How To Get The Most From Your First Podiatrist Visit
Visiting your podiatrist for the first time should be a positive experience, leaving you informed and hopeful that the advice and treatment you have just received will help cure your painful feet.
Unfortunately, it is not always that simple.
When I first went to see a podiatrist after suffering from Plantar Fasciitis for a long time, it was all a bit of a rush.
I called from work to make an appointment and was surprised to be told I could visit the same day as they had a cancellation.
I rushed over to see them straight from the office, filled in the “new patient forms” when I arrived and was ushered in to have my feet seen to.
It felt like no sooner had I got there, I was out of the door with a receipt for £250 for a pair of custom orthotics (that actually did nothing for me in the end).
I had been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis but was left feeling that everything had happened too quickly and that I never really got to explain myself properly or ask the right questions.
I was also wearing a brand new pair of shoes, which didn’t help.
I don’t want you to have the same problems I did.
I want to help you have a great first visit to your podiatrist and not come away annoyed that you didn’t take the right information or that you needed to go back for something trivial.
I have made this checklist of the important things you need to consider before going, what to do when you get there and how to proceed after you leave.
At the bottom of this page, I have made the checklist available as a PDF document that you can download and print at home to work through well before the day of your appointment.
If you don’t want to read the full article, click here to download the PDF version! It’d free!
Before you come to the podiatrist.
Going to the foot specialist is not just a case of turning up unannounced.
There are things you need to think of before you go and get ready to take with you.
This list of things to consider before going to your first appointment will help you both get the best out of your visit.
1. Make sure you know where you are going.
Firstly, do you even know where the office is?
I hope that all podiatrists offices will have a map and address on their website, so do your homework and make sure you know where you are going.
There is nothing worse than driving around in circles trying to find an obscure shop you have never been to before. Also, check out where you can park. Not all podiatrists will have parking outside, so if your feet are painful and you cannot walk far, keep that in mind too.
Google Street View is great for looking around the area where you are going, so take advantage and scope out parking spots.
If you are taking the bus or other public transport, find out if you need to make any special arrangements to get there. Sometimes bus routes change or there are delays you can’t control – so have a few options to choose from if possible.
If you are visiting after being referred through your medical insurance, you might be able to reimburse any travel costs, so keep receipts or make a note of the mileage you drive.
2. Special needs – does the doctor need to make any special arrangements for you?
If you have any medical or special needs, you should let the podiatrist’s office know before you arrive.
You might need help getting to and from your car, for example, or need help opening doors or even filling in any forms.
The better you can prepare the office, the better your visit will be.
3. Bring someone with you to help.
If you have any special requirements, you could always bring someone along with you to help.
Apart from helping you out with anything specific, it sometimes helps to have another person with you to help remember things that were said by the doctors.
I know I have been to see doctors or physiotherapists many times and have immediately forgotten what they told me the minute I stepped out of the office.
Good job my wife was with me to remind me what they said.
If you are a nervous patient, taking someone along can be reassuring too. And if you are having any procedures done, it would be best to take someone with you. Don’t forget, you may find it hard to walk or drive, even after what you think might be the smallest treatment.
4. Things to bring with you:
This is not an exhaustive list of everything you need to take with you, but these are the main items that would be useful on a first visit.
4.1. Download new patient forms and fill in beforehand.
Most doctors offices require you to fill in a “new patient form” when you attend for the first time.
These forms can be quite lengthy, so check the podiatrists’ website first – they might have a copy of the forms you can download and print at home to fill in beforehand to take with you.
This will not only save time when you arrive, but it will also give you a chance to look up or find any information you were not expecting to have to provide.
4.2. Take medical insurance card – do you need a referral from your insurance?
If you have been referred to see a podiatrist by your medical insurance company, make sure you take with you the details of your policy. The office will need to get your reference numbers so they can make a claim on your behalf.
If you don’t have this available, you may end up having to pay for the appointment and then claim the money back later, which might be easier said than done!
4.3. Take your photo id.
As well as your insurance details, take some photo ID with you too in case the practice need to verify who you are.
This is not just for security purposes, but verification may be required for insurance claims or to confirm your age, so they can verify any entitlement to treatment.
