Podoconiosis is a type of leg swelling that occurs in the tropics among subsistence farmers who spend long hours in contact with irritant soil derived from volcanic parent rock. People with this disease often live in very remote areas far from health facilities, and do not realize that the condition can be treated. A patient association in southern Ethiopia has pioneered low cost treatment. We followed 27 patients with podoconiosis through their first year of treatment. The regimen emphasizes understanding the disease process and self-treatment through foot hygiene, elevation of the limb at night, use of emollients, socks and shoes. We made clinical observations, measured quality of life and took digital photographs at the start and after 12 months of self-treatment. Leg circumference decreased by an average of 2 cm, the stage of disease decreased (indicating improvement) by almost one full stage. Quality of life improved dramatically, with patients reporting levels of life quality equivalent to non-patients. Even in a very resource-scarce setting, we have shown that patients benefit physically and psychologically from understanding the disease and being shown how to look after their feet.