Why Do Orthopedic Surgeons Hate Podiatrists? 8 Fascinating Reasons

Why Do Orthopedic Surgeons Hate Podiatrists

Orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists are really important in medicine, especially when it comes to dealing with bone and muscle conditions, and foot problems.

They may not always see things the same way due to misunderstandings and differences in training. It’s not accurate to say they all “hate” each other, but there can be tensions over professional territories and scope of practice.

In this article, we delve into the nuances of why do orthopedic surgeons hate podiatrists. We explore the differences in their training, the overlap in patient care responsibilities, and the historical aspects of their fields that shape their complicated relationship.

Who are Orthopedic Surgeons?

An orthopedic surgeon is a medical expert specializing in diagnosing, treating, rehabilitating, and preventing musculoskeletal injuries and diseases, using both surgical and non-surgical methods, for patients of all ages.

The musculoskeletal system includes joints, ligaments, bones, tendons, muscles, and nerves. These medical experts have spent many years in school learning how to fix these parts when they get hurt or sick.

They use surgery and other treatments to help people with injuries like broken bones, or conditions like arthritis so that they can move better and with less pain.

What does an Orthopedic Surgeons do

Orthopedic surgeons do many different surgeries, like fixing broken bones, replacing joints, and repairing ligaments, tendons, and the spine.

They also specialize in treating sports injuries, traumatic injuries, and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Their training gives them a deep understanding of human anatomy and the ability to use both surgical and non-surgical interventions to treat a lot of musculoskeletal conditions.

How they become Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedic surgeons go through a lot of training. This includes a 4-year undergraduate degree, a 4-year medical degree, and at least 5 years of residency training.

They complete the first four years of study at a renowned medical school. These schools are set up so that for the first 2 years, students take didactic courses. After that, they start working in hospitals and trying out different specialties in a program called a residency, which focuses specifically on orthopedics.

They take multiple national exams known as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to become MDs. For DOs, the exams are called Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Examination (COMLEX-USA).

Orthopedic surgeons can be board certified through the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS). This means they have passed a rigorous exam that assesses their knowledge, skills, and experience in orthopedics.

These surgeons have to keep learning, taking classes and going to conferences to stay updated on the latest advancements. This helps them give the best care to their patients.

Also Read: How to Reduce 104 Fever in Children? Discover Effective Methods 

Who are Podiatrists?

Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating foot, ankle, and related leg problems. They’re officially called doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM).

They can help your limb function properly, ease pain, and hasten healing after an injury or surgery.

They handle a lot of foot conditions, from common problems like bunions and calluses to more complex issues like fractures and complications from diabetes.

What does a Podiatrist do

Podiatrists treat foot and lower leg problems. They can set fractures, prescribe medication, suggest physical therapy, and perform surgery when necessary. They may work with other doctors in treating a patient’s overall health condition.

Here are some of the specific areas in which podiatrists specialize:

  • They treat foot problems like heel spurs, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, and fungal infections.
  • When necessary, podiatrists can perform surgeries to correct bunions, repair tendons, and fix fractures.
  • They can prescribe medications for foot problems, like pain management and antibiotics for infections.
  • Podiatrists often prescribe orthotics — custom-designed shoe inserts — to correct gait issues or to provide additional support.
  • Regular foot examinations for diabetic patients to prevent serious complications like ulcers or infections.
  • They are crucial in sports medicine, treating foot and ankle injuries for athletes’ speedy recovery.
  • After surgeries or injuries, they provide rehabilitation services to ensure proper healing and recovery.

Podiatrists have a unique focus on the foot and ankle, making them essential providers for patients with specialized lower extremity needs.

How they become Podiatrists

Becoming a podiatrist involves extensive training. Prospective podiatrists must complete an undergraduate degree followed by a 4-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) program.

Similar to medical school for MDs, the DPM curriculum pairs classroom-based education with clinical rotations.

After graduating, they partake in a residency program, which typically lasts 3 years. Here, they gain hands-on experience in podiatry, surgery, and patient care.

They also have the opportunity to pass board certification exams by the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) or the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS), proving their expertise in podiatric medicine or foot and ankle surgery, respectively.

Podiatrists, like orthopedic surgeons, always learn new things to give the best treatment. They go to workshops and read new research to know the latest in foot and ankle care.

Orthopedic Surgeon vs Podiatrist: The Differences

Orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists both work on the same body parts, but they have different training and ways of treating people.

An orthopedic surgeon is trained to treat the entire musculoskeletal system, whereas a podiatrist focuses on the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg.

Orthopedic surgeons may handle a broader range of conditions that can affect any part of the musculoskeletal system, encompassing treatment for sports injuries, joint pain, and bone fractures beyond the lower extremities. They are skilled at doing complicated surgeries on the spine, hips, or shoulders.

Podiatrists, on the other hand, provide a high level of specialized care in the realm of foot and ankle disorders. They manage conditions that may not necessitate surgery, like plantar fasciitis, toenail disorders, and diabetic foot care. When surgery is needed, podiatrists perform advanced procedures to fix problems in the feet and lower legs.

