“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do,” unless the feet inside are suffering—then the boots either stay in the closet or move slowly in short strides. Painful, uncomfortable, irritated feet are problematic and require immediate attention. In some cases, minor foot pain can be addressed by a primary care physician. Other times, a foot specialist, known as a podiatrist, is required. While selecting a podiatrist may initially seem straightforward, many specialties and sub-specialties exist. In most cases, your primary care physician will assess your need and steer you in the right direction, but it doesn’t hurt to be well informed during the process.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, “Feet are complex anatomical structures, all-in-one stabilizers, shock absorbers, and propulsion engines that are instrumental to overall health and well-being.” Since feet require the care of specialists specifically trained to treat them, you should make sure you look for a highly-qualified Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). DPMs have completed years of study and training of the foot and ankle through podiatric medical school and training via residency. In choosing a podiatrist, understand there are those who focus on sports injuries, age related degeneration, conditions affected by diabetes, work injuries, and others. Is your issue something minor in need of a short-term solution, or will your condition require repeat visits or perhaps even physical therapy?

Foot and ankle problems can stem from a variety of root causes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and vein disease. Make sure to understand what’s actually happening with your feet and ankles, and find a specialist who understands the cause and doesn’t just treat the symptom. Other issues include arthritis, injuries, skin disorders, nerve damage, muscle and tendon issues, toe or toe nail problems, and joint conditions. Ask questions and do your best to get a full picture of your particular affliction.  Don’t hesitate to do your own research.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options for a podiatrist that fits your needs, look at online reviews and check the American Podiatric Medical Association website (APMA.org) for more information. Your feet need to last a lifetime, so preventative care is important as well. Choose properly fitting shoes and avoid those that don’t offer stability and comfort. If pedicures are among your must-haves, select a place that is known for its cleanliness, one that uses disposable liners in the foot wash. If you have children, be aware their feet can grow a half size in just a few short months, so frequently check their shoe fit.  Don’t wear closed toe, tight-fitting shoes without socks and make sure to keep shoes clean and properly aired.

Your feet are your foundation, and while it may be easy to overlook them, make it a priority to include routine care and maintenance before they demand it! And if you find yourself in need of a podiatrist, many great resources are available to help in your selection. Use the tips above to get started and you’ll be on your way to successful treatment.