4.4. Bring any medical records, x-rays or MRI results that might help.
If you have already been receiving treatment for another medical condition, please bring along any x-rays, MRI scan results or test results that may help the podiatrist diagnose your condition.
This is especially important if you have treatment for any injury or condition that affects your mobility.
4.5. List any previous surgery.
If you have had surgery before, make a note of why and when it occurred.
Knowing this will help your podiatrist identify if this may have a bearing on your current foot problem, or if it will mean they have to take your surgery into account when treating you.
For example, it may not be a great idea to be assigned certain types of exercises if you have had replacement hips or knees.
4.6. Take a list of current treatment and medication.
As with knowing your full medical history, taking a list of any medication you are taking will also be important. Some drugs will have an impact on your treatment (or may even prevent certain treatments from happening).
Either take the medication with you or write a list of the names and dosages you are taking.
You might also want to consider noting down any older medication you have been taking in the past. For example, has your foot pain problem worsened since changing from one type or brand of medication to another?
These are all parts of the puzzle that can be useful to help with your diagnosis and treatment.
4.7. List of allergies or medication.
If you are allergic to any sort of medicine, product or food, please let your podiatrist know.
Don’t just restrict this to food and any medicine though – your podiatrist will need to know if you are allergic to things like latex too.
This information will help to ensure you are treated correctly.
4.8. Take shoes (old and new).
This is one thing I didn’t do when I first visited my podiatrist’s office, and I was kicking myself!
Looking at the wear marks on the soles of your shoes can tell a lot about how you walk, run or hold yourself. Apart from normal wear and tear, if the sole of your shoes is thinning or wearing more in certain places, it could help identify problems with your feet or hips.
Also, if you have recently got a new pair of shoes that are not yet worn in, try to remember to keep hold of your old pair and take them with you.
You could take a photo on your smartphone, but being able to see your shoes in the flesh (so to speak) would be best.
If you are a runner, take your running shoes with you and if you have been tracking yourself using an app like Strava, you can also note how many miles you have run in them. Again, the more forensic information you can provide, the better.
It also makes sense to attend the clinic wearing your “normal shoes” too. Don’t turn up in sandals that you only wear on your birthday! Your podiatrist will get more information from the shoes you wear every day.
4.9. Take your insoles or orthotics.
If you already wear an off the shelf or custom pair of orthotics or shoe inserts, take them with you.
Looking at old pairs of these can also be an enlightening experience for a podiatrist. The way these foot supports wear in certain places will also help to identify any foot problems.
If you know how long you have been wearing these orthotics, this could also be important information for your diagnosis.
5. Think about your foot pain:
I guess this is a bit of an obvious point on our checklist to get the most out of your first visit to your podiatrist, but it is an important one.
Don’t just turn up without really thinking about your feet, answering “Ummm, maybe… I am not really sure” to each question.
5.1. Make note of times of day you experience foot pain.
Is your foot or heel pain worse in the morning when you get out of bed? (Plantar fasciitis alarm!) Or do you find that sitting in the evening makes them hurt more?
Perhaps you work on your feet all day and only feel pain when you are sitting, or does sitting at a desk all day make walking difficult afterwards.
There are so many combinations of how foot pain can be caused.
Try to make a mental diary of when the pain is worse, or even better write it down in a real diary!
It might seem obvious that your feet might hurt after running a half-marathon. But could it be that you were sitting in meetings for too long the day before?
5.2. Does doing anything specific cause the pain?
I think I am quite lucky that despite having plantar fasciitis, I can still run (and sometimes regular running keeps the pain at bay). But for some people, just a short walk to the store and back can lead to severe foot pain.
I totally forgot to tell my podiatrist that running seems to help my foot pain rather than make it much worse.
Before going to your appointment, think about what makes your foot pain worse or better?
Is exercise or yoga good for the pain, or does a gym session mean you are laying on the sofa the next day because you can’t step on your sore heel?
Is walking ok, but standing for too long bad? Or are your feet more painful after sitting at your desk at work for the day?
Make a note of any activity (or lack of) that might be affecting your feet. This information will be really useful during your appointment.
5.3. Has it gotten better or worse recently?
Have you felt the pains or problems getting worse more recently?
How long ago did you first notice your foot pain?
Does colder weather make the pain better or worse? Or perhaps that week you spent on the beach in the sun made the world of difference.
