Podiatry (specialist foot care)

Podiatrists (foot care/treatment specialists) deal with medical problems related to the feet – in the skin or toenails, for example. The treatment they provide is intended to relieve symptoms and prevent damage to the feet.

What’s the difference between cosmetic foot care and podiatry?

Cosmetic foot care professionals provide care and beauty treatment for healthy feet. They are where you go to get your nails cut and varnished or your feet pampered. Podiatrists, on the other hand, specialize in treating foot problems resulting from diseases such as diabetes or rheumatism.

When might you seek podiatric treatment?

Specialist foot care can be helpful in the treatment of various diseases. It is particularly important for people who have diabetes because of what is known as “diabetic foot syndrome.” This is where the diabetes causes damage to nerves and blood vessels, leading to foot problems such as slow-healing wounds and ulcers, and dying tissue. If it is treated too late and ineffectively, it might even be necessary to amputate the affected area.

Similar foot problems can arise from other disorders, too. These include nerve damage and chronic spinal injuries. People who can't feel their feet properly anymore due to nerve damage are also prone to sores, calluses and wounds.

Podiatric treatment can help to prevent that from happening. It is also a possible option for other foot problems, including:

Specialist foot care can also be useful for people with restricted mobility who have difficulty looking after their feet themselves.

What treatments do podiatrists provide?

Examples of podiatric services include skin and nail treatment and fitting of medical aids. For instance:

  • Removal of corns and thickened calluses
  • Special pads (orthotics) to prevent rubbing and pressure on the feet
  • Prevention or treatment of thickened toenails
  • Fitting of nail-correction braces and systems

Podiatrists use instruments such as scalpels, nippers, burrs and sanders, as well as creams, tinctures and disinfectants.

They can also advise you on day-to-day foot issues such as what to bear in mind when choosing shoes or important aspects of your personal foot-care routine.

Where can I get podiatric treatment?

In Germany, specialist foot care is usually provided by trained podiatrists. It is available in the following places:

  • Podiatry practices
  • Foot clinics, for example in diabetes practices
  • Health care centers specialized in diabetes
  • Hospitals

Podiatrists are the right people to help you if your foot problems do not require treatment by a doctor. However, if you notice skin damage like open ulcers or inflammation, you will need to be treated by a doctor.

You can find specialist foot care professionals based in Germany on the websites of the following organizations:

When does my health insurer pay for podiatric treatment?

Statutory health insurers cover the cost (minus the amount to be paid by you) of podiatric treatment for damage to the feet arising from diabetes, nerve damage or spinal injury. However, podiatrists also offer treatments you have to pay for yourself in full, one of which is the fitting of nail-correction braces.

You’ll need a prescription from a doctor to get outpatient treatment at a podiatry practice or foot clinic. The first prescription is for a maximum of three treatment sessions, with 4 to 6 weeks between each one. The next prescription will cover a maximum of six sessions.

You have to pay 10 euros per prescription plus 10% of the treatment costs yourself. If, for instance, one treatment session costs 30 euros, you will have to pay 19 euros for three treatments (the basic fee of 10 euros per prescription, plus 3 x 3 euros).

AOK-Bundesverband. Rahmenvertrag über die Durchführung von podologischen Leistungen (RV-P). November 31, 2015.

Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz. Gesetz über den Beruf der Podologin und des Podologen (Podologengesetz – PodG). August 15, 2019.

Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (G-BA). G-BA erweitert Verordnungsfähigkeit von medizinischer Fußpflege (Pressemitteilung). February 20, 2020.

Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss (G-BA). Richtlinie über die Verordnung von Heilmitteln in der vertragsärztlichen Versorgung (Heilmittel-Richtlinie/HeilM-RL). 2021.

Pschyrembel online. Diabetisches Fußsyndrom (DFS). May 2019.

Pschyrembel online. Medizinische Fußpflege. April 2016.

Techniker Krankenkasse (TK). Werden die Kosten für medizinische Fußpflege übernommen?

Verband deutscher Podologen (VDP). Tätigkeit eines Podologen. 2017.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on June 29, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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