Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
We're launching a new website soon and would love your feedback. See the new design
Health Sciences
(023) 8059 7637

Professor Catherine Bowen PhD, MSc, FFPM RCPS(Glasg)

Professor in Podiatry

Professor Catherine Bowen's photo
Related links
Personal homepage

Professor Catherine Bowen leads the Foot and Ankle Research programme and is the Training Lead for the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Wessex.

For patients with arthritis, changing the way current foot care is provided will benefit their long term social health and well-being. Alongside this is continued support for increasing clinical academic capacity in musculoskeletal practice through an on-going programme of internships and fellowships

Catherine has a specific focus on integrating education and workforce capacity building with investigation and management of long-term musculoskeletal foot and ankle health. Throughout her career, she has specifically championed the development of podiatry and allied health and nurse research capacity and clinical academic careers through leadership of podiatry education, national internship schemes, NIHR MRes, PhD and post-doctoral awards.

After qualifying as a podiatrist in the UK in 1987 Catherine worked in the NHS as a clinical academic and moved to the University of Brighton in 1996 where she was employed as a senior lecturer and programme lead for the MSc Podiatry. She moved to the University of Southampton in 2003 being appointed to programme lead for the BSc Hons Podiatry and subsequently NIHR MRes co-lead. Catherine completed her PhD on the developments of musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging techniques applied to the foot and ankle in 2009. Catherine was the first to identify ultrasound imaging as an additional skill that could be used reliably by podiatrists, particularly those working in musculoskeletal health and since then has pioneered and driven the clinical uptake of ultrasound imaging now used worldwide to expand expertise in foot and ankle musculoskeletal services.

In recognition of her work, Catherine received a prestigious meritorious award from the UK College of Podiatry (2014) and became the first podiatrist to receive a Chartered Scientist Award (2014).  In peer recognition of her academic standing Catherine has been elected to a number of prestigious positions including as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy; a Fellow of the College of Podiatry and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Catherine was appointed to Chair in Podiatry in 2016. She has amassed extensive experience in leading strategic multi-professional and interdisciplinary research teams with a core focus on investigation of musculoskeletal foot and ankle pathology to produce clinically useful optimal models for management of foot health needs. In recognition of this, she is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, past National Institute for Health Research Fellow. In 2020 she was appointed Adjunct Professor within the School of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, to further develop the global reach and significance of the collaborative work.

Research interests

Catherine’s research focusses on musculoskeletal lower/limb foot and ankle pathology with an emphasis on development of imaging techniques to detect changes that are not readily seen by clinical observation. She also has an interest in optimisation of models of care for management of foot health needs for people who have chronic long-term conditions.

Primary supervisor

1.Investigation of time to return to play following ankle injuries in sports. Saed Al-Bimani. Funder: Oman Government scholarship.
2. The Effectiveness of Nerve Conduction and Transcutaneous Oxygen Devices Against Existing Methods in the Diagnosis of Neuroischaemia in the Feet of Adult Participants with Type 2 Diabetes in the Community. Simbarashe Tanyanyiwa. Funder: HEE Wessex Clinical Doctoral Fellowship.
3.Validation of a real time clinical gait assessment tool. Student: Paul Harradine: Funder: The Podiatry Centre, Portsmouth.

Secondary supervisor

4. The prognosis of patients with intermittent claudication. A Prospective cohort study. Anabelle Mizzi. Funder: University of Malta.
5.Musculoskeletal ultrasound assessment of the Achilles tendon in people with diabetes and associated disease and treatment factors. Molly Smith. Funder: HEE Wessex Clinical Doctoral Fellowship.
6. Development of an ultrasound imaging atlas to grade the severity of first metatarsophalangeal joint osteoarthritis. Prue Molyneux. Funder: Asics podiatry research fund, Auckland University of Technology.
7. Combining Multiphysics FEA with experimental methods for analysing the mechanics and microclimate at the skin - Ankle-Foot Orthosis interface. Emily Kelly. Funder: Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science, University of Southampton.

PhD Research

Rosie Carr - Is there a correlation between postural sway and perceived functional mobility in traumatic adult unilateral transtibial amputees? 

Catherine is principal applicant in the following current projects:

OptiFoot: Optimisation of foot care for people living with arthritis. 