Try to think of how your foot pain might have gotten worse or improved over the last 12 months.
5.4. Write down a list of questions.
I am sure you already have a long list of questions in your head that you would like to ask.
Of course, not all specialists will be able to spend hours with you answering all of your questions and some will be answered during the appointment anyway.
However, if you think of any questions before you attend, make a note of them, no matter how small or silly they might seem.
- What is the long term view of my condition?
- How long will treatment take?
- What happens if the treatment does not work?
- What will happen if I cannot drive for 6 weeks?
- How much will the treatment cost and are there payment options available?
- Do I really need to have this treatment – what are the pros and cons?
- Why is my left foot bigger than my right?
As you can see, there are many different types of questions that might come up before you go to see anyone. You might think they are silly, but I guarantee that you will be thinking “I wish I asked about ___ when I was there”.
That’s just human nature.
6. Prepare your feet:
You don’t need to have the prettiest feet and toes, perfect shoes and socks without holes in to go to see your podiatrist.
Your fashion sense and ability to trim your toenails like a foot model are not in question!
In fact, it sometimes might be better NOT to go over the top when visiting your podiatrist for the first time.
Let’s look at how to prepare your feet before visiting.
6.1. Wash your feet before going.
As a minimum, make sure your feet are basically clean.
There is no need to go over the top and spray lots of lotions, apply creams or scrape away dead skin.
Going with feet cleaned with a natural soap and water will be fine.
Your podiatrist will have seen all sorts of weird and wonderful feet, probably on the same day you go, so don’t worry about how they look too much.
6.2. Don’t worry about getting a pedicure or waxing.
I know some people are a bit paranoid about showing their feet, especially if they have problems with them.
Waxing away hairs, filing corns, scraping dead skin or having a pedicure is going to be a waste of money. Your podiatrist won’t bat an eyelid if you have calluses or hard skin patches.
In fact, it will be better to keep your feet as “normal” as possible when you visit, so they can see what they are really like.
6.3. Don’t paint or polish your nails.
Again, sticking with the natural theme, painting your toenails or applying polish is also not recommended.
If you might be suffering from toenail fungus, the paint can cover this up, leading to a wasted journey.
Worst case scenario, you have something seriously wrong that can’t be spotted because you had a toenail makeover party the hour before your appointment.
6.4. Do not wear tights.
If you need to, just wear socks to your appointment.
Taking off a pair of tights or stockings just to show your feet will be a hassle and will be annoying for you and the doctor.
Whilst you are there.
So, you are now inside the office and about to start your first appointment – what happens now?
Hopefully, everything will be relaxed and you will have a good experience seeing your specialist, but there are some tips too to make this part of the appointment go smoothly too.
7. Arrive on time.
Hopefully, this should be a given!
Arriving on time is important as you are not the only patient being seen today. If you arrive late, you may miss your slot or cause yourself to have a shorter consultation, or even worse, make everyone else late behind you.
As I said at the beginning of this checklist, there may be some administrative tasks to complete when you arrive, so being on time (or early would be better) is best.
Allow yourself plenty of time to get there at least 15 minutes early.
I am sure they will have some interesting magazines to read if you need to pass the time and you have completed all of the paperwork in advance.
8. Be honest about your issues.
When you are talking to the podiatrist, make sure you are being honest and truthful about your conditions. They can’t help you if you are not telling them everything.
This does go back to knowing how and when your foot pain occurs, gets worse or feels better. If you like to spend all evening curled up on the sofa watching Oprah, so be it! Your specialist is not going to judge you for that.
They might want to know if you prefer to spend all night in high heels though. Again, nothing to be ashamed of.
The more they know about you and your feet, the better they will be able to diagnose and treat you.
9. Be prepared to discuss your general health, not just about feet.
Apart from having your feet examined during your first appointment, you should be prepared to talk about all aspects of your health.
Knowing if you have any existing medical issues, how bad they are, if they might be hereditary or not will be important information to a podiatrist.
You should also advise them if you exercise, what kinds of workouts you do and how often. You may also be questions about your diet and how much healthy food you eat.
You may not think some of the questions are relevant, but be prepared to talk about your overall health.
10. Take notes.
You can make notes during the consultation if you want to. In these situations, it is not always easy to remember everything in detail.
