Difference Between Podiatrist and Foot and Ankle Surgeons

Foot and Ankle Orthopedic Surgeon
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Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeons? You’re not alone. It can be hard to know who to see for your injury, especially when it’s in an area that many doctors specialize in. 

If you are trying to decide which type of doctor you should visit for your ailment, this blog post is perfect for you. In this article, we will compare both types of doctors so that you can make the best decision about where to get treated.

Who is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist (also known as a DPM) is someone who has completed the necessary education and training to treat injuries of the foot. You might also know these types of doctors by their older name, “podiatric physicians.”

Podiatrists must complete the following formal education:

  • A four-year undergraduate degree.
  • Four years of medical school at an accredited podiatric medical school.
  • Three to four years of surgical residency training specializing only in the foot and ankle.

These medical practitioners receive medical training plus specialized training on the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Podiatrists are also well trained in biomechanics and foot balance. As a result, podiatrists are well equipped to fit a variety of braces, custom shoes, and orthotics.

During the entire period of their training, podiatrists focus their training and studies on the foot and ankle. Consequently, they are considered experts in diagnosing, treating, and managing conditions that affect the feet and ankles, with exceptions in some cases.

For instance, it’s not uncommon to find a podiatrist who doesn’t do surgery or isn’t well trained in the latest surgical techniques. However, some have chosen to focus on surgery and have become foot and ankle surgeons.

Podiatrists can specialize in different areas of podiatric medicine, including:

  • Sports medicine
  • Biomechanics
  • Diabetic foot care
  • Wound care and more.

The primary thing all podiatrists have in common is that they must pass state board examinations to be licensed to practice.

Who is a Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeon?

Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD or DO) who treat the entire musculoskeletal system, not just the foot and ankle.

Orthopedics is a medical specialty dealing with diagnosing, treating, preventing, and rehabilitating diseases and injuries to the musculoskeletal system. While some orthopedic specialists decide to practice general orthopedics, some specialize in:

  • Foot and ankle
  • Hand and shoulder
  • Spine
  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports medicine
  • Trauma and reconstruction
  • Arthritis and joint replacements
  • Foot deformities
  • Neuromuscular diseases and more

The main thing that differentiates podiatrists from orthopedic surgeons is that orthopedic surgeons can treat your feet and ankles in conjunction with the rest of the body. On the other hand, podiatrists typically focus exclusively on your feet and ankles.

To become an orthopedic surgeon, you must complete the following formal education:

  • Four-year undergraduate training
  • Four-year training at an accredited medical school
  • Generalized orthopedic surgical residency training for at least 5 years

There may also be a requirement to complete a one-year fellowship focusing on treating foot and ankle disorders for those looking to specialize in the feet and ankles.

Podiatrist vs. Foot and Ankle Surgeon: Who Should You Choose?

Many factors go into choosing the right medical professional for your foot and ankle problems. You need to consider:

  • What your health insurance covers
  • Whether or not you want a board-certified podiatrist that specializes in surgery of feet and ankles or a general orthopedic surgeon who occasionally performs surgeries of the foot, ankle, and knee
  • How much experience both professionals have treating the particular condition(s) you’re dealing with
  • Whether or not a referral from your primary care physician is necessary to see either specialist.

However, ultimately, it boils down to what kind of treatment you’re seeking. For instance, if you’re looking for custom shoes or braces, a podiatrist would be the best option. On the other hand, if you’re looking for surgery, a foot and ankle surgeon would be the better choice.

However, it’s best to go for an orthopedic surgeon specializing in feet and ankles. This is because they have had the most training in this area and can offer you the best treatment possible.

Contact Us

Still can’t decide? Our Orthopedists Marina Del Rey, experts can help you determine which type of specialist would suit your needs the best. Our specialist will diagnose the problem and come up with a treatment plan specifically tailored for you. Feel free to contact us for more information. We are happy to help!

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