Our feet carry us the equivalent of five times round the Earth in an average lifetime.

In return, we hide them away in shoes and forget about them - until problems develop.

Feet problems affect more than a third of the population and when your feet hurt, you hurt all over.

Healthy feet are essential to your daily life, so you should never neglect even the most trivial foot problem.

Feet can also be mirrors of your general health. Signs of diabetes, arthritis, circulatory and neurological diseases often appear first in the feet.

Prevention, diagnosis and treatment require considerable knowledge, expertise and practical skills that only a chiropodist can give.

A state-registered chiropodist is a specialist who provides a fully comprehensive foot health service.

He or she will have undergone extensive training which entails a three-year full-time course at a school of chiropody recognised by the profession.

There are now more than 6,000 state registered chiropodists and the number is increasing every year.

Chiropody has advanced rapidly over the past ten years and most surgeries are modern and well-equipped to ensure the patient receives the best possible treatment under the most hygienic conditions.

One of the first things a chiropodist has to do when a patient enters the surgery is spend time talking and listening to gain the individual's confidence.

With time, irrational fears can be countered with demonstrations of the painlessness and simplicity of chiropody treatment.

Time spent this way, followed by successful treatment, can often cure any phobias.

Anyone can receive advice and treatment from a state registered chiropodist. Services include preventive treatment, curative foot care and relief of pain caused by deformities.

Many people are often unsure of what types of foot problems they have but a chiropodist is trained to diagnose and deal with a variety of problems including corns, calluses, in-growing nails, skin problems, sport injuries and lower limb problems.

Of course, prevention is better than cure and a chiropodist spends time educating children and their parents about the importance of well-fitting shoes, the importance of frequent measurement of the length and width of their feet and advice on the avoidance and treatment of common contagious conditions such as athlete's foot and verrucas.

This kind of health education and advice on footwear can do much to alleviate problems later in life.

Chiropodists also provide regular services to athletes, boxers and dancers, treating sport-related injuries, gait and posture problems and advising on specialised footwear.

A chiropodist also provides an essential service for elderly, keeping mobile a large number of potentially housebound people.

More than half of state registered chiropodists practise privately and anyone may attend a state registered chiropody surgery for treatment and advice.

You can find a list of state-registered chiropodists in the Yellow Pages under Chiropody. Look for the letters SRCH after the names.

Alternatively, ask your GP to help you find a registered chiropodist in your area.