Richard Van Plateringen

Dunedin Podiatry

Richard Van Plateringen is the director of Dunedin Podiatry. He has more than 35 years of experience as a clinical podiatrist in New Zealand and England. Richard has been in private practice for over a quarter of a century. He has also lectured at universities and facilitated numerous Formthotics courses during that time. He has moved from doing sports podiatry patient management by using orthotics therapy as a baseline treatment with the ultimate goal of using orthoses as a temporary part of a wider treatment plan. Other treatment modalities include manual therapy, strengthening programs, patient-directed strapping, and exercise/movement modification. He has presented at many conferences, day seminars, and workshops on manual therapy techniques for the foot and ankle and worked for Foot Science International, sharing his knowledge and skills in the "Entering the Footzone" courses.

Why did you choose podiatry?

Podiatry has really been a family thing, with my father and brother leading the way before me. I had grown up in and around his clinic, helping glueing, grinding, altering shoes whilst learning his tips and tricks on using all manner of materials that were the art of his professional craft. So my choice was between the life of a struggling guitarist in a band that would be famous only in their dingy flat or the family business and working alongside my father and brother. The former choice was lost.

Q. Who has been your main inspiration in podiatry?
A. Early on in my career, my father gave me a signed copy of a book, “The running Foot Doctor”, written by American Podiatrist, Steve Subotnick. I thought it was pretty rad that it was based on podiatry and running. This was a long way from the palliative care that was the mainstay of my work in the early 1980s. I was in with this guy.
Q. What is the most common condition you treat?
A. Poor functioning feet and what got them there recognizing the importance of the feet as part of the chain of movement. Often, the symptoms they present with may not be what needs fixing to get good, long-lasting solutions. As the song goes, “The foot bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the…”
Q. What is the most unusual condition you have seen?
A. A patient who came in functioning at a high level with a comminuted fracture was neutrally intact but there was no pain.
Q. What is your favourite treatment that gets the best results?
A. I love seeing increases in functional range of motion that a patient can easily achieve with the addition of some simple release exercises and not a stretch in sight. It is a total buzz to see people freely getting into deep squats after a couple of weeks of self-treatment with self-administered ankle mobilisations.
Q. What advice would you give your newly qualified self?
A. Don’t believe the hype, especially your own. Pronation is not evil, and there is no set formula, or absolute, in anything. Every patient is a case study of one.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. Being able to employ others and listen to other professions. We don’t own the right to treat feet, nor are we the only profession doing it, but we may just do it the best. Listen and learn from everyone.
Q. What would people be surprised to know about you?
A. I'm not really a total foot nerd.
Q. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to a patient?
A. As much as I try to think of an answer, I can't. I try to engage and laugh with everyone I see (unless I'm in a really foul mood and we all have days like that – can’t be perfect). If I couldn’t see the edge with everyone, I wouldn’t be doing this gig. Laughing is an engagement.
Q. What can a new podiatrist do to connect with the profession?
A. Reach out, make connections, and talk in person. Don't message and email, talk to the people.
Q. Who’s the most famous person you have treated that you are allowed to mention?
A. I have been fortunate to care for All Blacks, Silver Ferns, Olympians, actors, musicians, writers, mums, dads, and complete families. Don’t we all get 15 minutes of fame?