Podiatric medicine is that health occupation that is concerned with the management of conditions of the feet and associated disorders. The foot is such a complex body part with so many bones, muscles, ligaments that get put through all the demands from walking and running; in addition to being forced into the dark and damp environment of the footwear that it requires a entire profession specialized in the problems with it. The issues can range from trivial skin complaints such as corns, calluses and ingrown toenails, to toe problems such as bunions to orthopaedic problems such as plantar fasciitis and fractures.
The actual scope of practice of a podiatrist will vary from place to place with some countries 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 are able to only use limited strategies to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education required to become a podiatrist is very different among 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 just a community college one year undergrad certificate. Exactly what a podiatrist is capable of doing is dictated by the extent of the training and the law.
Podiatrists are able to use a variety of different strategies to treat disorders of the foot. This may range between a straightforward scraping of skin conditions to foot orthotics for musculoskeletal problems to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What 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 diabetes or sports medicine and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary teams working in those areas. Probably the best contribution that podiatrists make to the health care system is in areas like diabetes where appropriate foot care and the management of foot problems result in substantial savings to the health system in the protection against amputations.