Podiatric medicine is that health vocation that is concerned with the treating and prevention of conditions of the feet and related conditions. The foot is such a sophisticated structure with so many bones, muscles, ligaments that get subjected to all the pressures from running and walking; as well as being crammed into the dark and damp climate of the footwear that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the problems with it. The issues can range from trivial skin disorders such as ingrown toenails to musculoskeletal problems such as heel spurs to fractures.
The actual scope of practice of a podiatrist will be different from place to place with some places like the USA where they have full surgical and medical privileges to treat the disorders of the foot to some countries in Europe where they are able to only use limited strategies to treat superficial disorders of the skin and nails. The training needed to be a podiatrist is very different between countries. In the USA, first you need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry degree and then a 2-3 year post degree residency. In some places in Europe, its only a community college one year undergraduate qualification. Exactly what a podiatrist is capable of doing is dictated by the extent of the education and the regulations.
Podiatrists can use a variety of different techniques to treat conditions of the foot. This may range from a straightforward scraping of skin problems to foot orthotics for orthopaedic problems to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What is used will depend on the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has received. Different podiatrists will also have various special interests such a diabetes or sports medicine and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary teams working in those areas. Probably the greatest contribution that podiatrists make to the health care system is in areas like diabetes where proper foot care and the treatments for foot problems result in substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.