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What does a Podiatrist do?

A podiatrist is a type of physician who specialises in diagnosing, treating and preventing foot, ankle and lower leg problems. The specific types of problems that a podiatrist commonly has to deal with are disfigured, injured or diseased feet. Whereas pedicurists clean, shape and beautify toenails, and generally work in a spa or nail salon (see the section on Beauticians).

Podiatrists may perform the following tasks:

  • examine patients’ feet to diagnose any disorders or infections and decide on appropriate treatment
  • give advice on foot health and the prevention of foot disorders
  • treat deformities such as flat feet and foot imbalance by using corrective devices, such as orthoses
  • work with patients suffering from diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral vascular disorders and other neuropathies
  • perform surgical procedures on the foot
  • treat abnormalities of bones, joints, skin and nails, such as bunions, toe deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, warts and other infections
  • recommend footwear for specific foot conditions.

What qualifications do I need?

Prospective podiatrists have to study a Bachelor of Technology in Podiatry at university level. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a degree course is a prerequisite. This course begins with practical training in hospitals and clinics from the second year of study. Once all theoretical and practical training has been completed, graduates are required to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa in order to practice as professionals.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Science
• Life Sciences


Where can I study?

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Technology: Podiatry

Where can I get more info?

South African Podiatry Association – www.podiatrist.co.za
Health Professions Council of South Africa – www.hpcsa.co.za
South African Orthotics and Prosthetics Association – www.saopa.co.za


Interview with a Podiatrist

Bastien Gonzalez | PODIATRIST / PEDICURIST | President BGACORP and Pedicure

Bastien Gonzalez | PODIATRIST / PEDICURIST | President BGACORP and Pedicure


Why did you choose to work with feet?
After a ski accident! I was taking part in a competition and broke my cross ligaments. I had an operation and underwent physiotherapy for six months, then met a podiatrist who created insoles for my ski boots to rebalance my feet. The following season I won the competition. This man changed my life! After three years, I got my license to practice podiatry. At 23, I opened a medical office and very quickly was very busy (20 clients a day, six days a week, bookings one month in advance). At 25, I sold it and created my concept of pedicure – the true pedi-cure: cure the nail (natural shine), cure the skin (medical knowledge), cure the mobility (strong massage). I started in a luxury spa in Paris and quickly developed a client base in New York and London. Before long I was moving between the three.

What practical training did you undergo?
A medical license in pedicure (three years training in France).

Characteristics required…
Someone who wants to help, to travel, to invest lots of time and energy in order to reach perfection.

How do training and experience interplay?
I started with only a French podiatrists license. Since opening in Cape Town, I’ve realised that you can have amazing results with anybody who is really keen to learn. Now we have young staff undergoing education in our PediManiCure Studios worldwide.

Describe a typical day in your world
I start the morning with checking and answering email, and then try to find some time to do some sport to help fight off jetlag (I travel every three days). My appointments start at 8am and usually finish around 9pm. Somewhere I try and find time to meet with my PA.

Your career highlights include…
Helping people walk on air with no pain and, as a director, seeing my staff learning and growing and finding their way with me.

What turns you off?
Clients coming back with a problem that is not being fixed.

What are you working on currently?
Opening a school to train pedicurists on the real way to do it. My first school will be in South Africa. The wish to travel and to learn seduced me into opening in Cape Town before any other place!

Your future goals…
To have a few schools and 100 studios around the world so that all the main cities have a contact point for a good pedicure.

Advice for someone starting out?
Be a perfectionist and never stop focusing on doing the best you can in your treatment for your clients.

Your job in three words
Perfection • Service • Education