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 sophisticated structure with so many bones, muscles, ligaments that will get exposed to all the pressures from running and walking; let alone being crammed into the dark and moist climate of the shoe that it requires a entire profession dedicated to the issues with it. The issues ranges from minor skin disorders such as claw toes to orthopaedic problems such as heel spurs 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 privileges to manage the problems of the foot to some countries in Europe where they are able to only use limited strategies to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education necessary to become a podiatrist is very different between 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 just a community college one year undergraduate qualification. What a podiatrist is capable of doing is dictated by the extent of the training and the law.
Podiatrists will use a wide range of different techniques to treat conditions of the foot. This may range from a straightforward scraping of skin problems to foot orthotics for orthopaedic disorders to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used is determined by the above scope of practice and education that the podiatrist has received. Many podiatrists will also have different special interests such a dermatology or sports medicine and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary teams working in those disciplines. Probably the greatest contribution that podiatrists make to the medical care system is in disciplines like diabetes where correct foot care and the treatments for foot conditions result in considerable saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.