Podiatric medicine is that health vocation which is concerned with the treating and prevention of disorders of the feet and related problems. The foot is such a complicated body part with so many bones, muscles, ligaments which get subjected to all the pressures from running and walking; let alone being forced into the dark and damp climate of the shoe that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the issues with it. The issues can vary from trivial skin disorders such as ingrown toenails to musculoskeletal problems such as plantar fasciitis to fractures.
The actual scope of practice of a podiatrist will vary from place to place with some places like the USA where they have full surgical and medical rights to treat the disorders of the foot to some countries in Europe where they can only use minimal methods to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education needed to become a podiatrist is very different among nations. In the USA, you first need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry qualification and then a 2-3 year post degree residency. In some places in Europe, its only a community college one year undergrad qualification. Exactly what a podiatrist is able to do is determined by the extent of the education and the legislation.
Podiatrists are able to use a wide range of different strategies to treat disorders of the foot. This may range from a straightforward scraping of skin disorders to foot supports for orthopaedic problems to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used will depend on the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has had. Many podiatrists will also have various special interests such a dermatology or orthopaedics and they will often be found working in multidisciplinary teams working in those areas. Probably the greatest contribution that podiatrists make to the healthcare system is in disciplines like diabetes where proper foot care and the management of foot problems bring about substantial saving to the health system in the protection against amputations.