Both kinds of medical professionals are really important for healthcare. They make sure patients get special care for their individual needs, whether it’s a general bone issue or a more specific foot and ankle problem.

Orthopedic Surgeon vs Podiatrist: The Similarities

Orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists play similar roles in patient care, even though they have different medical specialties. They both have basic medical knowledge but focus on different areas, demonstrating their expertise in their respective fields.

Commonalities between orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists include:

  • Both play important roles in identifying, treating, and preventing issues related to the musculoskeletal system, but they do so in different ways.
  • Each professional needs to get a license from the state to work and follow a set of ethical rules to ensure patient safety and professionalism.
  • They also go through thorough and ongoing medical education to stay certified. This includes keeping up with the latest research, treatment methods, and surgical techniques.
  • Orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists are dedicated to improving their patients’ lives. They use different methods, like non-surgical treatments or surgery, to reduce pain, restore function, and help patients get back to their daily activities or sports.
  • When orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists work together, they can create a better treatment plan for patients, especially in complicated cases that require a team approach.

But, even though there are many similarities, why do orthopedic surgeons hate podiatrists and seem to have a strong dislike for each other? In the next section, we’ll explain some common misunderstandings and address this issue.

Why Do Orthopedic Surgeons Hate Podiatrists?

Why Do Orthopedic Surgeons Hate Podiatrists

The animosity between orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists is not universal, but it does exist in certain circles. Here are 8 most common reasons why orthopedic surgeons might hate podiatrists:

1. When Practice Areas Intersect

Orthopedic doctors might think that podiatrists are moving into their area because they both treat foot and ankle problems. Orthopedic surgeons with their extensive medical training sometimes feel like podiatrists who have less training, shouldn’t handle certain complex conditions.

2. Training and Qualification Differences

Orthopedic surgeons go through intense training in medical school (residency) and often a fellowship, which can take around 10-14 years.

They may question if the less intense foot doctor training prepares them as well for overall health issues and complicated surgeries.

3. Competition for Patients

Both orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists treat similar conditions but they compete for the same patient base. This rivalry can cause resentment, especially in regions with a high saturation of foot and ankle care providers.

4. Surgical Competence

Some orthopedic surgeons are skeptical about the surgical skills of podiatrists because podiatric surgeons focus on foot and ankle surgery.

In contrast, orthopedists are trained to perform a wide range of complex surgeries throughout the musculoskeletal system. They might doubt whether podiatrists can handle the intricacies of certain surgical procedures just as effectively.

5. Money does matter

Money might be the main reason for their competitiveness. Orthopedic surgeons have extensive training and want to earn more than podiatrists. This makes them wonder if podiatric surgeons, who have less intense training, should earn the same salary.

6. Outcomes and Treatment Approaches

Some orthopedic surgeons might argue that podiatrists don’t give the best care because they don’t have enough training to understand the whole bone system. They might also feel that podiatrists resort to surgery more quickly than non-foot specialists.

7. Difference in levels

Orthopedic surgeons might think that podiatrists are not at their level because podiatrists have shorter training and specialize in a specific body part. This can cause orthopedic surgeons to not respect podiatrists as much.

8. Communication and Collaboration Challenges

When orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists don’t work well together, it causes problems. This affects patient care and makes the work environment bad. If they don’t cooperate with each other, they argue about their roles and cause bad feelings.

What should you choose: Orthopedic Surgeons or Podiatrists?

Deciding between an orthopedic surgeon and a podiatrist depends on what’s going on with your foot or ankle.

For conditions that are part of a broader musculoskeletal problem, or involve complex structures beyond the foot and ankle, an orthopedic surgeon is the better choice.

They can treat overall body issues affecting your legs and do surgeries on the hips, knees, or other areas.

If you have a problem with your foot, toe, or ankle, a foot doctor (podiatrist) might be your best choice. They specialize in this area and can offer treatments that don’t involve surgery, which an orthopedic surgeon may not provide. They’re really good at handling chronic conditions like foot problems from diabetes or biomechanical issues that need custom orthotics.

When you make your decision, think about how serious and complicated your condition is, and talk to your main doctor. They can recommend a specialist based on what you need.

Are podiatrists better than orthopedic surgeons?

Podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are both great at what they do. It’s more about choosing the right one for your specific foot condition or injury.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), podiatrists are highly trained through a process involving 4 years of undergraduate work, four years of podiatric medical school, and a hospital-based residency.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that orthopedic surgeons go to medical school for about four years, then do a five-year orthopedic surgery residency program, and often spend an extra year in a specialized fellowship.

The most important difference is in the expertise and the type of condition that affects the patient. This helps you choose the most knowledgeable and experienced professional in that specific area.

Is it better to have foot surgery by a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon?

Deciding between a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon for foot surgery depends on your condition.

Podiatrists specialize in foot and ankle issues and are experts in related surgeries. They are often a go-to for ailments that are exclusively in the foot and ankle realm.

On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons do a variety of surgeries, like those on the foot and ankle. They can handle complex cases involving the musculoskeletal system’s different parts.

