Consulting a podiatrist
Podiatrists and chiropodists do roughly the same thing, but chiropodist is a more common term in the UK. 'Podiatry' is used internationally and in the UK can represent increased levels of training over chiropody.
The terms chiropody and podiatry are not protected and therefore anyone can set up in private practice. To practice in the NHS, you need to be State Registered, and this is the qualification I'd recommend you look out for.
The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists represents the vast majority of State Registered professionals. A state registered chiropodist/podiatrist will have the following letters of qualification after their name: 'SRCh', 'MChS', or 'FCPodS'. Podiatrists can be located under 'chiropody' in most phone directories.
It's worth phoning around to guage level of expertise and the cost of consultations and orthoses
Most health authorities have a local chiropody department, perhaps termed 'podiatry' or 'foot health'. The level of gait analysis and orthoses (supportive shoe inserts) provided varies greatly between districts, depending on funding. Who is eligible for treatment, also varies and may excludes runners who by nature are relatively healthy.
If you have any concerns or recurrent problems with your feet, or feel you may have a problem with your running shoes or running function, a visit to a state registered chiropodist or podiatrist is likely to be of value. A referral by a doctor is not necessary. I'd recommend phoning around several practices to gauge the level of expertise and the costs of consultations and orthoses.
Sorbothane insoles provide shock absorption
'Insole' simply means a layer that sits inside the shoe under the foot. Most running shoes come with an insole, often removable. However, some people have prominent areas that are pre-disposed to irritation, or poor foot function that requires support and/or cushioning. You can buy insoles like 'Sorbothane', 'Silipos' etc. that are designed to provide increased shock absorbency and some moderate support.
If more extensive support is required then there are more supportive in-soles, called orthotics or orthoses. There are several commercial 'over the counter' orthotics available that provide quite good support but these tend to be relatively soft to avoid causing any problems.
Podiatrists can provide customised orthoses, which are moulded to the shape of the foot to provide support
There are more supportive pre-formed orthoses available to professionals, which can be adapted to the individual. While these often provide excellent results they are not customised for an individual foot and therefore do not suit everybody.
Podiatrists can provide customised orthoses, which are moulded to the shape of the foot to provide support. The traditional method is to take an impression of the foot, which is then filled with liquid Plaster of Paris which, when set, provides a model of the foot. Materials are then moulded to the cast to provide appropriate control.
With newer technology, the impressions can be scanned into a computer which will either generate a model of the foot, or the orthoses themselves can be produced by 'Cad Cam'. More recently, sophisticated scanning machines have become available in an attempt to bypass the need for impression taking.