What is a Podiatrist and When Should I See One?


At a Glance

  • The adult foot contains 26 bones, 30 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • A podiatrist is an Allied Health Professional specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the feet, ankles and lower limbs.
  • Treatments include general foot care, strapping or orthoses, exercise and more invasive techniques. Some qualified podiatrists can even prescribe medication. 
  • Orthoses are shoe inserts intended to transfer force away from injured tissue.
  • General health may affect the health of your feet, and likewise the condition of your feet may impact your general health.
  • Podiatry may not be covered by Medicare unless part of a treatment plan. Private health insurance may rebate part of the fee for an appointment.

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is an Allied Health Professional specialising in the care of lower limb, ankle and foot and their related structures health. Given the complexity of the foot and the amount of trauma people put them through by wearing ill-fitting shoes, undertaking high-impact activities or simply standing for long periods of time, it’s remarkably easy to damage your feet and ankles.

An Allied Health Professional is a medical professional that has a specific degree qualification rather than a base medical degree followed by a specialisation. In Australia, to become qualified as a podiatrist a person must either complete an undergraduate Bachelor of Podiatry degree or complete another degree then achieve a Master’s in Podiatric Medicine from an accredited university or as in Western Australia the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) is offered as a postgraduate degree and is taken as in the medical curriculum after having first taken and passed either the GAMSATS or the MCATS. 

Like many other fields of medicine, podiatry also includes a number of sub-specialisations including, Podiatric Surgery, Podiatric Sports Medicine and Podiatric Diabetology (specialist care and treatment for diabetic foot complications). 


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What Kind of Treatments Does a Podiatrist Offer?

Podiatrists offer a wide range of services and treatments for conditions of the lower limbs and feet. These treatments range from cutting nails, corns, callus, plantar warts, strapping to orthoses, to both minor and in DPM cases major surgery. 

Orthoses (also known as orthotics) are specially made shoe inserts designed to transfer force away from injured tissue. Orthoses may help with gait problems,injuries, pain (acute and chronic) and a range of other podiatric conditions. Inserts are classified as either Functional or Palliative depending on the intention. 

Functional orthoses are intended to change the function of the feet whereas palliative orthoses are intended to reduce pressure on painful or ulcerated feet or to treat severely deformed or damaged feet.

An individual podiatric practice may have a specialisation or offer more general services. A podiatric practice may offer a range of services, such as aged or youth foot care, structural problems, injury and wound care as well as general foot health. 

Specialisation may relate to conditions, such as a specialisation in diabetic foot conditions or arthritis. Specialisation may also be around demographics or cause of injury. Paediatric podiatrists specialise in the treatment of lower limb and foot conditions found in children. Podiatric Sports Medicine specialises in the treatment of sports related foot and ankle injuries.

The condition of your feet and lower legs may also be an indicator of greater health problems, so podiatrists will often work with other healthcare professionals on treatment plans. Problems with gait may affect your hips, back, shoulders and posture affecting more of the body than just your lower limbs. Likewise, vascular, nerve or muscle conditions may affect the function of the lower limbs.

When Should I See a Podiatrist?

Many podiatrists offer services to help take care of your feet if you are unable to reach, see or have the hand strength to manage them yourself. Corns, Callus, Ingrown nails, Plantar Warts and general nail care are all things podiatrists can help manage safely. 

Many people experience regular foot pain, but a large number appear to shrug off sore heels, cramped toes and other symptoms as part of day to day life and never seek professional help or treatment. Regular pain in other parts of the body are unlikely to be as easily overlooked. 

As an Allied Health Professional, you don’t necessarily need a GP referral to see a podiatrist. That said, having a referral as part of a care plan (Team Care Agreement) may give you access to some podiatry treatments with a Medicare rebate. A private health insurance policy may include podiatry treatments.

If you notice swelling, redness, lumps, a change of shape, experience pain or have a wound, you should seek the help of a podiatrist for help.

If you regularly wear one or two pairs of shoes it’s advisable to take them to your first appointment, as the fit or wear micht help in diagnosis or treatment. Depending on the condition, treatment may involve medication, exercise, new shoes, orthoses, more invasive treatments (such as injections or surgery) or any combination thereof.

How Do I Find A Podiatrist Near Me?

There are over 5000 podiatrist practices registered in Australia, with the majority of them being found in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. If you’re being referred to a podiatrist by your GP or another health professional then they may have recommendations for podiatrists near your location. 

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