James Barnes

Lakes Podiatry

I graduated from AUT in 2005 and headed straight to Melbourne to start my podiatry career. I worked at the Brunswick Foot Clinic and learnt a huge amount during my time there – most importantly, I continued to grow my interest and enjoyment in the profession. I loved the four years that I lived in Melbourne and met my, now, wife, and fellow Kiwi, Abbie, while living there. We still travel back to visit the city, whenever we can.

We always knew we wanted to come back to live in New Zealand, at some stage. It was during my first ever trip to Central Otago, holidaying at Abbie’s family ‘crib’ that I discovered there weren’t really any podiatry clinics around this region. I had quickly fallen in love with the area, and it didn’t take long before deciding to take the plunge and start our own practice. I had never intended to start my own business with only four years of experience. I was young and optimistic - very naïve - but it just felt like the right place for us to give it a go.

We’ve now been operating Lakes Podiatry, with clinics in Wanaka and Cromwell, for 14 years. After a few years, Abbie took over the role of Practice Manager and my colleague and fellow podiatrist, Kim Bradley, joined the team in 2019. I think we make a pretty great team. We cover all areas of podiatry but I have a particular interest in running related injuries and running footwear. I have developed somewhat of a specialty in assisting the rehabilitation of major lower limb trauma - skiing, mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking and paragliding accidents are all too common in this area.

We now live in Wanaka with our 3 children, Charlie, Noah and Eve, and our newest addition to the family - Frankie the pug. We love living in this area and make the most of all the outdoor adventures we have on our doorstep – it’s so important to keep a healthy work-life balance. Outside of work I enjoy running and biking and spending time on the lake with the family. Being an Aucklander I really miss the ocean and take any opportunity to get to the West Coast to go fishing and diving. This region is particularly active, and our patients inspire us daily with their stories of amazing adventures both locally, and all over the world.

Why did you choose podiatry?

I suffered with Severs as a 12-year old. After months of missing sports and having other treatments, I went to see Tim Ganley who issued me some Formthotics! After using these and some ongoing treatment, with Tim, I was sorted.
It sparked an interest in me and I became fixated on becoming a podiatrist and treating sports injuries from an early age.

Q. Who has been your main inspiration in podiatry?
A. I learnt a huge amount, working for Chris Wheeler at Brunswick Foot Clinic in Melbourne. He was extremely knowledgeable, not only in podiatry but in many other areas where we shared an interest. He created an environment where I was never afraid to ask for his opinion, or advice. We enjoyed many great chats at lunchtime over extremely strong cups of plunger coffee and frozen cake.
Q. What is the most common condition you treat?
A. I feel like I see heel pain almost every day and at times it can still be one of the more challenging conditions to treat.
Q. What has been the most unusual condition you have seen?
A. I have been working with a patient over the last 10 years who was involved in a truck accident. He suffered multiple fractures to both femurs, both tibia and fibula and had crush injuries to both feet (that’s just the lower limbs). All of these sites required extensive internal fixation. Although he still has his struggles it is an amazing example of how the body can recover from such severe trauma.
Q. What is your favourite treatment that gets the best result?
A. Over the years it would have to be a low dye strapping, especially for relief of heel pain. More recently, I’ve been enjoying and getting great results with mobilisations of the 1st MPJ - I’ve fine-tuned my technique with this over the years.
Q. What advice would you give your newly qualified self?
A. Be patient. Sometimes the podiatry profession doesn’t feel like a very glamourous job in the first couple of years. I think the enjoyment and fulfilment improves so much over time with increased experience and developing a reputation.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. Starting my own practice at 25 and seeing it grow over the past 14 years. I’ve held onto the hand-written diary with my appointments from our first year, which is a really good reminder of how far we have come in our business.
Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?
A. I am a Formula 1 tragic. In the last 10+ years I have only missed watching one race! I’ve been known to give myself a few late Monday starts through the F1 season to recharge after a late night in front of the TV.
Q. What’s the funniest thing that has happened with a patient?
A. I can remember spending a lot of time stressing over the prescription for my very first pair of custom orthotics in private practice, only to then trim the right top cover for the left foot and the left for the right foot. I was so embarrassed, and I still think about it every time I trim a top cover.
Q. What can a new podiatrist do to connect with the profession?
A. Podiatrists are busy people, but most will be more than happy to share their experiences and help someone new to the profession. Contacting and connecting with other podiatrists provides a good opportunity to hear the many different treatment approaches that can be taken. So much of what a podiatrist can offer is learnt from the experience of others.
Q. Who’s the most famous person you have treated, you are allowed to mention?
A. Wanaka is home to many international Snowsports and Multisport athletes, many of whom I have had through the clinic. It’s always nice to see these athletes going on to perform on the world stage when I have contributed to the management of a recent injury.