Podiatry is that health occupation which is concerned with the treating and prevention of conditions of the feet and related disorders. The foot is such a sophisticated body part with so many bones, muscles, ligaments that will get put through all the stresses from walking and running; let alone being crammed into the dark and moist environment of the shoe that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the problems with it. The issues ranges from minor skin disorders such as bunions to orthopaedic problems such as plantar fasciitis to broken bones.
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 manage the disorders of the foot to some countries in Europe where they can only use limited strategies to deal with superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education needed to become a podiatrist is very different between nations. 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 regions in Europe, its simply a community college one year undergrad diploma. What a podiatrist is able to do is dictated by the extent of the training and the legislation.
Podiatrists will use a variety of different techniques to treat disorders of the foot. This can range between a straightforward scraping of skin disorders to foot supports for musculoskeletal disorders to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used is dependent upon the above scope of practice and education that the podiatrist has had. Different podiatrists will also have different special interests such a diabetes or orthopaedics and they will often be found working 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 correct foot care and the management of foot problems result in substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.