Expansion for Letchworth business means move to bigger store

In recent weeks, Walkwel in Letchworth, which specialises in podiatry, chiropody, specialist shoes and foot care products, has moved to a bigger unit on Eastcheap to allow the business to expand after 17 years on Leys Avenue.

We visited the owner, Managing Director and Lead Podiatrist, Sangeeta Dhall, along with her Practice Manager Simon Bygrave, to have a look around their new clinic and learnt there’s a lot more to podiatry and chiropody than meets the eye. 

A clinic for happy feet and more…

As well as having a beautifully-stocked retail area selling a range of shoes and footwear products, this new clinic now has three therapy rooms and an exercise area, where Sangeeta and her team of podiatrists carry out chiropody and podiatry treatments.

Sangeeta is the only podiatrist in the UK that has trained to become a Soma Trainer and a Muscular Skeletal (MSK) specialist. She said: “It’s very important that we look at the whole picture when treating a patient because a good posture is very important in the balanced function of the human body and that change starts with understanding this.  We therefore put a lot of emphasis on client education.”

Sangeeta’s team also includes a remedial sports massage therapist, a beauty therapist, and a reflexologist, which means customers can access a range of different services and therapies under one roof. Sangeeta commented: “These three therapies had been running independently for a number of years and we found the therapies all complement each other. Other therapies such as osteopathy and physiotherapy may be considered in the near future.”

Having the latest technology and practices is important to Sangeeta and she is keen to explore and adopt new therapies and procedures to help people improve their health.  “We want to offer the best facilities and services that we can - we are the only clinic in North Hertfordshire to provide Lunula Laser Therapy for the treatment of fungal nails and we also offer Shockwave Therapy for those who have Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain) and other soft tissue injuries,” she said.

How it all began

Sangeeta qualified as a podiatrist from Chelsea School of Chiropody in 1987. While working for the NHS in London and Hertfordshire, she set up a small private clinic in Stevenage old town in 1990, and in 1991 she also began working from her home in Station Way in Letchworth. 

In 1998 the Stevenage business moved to The King George Surgery and in 2000 the Letchworth business relocated to 39 Leys Avenue.

In 2011 the Letchworth business relocated again, this time to 42 Leys Avenue, which was a much bigger unit and she retained number 39 for the other therapists.

In 2014 the Stevenage business was on the move to a much bigger location in the Westgate Shopping Centre in Stevenage. This was a significant move as Sangeeta remembers: “We never imagined this would be possible from such humble beginnings.”

Finally in September 2017 the Letchworth business had grown so much that it moved to 13 Eastcheap, which she admits, after spending 17 years in Leys Avenue was both daunting and scary.

Standing out from the crowd

There’s no doubt about it, you certainly notice Walkwel’s presence as you walk up Eastcheap with plenty of colourful shoes and footwear on display.  “We’ve really noticed an increase in footfall since we opened our doors,” said Practice Manager Simon Bygrave.  “The window displays allow passers-by to see the range of stock on offer as well as some of our equipment, which wasn’t possible at our former premises.

“Now that we are more visible, people are curious and want to find out more about our services as well as the shoes, socks and wide range of foot care products and equipment that we sell.  We have a machine in the window that helps customers to find out whether they have a low, mid, or high arch, so that’s been popular!”

Foot care in the community

As well as the services offered at the clinic, Walkwel provides a home visit service and makes regular programmed calls to care homes and a local drop-in centre.

Sangeeta said:  “We are keen to work with the local community as much as possible; we support local charities as much as we can.”

For a number of years, Sangeeta has worked as a podiatrist for Crisis at Christmas, but in recent years has focused more on helping the local community. Every year from 15 November to 15 December £1.00 from every treatment at Walkwel goes to nominated charities. They have supported the Wilbury Project, and more recently the Salvation Army, who donate gifts and food parcels to the less well-off families of Stevenage and North Hertfordshire.

This year the team is looking to support the homeless shelters that provide free meals at Christmas.

Walkwel also sends out of season stock and good standard used footwear to Africa for the Stevenage Kadoma Link Project.

Here’s to the future

Sangeeta and her team at Walkwel are excited about the future of their business in Letchworth and hope that by expanding into a bigger premise they will be better placed to meet the needs of the local community in podiatry and offer a wider range of health care.

Sangeeta added: “All our staff pride themselves on ensuring that patients, clients, and customers have a positive experience at Walkwel, and we will make sure that this personal touch continues, whilst exploring new avenues of treatment, care and products that may further enhance our provision and support for the local community.”

To find out more about the services and products offered at Walkwel, visit walkwel.co.uk or call 01462 682526.

Walkwel staff at the opening of their new store with Graham Fisher of the Heritage Foundation