By Kate Hawthorne
As with any intricate piece of equipment with many moving parts, the human foot is subject to a wide array of possible malfunctions—ranging from congenital deformity and improper gait to partial foot amputation—as the result of trauma or systemic disease such as diabetes. Whatever the cause, the result is pain and reduced locomotion.
Pedorthists and podiatrists are both trained to help patients overcome foot pain. As physicians, podiatrists can diagnose medical conditions in the entire lower limb and perform appropriate interventions. As professionals trained in the biomechanics of the foot and ankle, pedorthists understand how to build shoes and appliances that alleviate symptoms and correct foot and ankle pathologies.
Podiatrists routinely write prescriptions for footwear and devices that pedorthists are ideally qualified to provide; however, more and more allied healthcare professionals from outside the field are seeing the benefit of getting a foot in the door, so to speak. Physical therapists, chiropractors, and even athletic trainers can now provide prefabricated devices to help relieve foot pain, creating more competition—and confusion—in an already competitive field. The challenge for the pedorthic profession is to develop a more symbiotic relationship with podiatrists so that the two can work together seamlessly to provide optimal outcomes for patients in need of foot care.