What does a podiatrist do?

Podiatry is that health occupation which is concerned with the management of disorders of the feet and related problems. The foot is such a complicated body part with so many bones, muscles, ligaments which all get subjected to all the stresses from running and walking. In addition to that, the foot also gets forced into the dark and damp climate of the shoe that it needs a whole profession dedicated to the problems with it. The issues can range from trivial skin disorders such as claw toes 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 they have full surgical and medical privileges to treat the conditions of the foot to some countries in Europe where they can only use minimal strategies to treat superficial conditions of the skin and nails. The training necessary to be a podiatrist is very different between countries. In the USA, first you need an undergraduate degree, then a 4 year post graduate podiatry degree and then a 2-3 year residency. In some places in Europe, its only a community college one year undergraduate diploma. What a podiatrist is capable of doing is dictated by the extent of the education and the legislation.

Podiatrists are able to use a wide range of different strategies to treat problems of the foot. This may range from a simple scraping of skin disorders to foot orthotics for musculoskeletal conditions to reconstructive surgery for fractures. What exactly is used will depend on the above scope of practice and education that the podiatrist has had. Many podiatrists will also have various special interests such a rheumatology or orthopaedics and they will often be found working in multidisciplinary groups working in those areas. Probably the best contribution that podiatrists help to make to the medical care system is in areas like diabetes where good foot care and the management of foot problems bring about substantial saving to the health system in the prevention of amputations.