Podiatry is that health vocation that is focused on the treating and prevention of disorders of the foot and related disorders. The foot is such a complicated body part with a lot of bones, muscles, ligaments which get exposed to all the stresses from running and walking; as well as being forced into the dark and damp environment of the footwear that it requires a whole profession specialized in the problems with it. The problems can range from minor skin disorders such as ingrown toenails to musculoskeletal problems such as plantar fasciitis to fractures.
The specific scope of practice of a podiatrist will change from country to country with some countries like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical privileges to treat the conditions of the foot to some countries in Europe where they are able to only use minimal strategies to deal with superficial disorders of the skin and nails. The education necessary to be a podiatrist is very different among nations. In the USA, you first need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry qualification and then a 2-3 year post degree residency. In some regions in Europe, its only a community college one year undergraduate diploma. Exactly what a podiatrist is able to do is dictated by the extent of the training and the law.
Podiatrists can use a wide range of different modalities to treat conditions of the foot. This may range between a simple scraping of skin conditions to foot orthotics for orthopaedic problems to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What is used will depend on the above scope of practice and training that the podiatrist has had. Different podiatrists will also have different special interests such a rheumatology or orthopaedics and they will often be found employed in multidisciplinary teams working in those disciplines. Probably the best contribution that podiatrists make to the medical care system is in areas like diabetes where proper foot care and the management of foot conditions bring about substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.