Podiatric medicine is that health profession which is focused on the management of conditions of the feet and associated problems. The foot is such a complicated structure with a lot of bones, muscles, ligaments that get exposed to all the demands from running and walking; let alone being forced into the dark and moist environment 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 musculoskeletal problems such as plantar fasciitis to broken bones.
The specific scope of practice of a podiatrist will be different from country to country with some countries like the USA where Podiatrists have full surgical and medical rights to treat the conditions of the foot to some countries in Europe where they can only use minimal strategies to deal with superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The training necessary to become a podiatrist is very different among countries. In the USA, you first need an undergrad degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry degree and then a 2-3 year residency. In some regions in Europe, its simply a community college one year undergraduate qualification. 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 modalities to treat conditions of the foot. This may range from a simple scraping of skin problems 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 received. 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 greatest contribution that podiatrists make to the healthcare system is in disciplines like diabetes where correct foot care and the treatments for foot conditions result in substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.