Podiatry is that health occupation that is focused on the management of disorders of the foot and associated disorders. The foot is such a sophisticated structure with so many bones, muscles, ligaments which get put through all the stresses from running and walking; in addition to being squeezed into the dark and damp climate of the shoe that it requires a whole profession dedicated to the issues with it. The problems can vary from trivial skin conditions such as corns to orthopaedic problems such as heel spurs to broken bones.
The specific scope of practice of a podiatrist will change from place to place with some places like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical rights to treat the problems of the foot to some places in Europe where they are able to only use limited methods to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The education needed to become a podiatrist is very different among countries. In the USA, first you need an undergraduate degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry qualification and then a 2-3 year residency. In some places in Europe, its only a community college one year undergraduate qualification. Exactly what a podiatrist is capable of doing is determined by the extent of the education and the legislation.
Podiatrists are able to use a variety of different techniques to treat problems 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 is dependent upon the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has received. Many podiatrists will also have various special interests such a rheumatology or sports medicine and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary teams working in those areas. Probably the greatest contribution that podiatrists help to make to the healthcare system is in disciplines like diabetes where proper foot care and the treatments for foot conditions result in significant saving to the health system in the protection against amputations.