Supported by The College of Podiatry UK and a Career Development Fellowship from the National Institute for Health Research this project formed a four year multi-phase research design to develop an optimal model of foot care for people living with arthritis.

MSKInterns: Graduate Rheumatology Research Internships for Nurses and Allied Health Professionals.

The aim of this project is about developing a national network of healthcare professional research internships in rheumatology. Funded by the UK charity Versus Arthritis the governance of the programme is overseen by Professor Catherine Bowen at the University of Southampton, who is joined by expert colleagues from a network of universities including Leeds, Salford, Oxford, the West of England, Keele and Glasgow Caledonian.

ELFOAB / Epidemiology and lifetime risk of osteoarthritis within the foot and biomechanical functional outcomes

It has been recognized that osteoarthritis (OA) of the foot may have a detrimental effect on patients’ health related quality of life and that foot OA may cause significant morbidity. Funded by the Dr W.M.Scholl Podiatric Research & Development fund, the specific aims of this research were to develop a detailed understanding of the epidemiology, risk factors and associations of OA occurring within the feet in the general population at middle and older age. An additional aim was to determine lower limb biomechanical factors associated with radiographic foot OA.

SPIDERSOLE: Optimal insole design for people who have foot arthritis.

The SpidersoleTM project has a primarily focus on further developing a novel insole design for management of foot osteoarthritis through investigation of appropriate materials and methods of printing and construction to a device that is wearable. A second phase of the study is being led by undergraduate BSc (Hons) Podiatry students and involves testing the ‘SpidersoleTM’ to determine its wearabilty and efficacy in terms of structure, performance, density and support during gait in the human performance laboratory and outdoors on different terrain.

Catherine has been principal applicant in the following project:


Forefoot complications in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: identification, impact and intervention through novel imaging techniques. The project, set up in 2003 by Professor Bowen with radiologists [Dewbury, Sampson], rheumatologists [Arden, Edwards] was the first to identify diagnostic ultrasound imaging as an additional skill that could be used reliably by podiatrists, particularly those working in musculoskeletal health. The subsequent programme of work, involving podiatrists [Cherry, Gates and Dando] from Solent NHS Trust, University of Southampton and University of Oxford has evolved to increase understanding of foot problems in rheumatic diseases. Findings indicate that the use of DUSI of the foot would be more beneficial than clinical examination alone in the refinement of diagnosis and the implementation of effective care pathways for patients who have foot symptoms and those starting biologic therapies. The fourth phase, led by Dr Lindsey Cherry and funded by the National Institute for Health Research and Pfizer has involved reliability testing of DUSI by Cherry [NIHR Research fellow 2010-2016] and Charlotte Dando [NIHR HEE Wessex funded PhD student 2015- 2017] and enabled production of diagnostic protocols for investigation of forefoot musculoskeletal pathology and validation of DUSI against MRI.

Catherine is co-applicant in the following:

The Centre For Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis.

The Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis is led by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in collaboration with Versus Arthritis and is a consortium of six Universities: Bath, Leeds, Loughborough, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton.

Funded by the UK charity Versus Arthritis the aim is to build a Centre of Excellence made up of a group of world-leading researchers in sport and exercise medicine and science, bone and cartilage biology, orthopaedics, rheumatology, nutrition, skeletal muscle biology, psychology, physiotherapy, podiatry, occupational therapy, medicine, epidemiology, bioengineering and physiology.

Specific to the foot and ankle is the aim of keeping individuals physically active for longer by understanding arthritis in the feet and modifying footwear and in-shoe devices.


People with Stroke and Parkinsons: Home and Outdoor shoES. Funder: RfPB National Institute for Health Research.

Shoes can protect and support the foot as well as help with walking but bad shoes can increase fall risk in older people. The aims of this study were to find out which shoes people with Parkinson's (PwP) and people with stroke (PwS), wear indoors and outdoors; to find out whether balance and walking change when wearing indoor or outdoor shoes and to explore patients' views on the challenges they face when wearing and buying shoes. In the first part of the study, we found out more about people’s views about shoes and foot problems using a postal survey and face-to-face interviews. In the second part, PwS and PwP attended an assessment at the hospital gait laboratory and we looked at their balance whilst completing walking and balance tests in their own indoor and outdoor shoes. 

