Orthopaedic Surgeons vs. Podiatrists: What is the difference?

Orthopaedic surgeons and podiatrists can both threat issues of the foot and ankle. However, there are some major differences between these two types of medical professionals. If you are searching for the best foot and ankle care, it is important that you understand how orthopaedic surgeons and podiatrists differ from one another.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

An orthopaedic surgeon is a Doctor of Medicine that has graduated from Medical School. Board-certified orthpaedic surgeons have completed a minimum of 13 years of formal education. Many orthopaedic surgeons, such as foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons, have completed additional fellowship training in a specific area.

Educational training includes:

  • Four years of undergraduate study at a college or university
  • Four years of study in a school of medicine
  • Five years of residency at a major medical institution
  • One year of specialized training at an accredited fellowship program (for specialized orthopaedic surgeons).


A podiatrist, also know as a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), treats conditions of the foot and ankle. They have specialized training in this area of care only, not other muskuloskelatal or medical conditions.

Educational training includes:

  • Four years of undergraduate study at a college or university
  • Four years of education at a podiatry school; not Medical School
  • Variable duration of residency following podiatric school

Podiatrists treat a variety of issues including calluses, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, heel spurs as well as some common foot and ankle injuries.

As medical doctors, orthopaedic surgeons with a specialization in foot and ankle, have a global understanding of the entire body. Beyond an expertise in issues of the foot and ankle, an orthopaedic surgeon has specialized knowledge of general medical health. In addition to an understanding of tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and joints, an orthopaedic surgeon can anticipate how other medical conditions might impact treatment of a foot and ankle issue.

You are the only person that can make the right decision about your medical care. Having the best information to guide that decision will help ensure the proper treatment. You are the best advocate for your own health and well being. Make sure you are doing research not only to find the right type of medical professional, but also to pick the specific person to provide your care. Beyond education and training, it is important to consider good references, the right insurance coverage and most innovative techniques.

4 replies
  1. Callum Palmer
    Callum Palmer says:

    It’s good to see the difference between the surgeon and a podiatrist. With my foot condition, I think it would be best to go to a podiatrist. They’d have to look at one of my ingrown toenails and hopefully, get it fixed.

  2. John Carston
    John Carston says:

    It helped when you mentioned that podiatrists can help with foot issues. My cousin who is an athlete mentioned to me last night that his ankle injury is taking too long to heal and asked if I have any idea what is the best option to do. Thanks to this informative article and I’ll be sure to tell him that it will be much better if we consult a trusted foot and ankle specialist as they can answer all our inquiries and will provide the proper care for his ankle injury.

  3. Eli Richardson
    Eli Richardson says:

    Last week, my uncle told my dad he’s interested in getting surgery for his toenail situation. I found it interesting when you explained the differences between podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons, so I’ll send your article to my uncle right away. Thanks for the information on how they must have years of experience.


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