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The foot and ankle are highly complex parts of the human body, containing 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Two kinds of healthcare providers in the U.S. are trained to specifically treat foot and ankle issues: orthopedic surgeons specializing in foot and ankle care and podiatrists. Both are doctors with medical training in treating that region of the body; however, what differs is the depth and range of their education and training. If you are experiencing foot and ankle problems, it’s important to know the difference between these doctors when seeking treatment.

A significant difference between orthopedic surgeons specializing in foot and ankle care and podiatrists lies in the level of education completed by each type of provider. An orthopedic surgeon is required to attend medical school for four years before going on to an orthopedic surgical residency lasting five to six years. The orthopedic surgeon then completes at least one more year of subspecialty fellowship training in a specific area of the body, in this case, the foot and ankle. 

Podiatrists earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) after attending podiatry school for four years, followed by a brief residency. Podiatrists treat a number of common foot and ankle problems, and surgical podiatrists may perform simple foot surgeries. Though orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons treat most of the same problems, they address more complex issues and have more advanced training.

As medical doctors, orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the foot and ankle are highly educated and trained in whole-body healthcare and have an intimate knowledge of the whole musculoskeletal system (the body’s bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints) and any interrelated medical conditions that impact the overall health of patients. 

Podiatrists often treat common foot issues that orthopedic surgeons do not, such as ingrown toenails, corns/calluses, and nail fungus. Podiatrists also provide treatment for foot problems related to diabetes and other systemic illnesses. So, while both orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists treat some of the same issues—such as heel spurs, fallen arches, and minor injuries—orthopedic surgeons typically treat issues that are more complicated or that involve the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues specifically. 

When determining which provider you need for your injury or condition, be sure your provider has both the experience and significant training necessary to deliver the treatment or procedure you’ll need

Understanding the Roles of Orthopedic Surgeons and Podiatrists

Category

Orthopedic Surgeon

Podiatrist

Average number of years in training

10

7

Credential type

M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)

D.P.M. (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine)

Provides treatment for complex lower extremity injuries and conditions

Yes

No

Manages every injury or condition of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues of the foot, ankle, and lower leg

Yes

No

Performs highly complex foot and ankle surgery

Yes

No

Provides treatment for foot problems originating from the knee, hip, or lower back

Yes

No

Provides treatment for corns, ingrown toenails, nail fungus, and skin conditions

No

Yes

Provides treatment for foot problems related to diabetes and other systemic diseases

No

Yes

Why choose Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron?

If you are searching for a foot specialist near you, contact us. With years of experience and advanced training devoted to the orthopedic care of the foot and ankle, our esteemed orthopedic foot and ankle surgeons at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron are the unparalleled experts in accurately diagnosing and effectively treating injuries and conditions of the foot and ankle.

Our specialists have the knowledge, proficiency, and skill to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your injury or condition so you can get back to your active lifestyle quickly and safely.

To consult with one of our surgeons at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron, please request an appointment online or call (810) 985-4900