Podiatry is that health vocation that is concerned with the treating and prevention of disorders of the feet and related conditions. The foot is such a sophisticated structure with a lot of bones, muscles, ligaments which get confronted with all the demands from running and walking; as well as being squeezed into the dark and damp environment of the footwear that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the issues with it. The issues can range from modest skin complaints such as bunions to orthopaedic problems such as heel spurs to broken bones.
The specific scope of practice of a podiatrist will change from country to country with some places like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical rights to manage the conditions of the foot to some places in Europe where they are able to only use minimal methods to take care of superficial disorders of the skin and nails. The education 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 qualification and then a 2-3 year residency. In some places in Europe, its simply a community college one year undergrad qualification. Exactly what a podiatrist is capable of doing is determined by the extent of the education and the law.
Podiatrists are able to use a wide range of different techniques to treat conditions of the foot. This may range from a simple scraping of skin problems to foot supports for musculoskeletal problems to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used will depend on the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has received. Many podiatrists will also have different special interests such a diabetes or orthopaedics and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary groups working in those disciplines. Probably the best contribution that podiatrists make to the medical care system is in areas like diabetes where appropriate foot care and the management of foot problems result in considerable saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.