutions to complex injuries and disorders. If you’re suffering from a foot or ankle issue, contact Dr. O and her team of highly trained experts at Podiatry Associates P.C. They have been getting people back on their feet for more than 25 years. Check out our website at footdoctorscolorado.com or call 303-805-5156 for an appointment at one of our offices in Aurora, Parker, Castle Pines, or Cherry Creek.

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