Diagnosing Your Foot Injury: When to See a Doctor

You’re on your feet all day, so it can be incredibly painful – and frustrating – to suffer any type of foot injury. Like with any other orthopedic injury, knowing when to see a doctor for your pain can be unclear. Should you just rest, ice and elevate? Should you schedule an appointment with your regular doctor or find a foot specialist? Or, in extreme cases, do you wait for an appointment or head straight to the Emergency Room?

To make your decision even more complicated, when it comes to feet, there are plenty of parts that could be sprained, fractured or broken. That’s because the foot is a complex system containing 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

What is a foot specialist called?

If you’ve injured your foot badly enough to see a doctor, you’re better off going to a foot specialist than to your general practitioner. As mentioned above, the foot is a complicated structure that requires specialized knowledge for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When searching for a foot specialist, you have two options: a podiatrist and an orthopedic foot surgeon.

The differences between a podiatrist and an orthopedic foot surgeon vary from doctor to doctor, but both are orthopedic foot specialists that can diagnose, treat and surgically repair your injured foot, if necessary. Education-wise, podiatrists spend three to four years in a foot and ankle specific residency after medical school and orthopedic surgeons spend five years in a generalized orthopedic surgical residency with an option to do an additional year focused solely on the foot and ankle.

When to See a Podiatrist or Orthopedic Foot Surgeon

If you’re experiencing mild pain but are able to manage your everyday activities, your foot injury will most likely heal itself with time and rest.

When to See a Doctor for Your Foot Injury

  • You’re still feeling pain in your foot two to three weeks after your injury
  • You have persistent swelling that hasn’t gotten better two to five days after your injury
  • You have pain in both feet
  • You have diabetes
  • Have a burning pain, tingling or numbness – especially involving most or the bottom of your foot

Tingling and numbness are signs that you have damaged the nerves in your foot, which can lead to a chronic condition called peripheral neuropathy.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention for Your Foot Injury

  • You’re unable to walk or put weight on your foot
  • You have severe pain and/or swelling
  • Your foot is visibly disformed or broken
  • You have an open wound or your foot is oozing pus
  • You have signs of infection (tenderness, redness, warmth around the injury and/or a fever over 100°F
  • You have diabetes and have a wound that isn’t healing and/or shows signs of infection

Common Foot Injuries

As mentioned before, the foot is an incredibly complex system of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves – all of which are vulnerable to injury. The following are some of the most common foot injuries podiatrists and orthopedic foot surgeons treat.

Ultimately, it’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your feet. If you think you might need to see a foot specialist for your foot pain, odds are you should. Self-diagnosis and treatment (even after reading the entire internet) might not be enough to get you back on your feet, pain-free.

If you have questions about your foot pain or foot injury and would like to talk to a podiatrist, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Jason Dickson, our podiatrist who is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, can answer any questions you may have.


Thanks for pointing out that even something as simple as swelling is an important sign that I should go to a food care clinic soon. Even though I’m not feeling any pain, it’s starting to get worrisome how much my foot swells during specific times in a day. I don’t want to wait until it starts getting numb.


It was quite alarming to read that tingling feelings in your feet are signs that you need to see a podiatrist. I’ve been waking up with strange feelings on my feet recently as if they were being shocked by electricity, and it hasn’t gotten any better in a long while. If this continues, I might just suffer a condition that’s more lethal than I thought, so I’ll look for a podiatrist in the area that can help me get this treated right away.


What test can show if you have neuromas in your feet? Why does the forefoot on bother feet feel tight. Please if you have answers I would appreciate it. I have been to two foot Drs and I can’t seem to get the right kind of help.


    In most cases, your doctor can diagnosis Morton’s neuroma based on symptoms and a physical exam.
    The doctor can also order x-rays, MRI’s and/or Ultrasound, to rule out other causes of your pain.
    If you have tried two Podiatrists already, consider scheduling with an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist. I’m sorry you have been struggling to receive the right kind of help and I hope this information is helpful.


My daughter who practices ballet recently got a foot injury while dancing and is still feeling pain despite the incident happening two weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what the normal time span of it recovering would be but I will have to take your advice to take her to a foot doctor soon. It’s really worrying that she hasn’t recovered yet after all this time, I hope that a visit to the doctor will help us find the right treatment to help her.


My dad likes to play basketball and he sprained his ankle just yesterday. He said that it would heal on its own but reading here that if the injury is accompanied by prolonged swelling and if the patient has diabetes, he or she should consult a doctor. I need to convince him to go have it checked by a good orthopedist that does detailed medical evaluations.


    Hi Claire,
    Yes it does sound like he needs to see the doctor as soon as possible. Dr. Jason Dickerson is a highly skilled and experienced podiatrist and orthopedic doctor that could provide the detailed medical evaluation you’re seeking. If you are interested, simply call (435)615-8822 to get scheduled with Dr. Dickerson. Wishing your dad a speedy and successful recovery!


Thank you for explaining that you have two alternatives when looking for a foot specialist: a podiatrist or an orthopedic foot surgeon. My brother just mentioned to me that he has been having some numbness in his feet and he isn’t sure why it is happening. I will suggest that he go and see a podiatrist.


I would recommend seeing a doctor if you have any pain, swelling, redness, or a change in your foot’s appearance.


I would recommend seeing a doctor if you have any pain, swelling, redness, or a change in your foot’s appearance.


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