When it comes to foot care, it is essential to seek the expertise of trained professionals who specialize in the field. Your primary care doctor may diagnose small ailments but someone who specializes in feet may be required for something more difficult or if further assessment is needed. Two health professionals who deal with foot health are podiatrists and pedorthists. While both are involved in providing care for foot-related conditions, they differ significantly in their qualifications and the roles they fulfill. At Boger’s Shoes, we receive many customers who are confused or unsure which of these two important foot professionals our store has. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between a podiatrist versus a pedorthist, then shed light on their unique roles and the services they offer.
What is a Podiatrist?
A podiatrist is a medical professional who can diagnose and treat conditions that include more than just your feet. They specialize in all things related to the feet, ankles, and lower extremities. They can also treat injuries and issues that arise from ongoing health issues like diabetes. You might hear them called a podiatric physician or doctor of podiatric medicine. While they are considered doctors, they don’t attend traditional medical school. However, their training is similar to other physicians and requires a lot of schooling. After completing a four-year undergraduate program, podiatrists undergo rigorous training in an accredited podiatric medical school for four years. They then receive a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree. This degree is what allows them to practice as a licensed doctor. Podiatrists are extensively trained in foot and ankle surgery, biomechanics, wound care, orthopedics, and general foot care. They may also go on to complete fellowship training following their residency.
Things a Podiatrist can do
Podiatrists can treat people of any age for foot-related problems or conditions. Their job description includes diagnosing and treating various things such as sprains, infections, bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, and diabetic foot complications. Diabetes, for instance, is a condition in which your body either doesn't make a hormone called insulin or doesn't use it the way it should. Insulin helps you digest sugar. This can then lead to nerve damage in your feet or legs, and you might have trouble getting enough blood to your feet. More than 65,000 people a year need to have a foot amputated -- removed by a doctor -- because of diabetes. A podiatrist can help prevent that. They can also perform surgical procedures, reset broken bones, prescribe medications, deal with growing pains, and provide comprehensive foot care. Podiatrists often work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices, collaborating with other medical professionals to offer holistic care for their patients. Finally, if a podiatrist diagnoses a foot problem that requires orthotics or footwear changes to treat it, they may refer you to a pedorthist.
What is a Pedorthist?
Like a podiatrist, pedorthists specialize in foot care and health. Pedorthist are not considered doctors, though. Their training requires less college and they can’t prescribe medicine, perform surgical procedures, or diagnose foot problems. Pedorthists typically acquire their knowledge and skills through vocational training programs, certification courses, and apprenticeships. According to the American Board of Certification for Orthotic, Prosthetic, and Pedorthic, in order to be eligible for certification, someone wanting to be a Pedorthist must:
Education: You must have a high school diploma, GED certificate, or college degree and complete a Council on the Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs (CAAHEP) or National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) approved pedorthic education course.
Pedorthic Experience: You must complete 1,000 hours of supervised pedorthic patient care experience, obtained either before or after completion of your pedorthic education program. Any experience with initial patient evaluations and the final fitting/deliveries related to a custom pedorthic device must be done under Direct Supervision.
So while pedorthists don't require a doctorate or eight years of schooling, they are still required to study extensively about the foot and conditions that can affect it. All their learning gives them the ability to design, manufacture, and fit therapeutic footwear and orthotics. Pedorthists work closely with patients to address specific foot-related issues and provide custom-made footwear or orthotic devices to improve foot function and alleviate pain.
Things a Pedorthists can do
Since pedorthists focus primarily on the design, modification, and fitting of footwear and orthotic devices, you may find them in hospitals or clinics. They can also operate out of specialty shoe stores like ours. They perform comprehensive assessments to evaluate foot anatomy, biomechanics, and gait patterns. Based on their assessment, pedorthists work closely with clients to create custom orthotics, shoes, and shoe modifications to address individual needs. Pedorthists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as podiatrists and physical therapists, to ensure the best outcomes for their clients. Custom Orthotics, for instance, are specially-made orthotics designed to support and comfort your specific feet. We measure and assess your foot to ensure a perfect fit.
Pedorthist and Podiatrist working together
One of the best ways to know your feet are taken care of is to have your podiatrist and pedorthist work together to provide comprehensive foot care. Your podiatrist will diagnose and treat your foot conditions. Then you or they can inform a pedorthist so they can aid you in orthotics or footwear to support the treatment plan prescribed by the podiatrist. This collaboration ensures that patients receive personalized care that encompasses both medical intervention and appropriate footwear or orthotic support.
Ultimately, podiatrists and pedorthists play different but complementary roles in foot care. Podiatrists are medical doctors specializing in foot, leg, and ankle conditions, while pedorthists specialize in the design and fitting of footwear and orthotics. While podiatrists diagnose, treat, and perform surgeries, pedorthists provide custom-made orthotics and footwear to address specific foot-related issues. Both professionals work together to ensure comprehensive care, aiming to improve foot health and enhance the quality of life for their patients.
At Boger's Shoes, we have 3 trained and board-certified pedorthists on our staff. Each one has studied for countless hours to give each customer the best care possible. If you're suffering from foot-related issues, let one of our hard-working guys help you find the answer to hurting feet.