What do foot & ankle surgeons do?

Foot and ankle surgeons offer comprehensive surgical care for a wide variety of problems, including:

  • arthritis in the foot and ankle
  • sports injuries, especially in the ankle
  • fractures in the foot and ankle
  • foot problems in people with diabetes
  • birth deformities and other foot problems in children
  • heel pain
  • high-arched and flat feet
  • bunions
  • problems with the small toes

Not all foot surgeons do all of the above work. It depends on what other services are available in the hospital: for instance, children with foot problems may be cared for by a surgeon with a special interest in children's orthopaedics.

Most foot and ankle surgeons also do other orthopaedic and fracture work. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons work as part of a team, including nurses, podiatrists, orthotists, plaster technicians, secretaries and experts in information technology. They also work closely with other medical specialists in diabetes care, arthritis, vascular and plastic surgery. They may work in either the National Health Service or the private sector, or in both. Most foot and ankle surgeons are involved in the training of junior doctors and often of medical students, passing on their knowledge and experience to future surgeons. They conduct research in both basic science and the clinical care of patients.


Are you the same as Chiropodists or Podiatrists?

No. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are fully trained doctors, who have then undergone further post-graduate training in orthopaedic and trauma surgery. In the course of this training they have been trained in foot and ankle surgery. Many have undertaken some specialised training in foot and ankle surgery over and above their main orthopaedic training.

Chiropodists have trained for a diploma or usually nowadays, a degree, in the care of foot problems. While they study some general medical principles, they have not been trained in the diagnosis and treatment of general medical and surgical conditions. They have studied the structure and function of the foot in some detail and have considerable expertise in its special conditions. If they suspect general medical or surgical conditions such as diabetes or poor circulation, they refer the patient back to their own general practitioner.

Chiropodists will generally offer treatment for problems of the skin and nails of the feet, and some are trained in the production of special insoles to improve foot function and comfort.

Basic chiropody training includes only very simple surgery, such as to the toenails. Some chiropodists, or podiatrists, study surgical techniques further and may offer surgical treatment for various conditions. The place of this type of service has not yet been established.

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is the professional body for chiropodists and podiatrists in the UK.