How often do you think about your feet? It’s easy to ignore those amazing appendages that do a lot of work every day. But if you want to keep moving, you need healthy feet! 

Your feet are complex, containing about 25 percent of the bones in the entire body, along with numerous muscles, joints, and tendons. They carry all your weight and provide the ability to walk and stand upright for long periods of time. Sometimes they deserve a little pampering, but they also might need special care when you experience foot pain or an injury. 

It is estimated that women may have four times as many foot problems than men. This may be due in large part to wearing high heels and narrow, pointy shoes. So, when your hooves are hurting, do you opt for a pedicure and foot massage? Or is it something more that requires the unique skills of a doctor who specializes in foot care? 

What exactly does a podiatrist do?

Podiatrists are doctors who treat foot and ankle conditions using conservative and, when necessary, surgical measures.  

A podiatrist is a doctor who has completed a medical degree plus specialty training in the care of the foot. Podiatrists treat patients of all ages for a variety of foot and ankle conditions or injuries using conservative measures or surgery when necessary. 

What are the most common problems podiatrists treat?

Some of the most common conditions podiatrists treat include:

  • bunions (a bony bulge on the outside of the big toe that causes pain, swelling and limited movement of the toe)
  • deformities of the toes (one of the most common is hammertoes, which causes a toe to curve downward instead of pointing forward)
  • heel pain (often caused by a condition known as plantar fasciitis
  • nerve pain (usually associated with a neuroma, a painful condition caused by a benign growth in the nerves of the foot)
  • tendonitis (inflammation of the tissue that connects muscles to bones, resulting in pain and stiffness)
  • flat feet (a condition marked by no arch in the sole of the foot, which may cause leg pain)
  • broken bones 
  • arthritis 
  • overuse injuries (injuries to muscles or joints caused by repetitive use and trauma)
  • ingrown toenails (common condition when edges of nails grow into the skin surrounding the nail, which can be painful)
  • gout (a type of arthritis that occurs due to excess uric acid)   
  • diabetes-related foot issues (including routine monitoring, management of foot infections, and Charcot foot)

When should you see a podiatrist for your feet?

If you are experiencing pain in the foot or ankle that does not get better with basic treatment of rest, ice, and occasional anti-inflammatory medication, then it is probably time to seek help from a podiatrist.

Podiatrists and toenail fungus

Podiatrists can help patients who have toenail fungus, a common infection of the nail. The signs of toenail fungus include:

  • thickening of the nail
  • discoloration of the nail
  • nails that are brittle or crumble
  • separation of the nail from the nail bed

It’s important to note that discoloration of the nail does not always indicate a fungal infection. A podiatrist will usually take a small nail sample and send it to be analyzed to determine the real problem. 

Treatment for fungal infections usually consists of topical medications, laser therapy, oral medications, or a combination of these modalities.

Do podiatrists treat ingrown toenails?

Ingrown toenails can be painful and sometimes cause infection. Podiatrists can perform in-office procedures that can permanently eliminate this problem.

What is a pedicure?

A pedicure is a cosmetic procedure for the feet, similar to a manicure for the fingernails and hands. It includes smoothing and removing dead skin; cutting, filing, and polishing the nails; and massage to help increase circulation. The benefits include stress relief and improved appearance. 

What do podiatrists say about pedicures?

In general, podiatrists see nothing wrong with a pedicure, but caution that they should be done properly and always with sterile instruments.

Healthy feet are key to your overall health and the ability to have an active life. If you’re having problems with your feet, contact a podiatrist near you.

Edmund T. DosRemedios, DPM

Edmund T. DosRemedios, DPM

Dr. Edmund DosRemedios is a specialist in podiatry and foot surgery at the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute. He graduated from Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine in 1996. After graduating, he completed a three-year residency in foot surgery, with heavy emphasis in diabetic limb preservation, at Yale-New Haven Hospital.