Most people wore slippers indoors and shoes fitted badly in about half the sample.  Many had never received foot care support. Participants felt that there was a need for more advice and support when buying shoes. Current shoe choices were based on trial and error.  Balance and walking was better in outdoor shoes and worse in indoor shoes. Foot problems and worse balance in indoor shoes was more common amongst fallers. Findings highlighted an unmet need for foot-health advice/foot-care for PwS and PwP, a need for further research to explore the best ways to provide foot-care support on selecting safe and appropriate shoes.  Addressing these unmet needs may help to improve current fall prevention treatments. Improved balance performance in outdoor shoes suggests that it may be possible to improve indoor balance performance through improved indoor shoe choices. HCP’s could be trained to give footwear advice and to refer people with foot problems to specialist podiatry services where appropriate.

Research group

Active Living for Health

Research theme

Active Living

Within Catherine’s portfolio research and enterprise activities are inherently interlinked with her education profile through her on-going commitment to academic achievement, leadership and knowledge dissemination of her field. Current responsibilities revolve around her NIHR ARC Wessex Training Lead role in building research capacity and promoting leadership to achieve the mission: “to improve outcomes for patients and public; improve quality, delivery and efficiency of health and care services; increase the sustainability of health and care systems locally and nationally.

For the School of Health Sciences Catherine is also deputy research theme lead, Active Living and Rehabilitation and Fellowship Champion. She has led applications for a Faculty Athena SWAN charter award (April 2013; November 2014) and was a member of the University of Southampton Athena SWAN committee that led to a successful institutional silver award.

Other professional roles include: current Editor in Chief UK of the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research; Chair of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) Foot and Ankle OA Research steering group; past co-convener for the British Society for Rheumatology Foot and Ankle interest group; past Chair of the UK College of Podiatry Research and Development committee, past chair of the Health Sciences Athena SWAN (Women’s Science Academic Network) committee.  

Sort via:TypeorYear


Book Chapter

  • Cherry, L., Gates, L., & Bowen, C. (2019). Clinical assessment. In P. S. Helliwell, M. R. Backhouse, & H. J. Siddle (Eds.), Foot and Ankle in Rheumatology Oxford University Press.




For many years Catherine has been recognized as an influential leader in the education of undergraduate and post-graduate podiatrists, enhancing practice. Additional to this Catherine has led on educational developments for other cohorts of health professionals. Through her appointments, as MRes NIHR pathway leader, and previously as programme leader for BSc Hons Podiatry programme and Professional Lead for Podiatry, Catherine has successfully led and managed innovation in educational delivery through module redesigns and revalidations (2004, 2009, 2012). Key to that has been her successful engagement and partnership with Singapore. 

As a result of the Podiatry Singapore project, led by Keith McCormick, there is now a steady stream of students who are sponsored by the Singapore Ministry of Health to study podiatry at the University of Southampton and consequently a large growing University of Southampton podiatry alumni community in Singapore.

Catherine is always looking for new opportunities to ensure her teaching is inclusive, engaging socially diverse students across the range of programmes. Her excellence in teaching was recognised by a Faculty post-graduate supervision award (2012) nomination in the SUSU best lecturer awards (2013) and nomination for a vice chancellors award for collegiality (2019).

As a Professor in Podiatry Catherine contributes to the delivery of high-quality teaching across the school of health sciences undergraduate, post graduate taught, continuing education and PhD programmes. Catherine has supervised 5 PhDs and 1 MPhil to completion as primary supervisor and has been external examiner for 8 PhDs and internal examiner for 3 PhDs.

Catherine’s teaching focus is related to investigation and management of inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritic manifestations within the foot and ankle. She engages in research led teaching through the links she provides students to her clinical experience and research and fully embraces integration of research within education curricula.

I advocate a ‘deep’ approach to student learning through case-based discussions and continued application of theory to practice whilst demonstrating reflexivity with differing learning abilities”.

ARMA hosted a webinar entitled “Addressing the burden of rheumatic and musculoskeletal foot and ankle pain”, in May 2019, led by Dr Mike Backhouse form University of Leeds, and Professor Cathy Bowen from University of Southampton.

Professor Catherine Bowen
University of Southampton Health Sciences Building 45 Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 67/4013

Professor Catherine Bowen's personal home page
Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings