What Is a Podiatrist and What Do They Do?

A doctor of podiatric medicine, commonly called a podiatrist, diagnoses, treats, and helps prevent injuries and health conditions in the lower extremities. All podiatrists are licensed as experts in caring for foot conditions.  In some areas, this licensure may also include treatment of the lower legs and ankle areas.

How Does Someone Become A Podiatrist?

While podiatrists follow a different education plan than medical doctors, their education is very similar. They are required to complete a pre-med accredited degree, usually focusing on biology. After undergraduate school, they must complete a four-year degree at an approved podiatric school. Currently, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recognizes nine schools as approved for studying podiatry. Upon completing their podiatry school degree, doctors studying podiatry must complete a three-year residency at a hospital. This residency allows them to interact with other medical care teams and staff. This gives them a more comprehensive range of experience before progressing to a dedicated podiatry clinic or hospital area. 

After residency, a podiatry student must pass the National Board Exams and then be licensed by their state to practice podiatry. Although a podiatrist is not technically a medical doctor, they are recognized as physicians by the United States, because of their rigorous and dedicated education before going into practice. Podiatrists must also renew their state licensure periodically, and some states require continuing education as well.

While all podiatrists are licensed to care for feet, some also choose specialties like sports medicine or pediatrics as a subset of their podiatry practice. If they wish, a doctor of podiatric medicine can obtain advanced certification as a surgeon after their podiatry education. 

What Does A Podiatrist Do?

Individuals commonly visit a podiatrist to seek treatment for foot pain or injuries. Some of the conditions a podiatrist may treat include:

  • ingrown toenails
  • blisters and warts
  • corns and calluses
  • dry or cracked heel skin
  • nail or foot infections
  • flat feet, fallen arches, or overlapping toes
  • hammertoes and bunions
  • heel pain and injuries
  • neuromas
  • sprains
  • arthritis

Podiatrists often work with diabetic patients to care for their foot health and prevent future nerve loss or amputation. While working with a medical team, podiatrists also often help identify cardiovascular disease before other physicians. Foot health is closely related to the rest of the body.

Podiatrists vs. Orthopedic Specialists

Podiatrists focus specifically on lower legs and feet and the related conditions. Orthopedic specialists are medical doctors who concentrate on the musculoskeletal functions of the entire body. While some orthopedic specialists focus on foot and ankle wellness, a podiatrist will often have more experience in this field due to the specialized nature of their education and practice. If you are unsure of the cause of your foot pain, you probably should see a podiatrist instead of an orthopedist.

A licensed podiatrist can prescribe medicine, set broken bones, make casts, and provide other medical treatments for feet and ankle injuries. They can also supply orthotics, which are individualized supports in shoes that help people walk correctly.

Even healthy individuals should consider a checkup with a podiatrist like Best Foot Doctor. We can evaluate your foot health, provide recommendations on suitable types of footwear, and take care of hardened skin or any foot concerns you may have. For many conditions, like corns or calluses removal, a procedure can be done in as little as one office visit. Call us today to schedule a health and wellness appointment for your feet.


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