Understanding The Difference: Podiatrist Vs Orthopedic Surgeon

Imagine you’re in American Fork, the sun is setting, and you’re in the middle of a vigorous basketball game. Suddenly, you land wrong, feeling a sharp pain in your ankle. It’s a scenario all too familiar, especially when we talk about American Fork sports injuries. Now, you’re left wondering – should you see a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon? Who will best handle your case? This blog will clear your doubts, bringing clarity to the differences between a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon. We’ll delve into their specialties and understand better who should treat what. Hop on this journey as we decode the medical jargon together.

The Podiatrist

Think of a podiatrist as your foot and ankle specialist. They’ve spent years studying everything from your little toe to the heel. Their realm includes diagnosing and treating conditions like sprained ankles, bunions, heel pain, hammertoes, and even nail disorders like ingrown toenails.

The Orthopedic Surgeon

The orthopedic surgeon, on the other hand, is a broader specialist. Their scope isn’t limited to your feet and ankles. They are the ones you turn to for broken bones, torn ligaments, dislocated joints, and sports injuries affecting any part of your musculoskeletal system.

Key Differences

Beyond their scope, here are three key differences between the two:

  • Education: A podiatrist completes four years of medical school and three years of hospital residency. An orthopedic surgeon also completes four years of medical school, but their residency lasts five years, and they may also pursue a further one or two-year fellowship in a subspecialty.
  • Surgical rights: While both can perform surgeries, an orthopedic surgeon can operate on any part of your body, while a podiatrist’s surgical rights are restricted to the foot and ankle.
  • Conditions treated: Both can treat foot and ankle conditions, but a podiatrist is more likely to treat conditions directly related to foot structure. An orthopedic surgeon, conversely, maybe more suited to treat injuries sustained from trauma or sports.

So, Who Do You Call?

Think back to that painful twist in the middle of your basketball game. If the pain is localized to your foot or ankle, a podiatrist might be your first call. But if your injury involves a larger portion of your leg, or if you suspect a broken bone, an orthopedic surgeon might be the better choice.

Remember, every situation is unique. Once you’ve consulted with a professional and received a diagnosis, you can then find the right specialist to manage your condition. Your health is paramount, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek the best care possible.


Understanding the differences between a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon brings clarity when facing foot or ankle issues. The key is to understand their specialties to make an informed decision about your health. After all, the goal is to get you back on the court, enjoying those sunset basketball games in American Fork, pain-free.