'I really wanted to be back in Ames:' Podiatrist returns to open her own foot and ankle practice

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune
Board-certified podiatrist Erin Nelson opened her own practice, Foot and Ankle Specialists of Ames, in March. It's located at 1606 S. Duff Ave., Suite 500.

Podiatrist Erin Nelson is happy to be working in Ames again after she opened her own practice, Foot and Ankle Specialists of Ames, on March 1.

Nelson worked at McFarland Clinic for eight years and left to work at Des Moines University (DMU) for four years, where she was an assistant professor and the clinical chair of the DMU Foot and Ankle Clinic.

At her new practice, located at 1606 S. Duff Ave., Suite 500, Nelson has a special interest in peripheral nerve pain and wound care, but she addresses all injuries, diseases and conditions of the foot and ankle.

“I really wanted to be back in Ames — I missed that a lot,” Nelson said. “I just love the community. I've lived in Ames now for the last 12 years or so, and I missed practicing where I live.”

At Foot and Ankle Specialists, Nelson cares for a variety of conditions: injuries, nail and skin problems, running injuries, diabetic foot problems, nerve pain, wound care, heel and arch pain, foot deformities, foot pain in children and arthritis.

Nelson attended the University of Northern Iowa for her undergrad and DMU for medical school. She did her residency at St. John North Shores in Harrison Township, Michigan.

“I was always wanting to be in health care since high school — younger than that even,” Nelson said. “I was looking at being a physician assistant during high school and college.

“And then my last year of college, I'm like, you know what I really want to do is surgery. That's kind of what I discovered was my passion.”

A suggestion from her college advisor led her to look into podiatry, which led her to attend Des Moines University to study the foot and ankle.

“I shadowed some podiatrists, and I realized I really like this,” Nelson said.

“Although the focus is on the foot and ankle, we get to do essentially all the medical components to the foot and ankle — things like dermatology — and for all ages. So there actually is a wide variety but on a focused area, and that just really appealed to me.”

Nelson herself has had some ankle injuries and some foot issues along the way, so she can empathize with her patients first-hand.

“The goal is to get you back to doing what you want to do,” Nelson said. “If your foot or ankle hurts you, you just feel more inhibited, you don't want to do the things that kind of keep you going. That's something that's really important to me — to keep you moving and doing the things that you like to do.”

Nelson thought it was the right time for her to have her own practice. “I decided this is probably going to be the best fit for me. I've done the larger clinic and the university settings, so I like the idea of having the business side of it.”

Nelson has a general practice where she sees a wide range of patients.

“We’ll see sports injuries, injuries in general, wound care,” Nelson said. “I have a wound clinic at Mary Greeley that I do. I offer conservative and surgical options.”

She also treats common things like ingrown toenails and plantar fasciitis, both of which are common but potentially painful conditions.

For Nelson, building relationships with her patients is also an important part of her practice, she said.

“Treating people along the course of a lifetime is what I really liked when I was in Ames before,” Nelson said. “I would see families — the kids, the parents and the grandparents. And if their families are around here, I get the peripheral families as well. So you just get to know those different people and their families.”

“There's no better compliment than to get a referral from somebody that you've seen,” she added. “It's very complimentary that they thought enough of me that they wanted their family to see me as well.”

Nelson’s practice has the ability to do lower extremity X-rays and diagnostic ultrasound. She also offers shoe inserts and custom orthotics.

“A lot of times, if you're getting out trying a new activity, you might need different support — different shoe gear. And that’s something I can help with as well.”

Nelson is married and has two children, 10 and 12, who are in the Gilbert school district. “And a couple of dogs that are our fur babies — and English bulldog and a lab,” Nelson said. “We like to be active in the community.”

The Nelsons have volunteered with Special Olympics, and she is excited to do the Ames Triathlon in June. “I did the first one and I’m excited to do the second one,” she said.

Nelson’s running hobby is another thing that reminds her how important foot and ankle health is, she said. “Our motto here is that when your feet hurt, it can be difficult to get through the day. And we want to help keep you going,” Nelson said.