The greatest distinction between chiropody and podiatry is where the terms are commonly used. In the United States, podiatry is most commonly used, and chiropody is synonymous. In Great Britain, the term chiropody is widely used to refer to more routine foot care, and podiatry is used to describe care requiring greater expertise and education, but even in Great Britain, there is no difference in job description or educational requirements, and a chiropodist is a podiatrist.
Chiropody and podiatry are types of medical care for the lower limbs. Chiropodists and podiatrists examine, diagnose and treat conditions relating to the feet. Conditions affecting the ankle and lower leg are also treated by chiropodists and podiatrists.
"Podiatry" is a relatively new term, coming into common usage in the middle of the 20th century, beginning in the United States. Its usage coincides with the discipline’s inclusion into medical study. Chiropody of the 19th century was a distinct discipline from other forms of medical care and had separate licensing. By the early 20th century, chiropody associations, schools and hospitals were forming worldwide.
Americans are responsible for introducing the word "podiatry." During the 19th century, "chiropody" was the accepted term throughout the English-speaking world. As the discipline grew more medical in its practice in the first decades of the 20th century, the term "chiropody" fell out of use and was replaced by "podiatry."
In Great Britain, the word "chiropody" remained commonplace throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. Other English-speaking nations tend to choose one or the other, depending on their degree of American and British influence. For instance, in Canada, "chiropody" was the favored term until World War II, when British-trained chiropodists became unavailable and U.S.-trained podiatrists stepped in.
In the 21st century, although chiropody and podiatry are the same, the terms "chiropody" and "podiatry" are not used interchangeably in conversation. Americans rarely refer to chiropody at all, and the term "podiatry" has gained popularity globally. Internationally, "podiatry" is more common and will be more easily recognized by the public, but both "chiropody" and "podiatry" are correct.
In Great Britain, the word "chiropody" is still commonly used, but "podiatry" is used as well, and a distinction seems to be growing between the two. Often, Britains use the word "chiropody" to refer to routine foot care including trimming toe nails and treating corns and calluses, but "podiatry" is used to describe more involved treatment and procedures. This distinction between chiropody and podiatry does not however have any basis in methodology, education or job description.