Podiatry is that health vocation which is concerned with the management of disorders of the foot and associated problems. The foot is such a complex structure with a lot of bones, muscles, ligaments that get subjected to all the stresses from running and walking; not to mention being forced into the dark and damp climate of the footwear that it requires a whole profession specialized in the problems with it. The issues can vary from modest skin disorders such as corns to musculoskeletal problems such as heel spurs to broken bones.
The specific scope of practice of a podiatrist will vary from country to country with some places like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical rights to treat the problems 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 necessary to be a podiatrist is very different among countries. In the USA, first you need an undergraduate degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry degree and then a 2-3 year residency. In some places in Europe, its simply a community college one year undergraduate certificate. Exactly what a podiatrist is able to do is determined by the extent of the education and the law.
Podiatrists can use a wide range of different techniques to treat problems of the foot. This may range from a simple scraping of skin conditions to foot supports for orthopaedic disorders to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used is dependent upon the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has had. Many podiatrists will also have various special interests such a diabetes or sports medicine and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary groups working in those disciplines. Probably the best contribution that podiatrists make to the healthcare system is in areas like diabetes where proper foot care and the management of foot conditions result in considerable saving to the health system in the protection against amputations.