Podiatry is that health occupation that is concerned with the management of disorders of the foot and related conditions. The foot is such a complex part of the body with so many bones, muscles, ligaments which get subjected to all the demands from running and walking; in addition to being forced into the dark and moist environment of the shoe that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the issues with it. The problems ranges from minor skin complaints such as ingrown toenails to orthopaedic problems such as heel spurs to broken bones.
The actual scope of practice of a podiatrist will be different from place to place with some countries like the USA where they have full surgical and medical privileges to treat the problems of the foot to some countries in Europe where they are able to only use minimal strategies to treat superficial disorders of the skin and nails. The education needed to become a podiatrist is very different between nations. In the USA, you first need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry degree and then a 2-3 year post degree residency. In some places in Europe, its just a community college one year undergraduate diploma. What a podiatrist is able to do is determined by the extent of the training and the regulations.
Podiatrists are able to use a wide range of different techniques to treat disorders of the foot. This may range between a simple scraping of skin conditions to foot orthotics for musculoskeletal conditions to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What is used is determined by the above scope of practice and education that the podiatrist has had. Many podiatrists will also have various special interests such a dermatology or orthopaedics and they will often be found working 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 appropriate foot care and the management of foot problems bring about substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.