Getting to know...a podiatrist

Sue Pike, a podiatrist who specialises in Parkinson's, tells us about her job, and why good foot care is important for people with the condition. 

Podiatrists mainly look after feet. But strictly speaking, we look after anything from the lower leg to the feet. 

I’ve been a podiatrist for just over 20 years, working in both the NHS and in private practice. I currently work with a range of conditions, including Parkinson’s.

In the NHS, we carry out assessments for people with Parkinson’s and offer advice and information on footwear and foot care.

In private practice, we tend to see people who require more routine foot and nail care. Working across both sectors means I get to see both ends of the treatment.

Footcare problems in Parkinson's

Good foot care is especially important for people with Parkinson’s because the condition can affect mobility. 

People might have a slight shuffle when they walk, for example. These constant stopping and starting movements can cause problems like pressure and friction points, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses. It can also lead to toenails and skin getting thicker. 

Swelling of the legs is also common in people with Parkinson’s.

For some people with with Parkinson's, the sensation in the foot isn't as good as it should be, so your feet may not tell you there's something in your shoe.

It’s important that the circulation and sensation in your feet are checked to make sure everything’s as it should be.

Looking after your feet

Because people with Parkinson's may not be as mobile, it’s really important to have good footwear that’s suitable for your foot shape and offers pressure relief. I’d recommend a fastening shoe, ideally with velcro or elastic laces.

I would also recommend going for a nice, comfortable insole made from something like memory foam. These can help reduce pressure to the foot. Before putting them on, you should always check your slippers or footwear, just in case a foreign object has fallen into them.

For anyone with Parkinson’s, I’d also suggest using emollient cream or moisturising your feet every day. You should also check your feet daily for any swelling, signs of bruising or anything else unusual.

If you’re lying in bed and your mobility isn’t good, always check that your heels are suspended. You can do that by placing a pillow or cushion at the back of your legs, so your heel isn’t touching the mattress.

Getting help

To see if you’re eligible for NHS podiatry treatment, speak to your GP or practice nurse. They can refer you for a foot assessment. It’s important that the circulation and sensation in your feet are checked to make sure everything’s as it should be.

If you would like to refer yourself to a private podiatrist, look on the Royal College of Podiatry website, or the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Register, for a list of podiatrists in your local area.