It would be best to make shorter notes if possible so that you do not take up too much time.
Your podiatrist should also be able to make a written or printed record of any advice they give you. You may also be given a printed sheet of exercises to carry out.
11. Ask questions if you do not understand anything.
This one seems a bit silly to remind you, but you can ask questions any time you like during your appointment. Especially if you don’t understand what you are being told.
Most people with medical training like to talk in jargon, the same way computer geeks like me do. However, this is often lost on the general public as what seems normal to us is just gobbledygook to others.
If you don’t understand any term or words you have heard, then ask.
This is especially important if you are being assigned some exercises to carry out. Knowing the difference between a “windlass mechanism” and a “Mortons Neuroma” is important. Especially when they are totally different things.
Also, feel free to challenge any statement your podiatrist makes.
You don’t have to agree with everything they say, suggest or do. If you think a treatment option sounds too expensive or invasive, ask for clarification or evidence it will work.
Don’t forget – you are in full control of what the outcome of the appointment is and you are not prevented from getting a second opinion if you want to.
12. Be prepared to return for treatment – will not all happen on day 1.
On your first visit to see your podiatrist, it will most likely be a diagnosis session.
Your information and examinations will be used to make a judgement and a treatment plan arranged. But this is most likely not all going to be fixed immediately.
You should be prepared to visit the podiatrist again, either for additional or repeat treatment. You may also have to visit another location to have other things done such as MRI or XRay scans.
Depending on your condition, you may have some initial treatment on your first visit, but it is more likely that you will have to return at a later date.
You certainly will not be given any treatment during the first visit that would leave you needing help to walk back to your car. Any more serious treatments will be done at a later date with your consent and you will be provided with full information on what will happen, when, why and what happens afterwards.
After your visit
Going to see a podiatrist is probably not a one-time thing!
That is unless you are lucky enough to be told “your feet are perfect, off you go!” or that the cause of your heel pain was actually just a thorn, now plucked with some tweezers.
After you have been diagnosed, there might be creams, treatments, exercises, new gadgets or shoes to get use to, things to do and definitely never to do again (wearing high heels!).
13. Make a follow-up appointment if needed.
If you are asked to make a follow up appointment as you leave the office, do it there and then.
I am a classic for thinking things like “oh.. I will just call them in a few days and book again” and then forgetting completely to ever go back – especially if it involves physical or financial discomfort!
You went to see a foot doctor for a reason, so not booking that next appointment will have been a waste of your time.
Do it there and then.
14. Be sure you can commit to treatment or exercises.
It will not be uncommon for the podiatrist to assign you some exercises or treatments to do when you are away from their office.
For example, treating plantar fasciitis can be helped by doing calf stretches on a step a few times a day.
Or perhaps you will be required to apply a cream to your feet every evening before bed when treating a fungal infection.
Whatever the treatment plan you are prescribed, please consider if this will be practical for you to complete. If there are any reasons why these treatments might not work for you, either physically or time-wise, let them know as soon as possible.
If you start to carry out your prescribed treatment and find that you are not able to do them, also let the podiatrist know as soon as possible. It will be a shame to go for your second appointment a few weeks later, having to admit you only did a few massage treatments or stretches because they were too painful for you.
15. Remember your follow up appointments.
Again, I am sure this one is not rocket science, but making and keeping your next appointment is an important step in your treatment.
You might think you are feeling better, have less foot pain and have more mobility, but it will be important to have a proper review with the doctor to make sure everything is progressing as planned.
The podiatrist will be measuring more than just your mood and/or lack of pain as a sign of success. Depending on the treatment you are receiving, something as simple as the stiffness of your foot and ankle muscles is a sign of how your feet are doing. And this is something only a trained podiatrist can detect.
What is the best way to keep your follow up appointments? It depends on how organized you are as a person.
I like to use reminders in my Google Calendar that send me an email near to the date of my appointments. My wife prefers a paper calendar she keeps on her desk at home as a way to remind her.
Some podiatry offices will call, text or email you a week or so before your appointment to make sure you have not forgotten.
A missed appointment is a costly problem for most types of doctors and it is possible that if you have not cancelled with sufficient notice, you may be charged for the session anyway.
Don’t forget – you can download the PDF version of this checklist for free by clicking here.
If you found this helpful, please let me know in the comments section below!