For foot and ankle surgeries that you choose to have, it’s better to go to a podiatrist because they specialize in that.

Meanwhile, orthopedic surgeons are usually selected for procedures involving the larger skeletal structure or when foot and ankle issues are part of a broader orthopedic condition.

Always check with your doctor to understand your case and make a smart decision.

Is bunion surgery better by an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist?

When considering bunion surgery, both podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are qualified to perform the procedure. So, it’s not about who is better but rather who has more experience and expertise in that specific area.

Both specialists receive training on bunion surgery during their residency programs. However, podiatrists may have more experience performing the procedure since bunions are a common condition they treat.

It’s important to do your research and find a specialist with extensive experience in treating bunions

Podiatrists are specially trained in foot and ankle conditions, often performing bunion surgeries with high frequency.

In contrast, orthopedic surgeons may be a better choice for those who needs more extensive bunion surgery, possibly involving other bone and muscle issues.

It’s really important to talk to healthcare experts, check the surgeon’s experience with bunion surgeries, and think about how hard your case is before choosing the best doctor for you.

What should you expect after your first visit to an orthopedic surgeon?

After your first visit with an orthopedic surgeon, you should fully understand your diagnosis and the treatment choices available.

The surgeon will usually conduct a thorough physical examination, review your medical history, and possibly order diagnostic tests like X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans to gain more insight into your condition.

You’ll receive expert advice on managing your symptoms and be guided through the decision-making process if surgery is suggested.

Furthermore, your orthopedic surgeon will often provide information on non-surgical treatments, rehabilitation exercises, or lifestyle modifications that may alleviate your condition or enhance your recovery.

What should you expect after your first visit to a Podiatrists?

After your first visit with a podiatrist, you should leave with a clear understanding of your foot or ankle issue, along with a tailored treatment plan.

The podiatrist may perform a physical exam, discuss your medical history, and utilize diagnostic tools like ultrasound or gait analysis to determine the right course of action.

You will also get advice on things you can do at home, like stretching, using simple treatments you can buy, or getting recommendations for shoes.

If necessary, your podiatrist might provide treatments like orthotic fitting, and corticosteroid injections, or schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor progress or prepare for potential surgical procedures.


Choosing between an orthopedic surgeon and a podiatrist for foot or ankle issues depends on how serious and complicated the issue is. With their focused expertise on foot and ankle problems, podiatrists are often the first line of defense, especially for conditions that need non-surgical interventions.

On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons are the experts to go to for more general bone and muscle issues, especially when surgery beyond the foot and ankle is needed.It’s important to talk to your main doctor to help you choose the best care for your specific medical needs.


How do I know if I need to see a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon?

To decide if you need to see a foot doctor or a bone doctor, think about what’s wrong with your foot or ankle. If it’s about your foot or ankle, go to a foot doctor. They are highly skilled in treating conditions confined to these areas. For broader musculoskeletal issues, especially those that may require more comprehensive orthopedic care or surgery, an orthopedic surgeon is the right choice.

What qualifications should I look for in a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon?

When looking for a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon, make sure they have a board certification in their area. This shows they’ve met high standards for education, knowledge, experience, and skills. Search for more training or specialties related to your condition. It’s also beneficial to consider their patient reviews, success rates with similar procedures, and their approachability and willingness to answer questions.

Can a podiatrist and orthopedic surgeon work together on my treatment?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon to collaborate on a patient’s treatment, especially for complex cases involving the foot and ankle as well as other aspects of the musculoskeletal system. Using different types of doctors can give you really good care. It’s like using the special knowledge of a foot doctor together with the wide range of knowledge of a bone doctor.

Will insurance cover visits to both podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons?

Coverage for visits to both podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons usually depends on the specific details of your insurance policy. Most insurance plans usually cover specialist visits if referred by a primary care physician and if medically necessary. Before scheduling, check with your insurance for coverage, referrals, pre-authorizations, and co-pays. Ask about coverage for recommended treatments or surgeries.

Can I switch from a podiatrist to an orthopedic surgeon if I am not satisfied with my treatment?

Yes, patients have the right to go for a second opinion or change their healthcare provider if they are not satisfied with their current treatment. But remember before making any changes, talk to your current podiatrist about your concerns. They might be able to adjust your treatment plan or offer other options. If you still feel a change is needed, consult your primary care doctor for a potential referral to an orthopedic surgeon.

What kind of follow-up care should I expect after bunion surgery?

After bunion surgery, expect some healing time with care to help your foot get better. You’ll need to rest, maybe use crutches, and follow your doctor’s advice on how to care for your foot. You will see your doctor for check-ups to make sure your foot heals right, and you might do exercises or physical therapy to make your foot strong again.


The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Don’t ignore professional medical advice or put off seeking it just because of something you read here. Although we aim to offer precise and current information, we do not guarantee its completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability for any purpose. Using the information in this document is at your own risk. We are not responsible for any losses or damages caused by our content.

Sharing is Caring

Leave a Comment

Related Articles