Confessions of a podiatrist
Switching to softer shoes when running hurts may not always be a good idea, says this podiatrist
When she was growing up, her mother was a nurse and her father a doctor.
Her mother often said that in healthcare, the feet were usually neglected - and that if she could do it all over again, she would be a podiatrist.
That was one of the reasons Ms Georgina Callaghan, 27, chose to become a podiatrist.
In 2012, six months after obtaining a bachelor's degree in podiatry from the University of Salford in England, Ms Callaghan came to Singapore to work as a podiatrist.
She specialises in treating runners, and she has seen ultramarathoners and triathletes as patients.
According to the Sports Index Participation Trends 2015 conducted by Sports Singapore, walking for health or fitness and outdoor jogging or running are the two most popular forms of exercise in Singapore across all age groups.
Even though running is a popular activity, there are some facts about it many people are unaware of.
Ms Callaghan said that running with your heel hitting the ground first is the natural way to run. Although it is not as fast as forefoot running, it is better for your feet.
Another common misconception runners have is that a remedy that worked for another runner will also work for them.
"There is no one shoe style or treatment that works for everyone - just because it worked for someone else does not mean it will work for you," she said.
One such "remedy" runners like to use is switching to softer shoes when they experience pain.
"That is not always good, especially for Asians, because it has been proven that Asians have hypermobility in their genes - they are extra flexible," Ms Callaghan said.
"Soft shoes paired with hypermobility results in a lack of stability, so the injury might worsen."
Ms Callaghan has seen many severe cases over the years.
She saw a high-performance athlete who had fractured both her feet continue to run without healing because she could not change her running style.
She also saw patients who refused to follow her instructions, worsening their condition until they required surgery.
"That is the worst part of the job, having to refer a patient to surgery when it could have been prevented," she said.
The most severe case she has dealt with is that of Mr Melvyn Lim, 33, who now works as a director at East Coast Podiatry Centre, the same clinic where Ms Callaghan works.
When Mr Lim was 31, he could not continue with his job as a commando in the army because of severe foot pain. Not long after, he started to suffer from severe hip pain.
Prior to that, he was an avid athlete, often taking part in events such as biathlons and marathons.
He was diagnosed with severe flat foot. It had caused such an imbalance in his body that it wore out his hip joint and gave him scoliosis.
Mr Lim can no longer participate in any sport. While he can still walk normally, he cannot walk for too long without feeling pain.
Ms Callaghan stressed the importance of seeking professional help when one feels pain.
"Many runners have that mentality - they think 'I will just walk it off'. But feeling pain when you run is not normal, and it can get serious if you do not seek help," she said.
When asked why seeing a podiatrist is better than going to a hospital, she explained that podiatry clinics have specialised equipment to treat injuries in the feet and legs, which hospitals may not have.
For her, the most rewarding part of the job is the recovery of her patients - she enjoys helping them get back on their feet.
Secrets of the trade
Be prepared. Find out more about podiatry before even considering it as a career. Try asking professional podiatrists if you could speak to them about their job.
- Be responsible. Stay committed to your job. Patients depend on your knowledge to help them recover.
- Education is important. For podiatry, it is important to pick the right university because different universities differ slightly in their training style.