Podiatrists can diagnose and treat any issues that affect your feet, ankles and lower legs — including performing surgery. You might visit a podiatrist for a short-term issue, or they might be part of your care team that supports you while you manage a chronic condition. Visit a podiatrist if you notice any symptoms that make it hard or painful to use your feet or ankles.


What is a podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery who specializes in caring for your feet and ankles. They examine, diagnose and treat issues that affect your feet, ankles and lower legs. You might see them referred to as podiatric physicians, podiatric surgeons or podiatric foot and ankle surgeons. Podiatrist is pronounced “puh-DAI-uh-trisst.”

You might visit a podiatrist when you’re having an issue that affects your foot and ankle, or after seeing another healthcare provider who suggests you see a specialist. Some podiatrists have offices in hospitals and health system clinics. Others are part of multispecialty groups or have their own standalone offices.

What does a podiatrist do?

Podiatrists diagnose and treat any foot or ankle problem. They perform physical exams and use tests to identify issues that make it hard to move or use your feet and ankles. They can also perform surgery. Podiatrists treat anyone, including children.

A podiatrist can:

  • Diagnose health conditions that affect your feet and ankles.
  • Order lab tests or imaging tests.
  • Prescribe medicine.
  • Perform surgery on your foot and ankle.
  • Prescribe medical devices like orthotics (shoe inserts), braces and casts.
  • Suggest mobility aid devices like canes and walkers.

When you visit a podiatrist, they’ll ask you about your overall health and medications, focus on any symptoms you’re experiencing and when you first noticed them. They might watch how you stand and walk (a gait assessment). They’ll probably ask you about the kinds of shoes you wear most often. Tell your podiatrist what you do for work and any activities, sports or hobbies you do that might put stress or extra pressure on your feet and ankles.


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What kinds of conditions does a podiatrist treat?

Podiatrists can treat any common issue that affects your feet and toes, including:

A podiatrist can treat foot and ankle injuries, including:

You might see a podiatrist if you have a bone fracture in your foot or ankle, such as:

Diabetes-related foot care

A podiatrist can be an important part of your care team if you have diabetes. A podiatrist will check your feet for signs of diabetes-related foot conditions.

People with diabetes are more likely to develop foot sores and infections. Usually, symptoms in your feet are the first sign of diabetes-related neuropathy. A podiatrist will:

  1. Ask about any symptoms you’re experiencing and how you’re managing your blood glucose.
  2. Examine your toes, feet and legs.
  3. Touch your toes, feet and legs with different tools to check for numbness and if you’ve lost any feeling.

If they find a diabetes-related ulcer or blister, your podiatrist will:

  1. Examine it for any signs of infection, such as discoloration, swelling, warmth or discharge.
  2. Order tests to take pictures deeper than your skin, like X-rays.
  3. Take a sample of the skin or discharge to test for infection.

When should I see a podiatrist?

Visit a healthcare provider or a podiatrist if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms in your foot or ankle:

  • Pain.
  • Discoloration or redness.
  • Swelling.
  • A feeling of heat or warmth.
  • New growths or bumps (on or under your skin).

Even though many of the most common issues that affect your feet aren’t life-threatening, see a podiatrist before starting any treatment at home. If you try to self-diagnose or start over-the-counter (OTC) treatments without seeing a healthcare provider, you might make a minor issue more serious.


Additional Common Questions

Is a podiatrist a doctor?

Yes, podiatrists are doctors. Podiatrists have a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) degree and attend a specialized podiatric medical school. It’s the podiatric equivalent of being a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO). Podiatrists are qualified to diagnose and treat any issue that affects your feet, including performing surgery.

How long does it take to become a podiatrist?

It takes four years to earn a DPM degree, and most podiatrists have a four-year undergraduate degree, too.

Most states require podiatrists to perform three years of training in a residency program after earning their DPM, and a number of physicians also do an additional year in fellowship training.

What is the difference between a podiatrist and an orthopedist?

Podiatrists and orthopedists are different types of healthcare providers, but they often treat similar issues.

A podiatrist is a provider who specializes in caring for your feet, ankles and lower legs.

An orthopedist (also spelled orthopaedist) is a specialist who treats injuries and diseases that affect your musculoskeletal system (your bones, muscles, joints and soft tissues). Orthopedists are surgeons, but they can also prescribe and administer nonsurgical treatments.

Which type of provider you see depends on the injury, issue or condition you’re experiencing. You might meet with both a podiatrist and an orthopedist.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Podiatrists can care for any condition that affects your feet, ankles and lower legs. They can treat common short-term issues like ingrown toenails, or work with you long-term while you manage a chronic condition like diabetes.

Visit a podiatrist if you notice any symptoms or changes in your feet that make it hard or painful to move or do any of your usual activities.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 09/21/2023.

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