Podiatric medicine is that health profession that is focused on the treating and prevention of disorders of the feet and associated problems. The foot is such a complicated body part with so many bones, muscles, ligaments that will get confronted with all the pressures from running and walking; in addition to being forced into the dark and damp climate of the footwear that it requires a entire profession specialized in the issues with it. The issues ranges from modest skin conditions such as corns to orthopaedic problems such as heel spurs to broken bones.
The actual scope of practice of a podiatrist will vary from country to country with some countries like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical privileges to manage the disorders of the foot to some places in Europe where they can only use limited methods to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education necessary to be a podiatrist is very different between countries. In the USA, you first need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry qualification and then a 2-3 year residency. In some regions in Europe, its only a community college one year undergrad certificate. Exactly what a podiatrist is capable of doing is determined by the extent of the training and the law.
Podiatrists will use a wide range of different strategies to treat conditions of the foot. This may range from a simple scraping of skin disorders 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 had. Many podiatrists will also have different special interests such a diabetes or orthopaedics and they will often be found working in multidisciplinary teams working in those disciplines. Probably the greatest contribution that podiatrists help to make to the medical care system is in disciplines like diabetes where appropriate foot care and the management of foot problems result in substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.