Footwear Do’s and Don’ts If You Have Diabetes
Protect your tootsies and sidestep major trouble by wearing the right shoes
If you have diabetes, what you put on your feet may be nearly as important as what you put on your plate. Nearly one in seven people with high blood sugar develop serious foot problems, including loss of toes (or more). Take good care of your tootsies by following these tips.
Don’t… squeeze into shoes that don’t fit. If they’re too tight, too loose or rub against your skin, shoes can cause calluses, blisters or raw spots that could develop into ulcers. In fact, ill-fitting footwear was the main cause of diabetic ulcers in a study at the City Hospital of Nottingham in the U.K. One in five of the wounds was caused by shoes, boots or sandals that rubbed. Because diabetes reduces blood circulation, ulcers may be slow to heal, according to the National Institutes of Health. Even worse, they’re a major cause of the amputations that 73,000 Americans with diabetes undergo each year.
Do… shop for comfy shoes that are the right size. Hit the store late in the afternoon, when your feet tend to be largest. Wear the type of socks or stockings you’ll typically wear with the shoes. If you have nerve damage in your feet that could make it hard for you to feel how the shoe feels, or if your feet haven’t been sized in a while, have a knowledgeable salesperson fit them. The space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the front of the shoe should be about half the width of your thumb. The shoe shouldn’t feel overly snug. When you try on shoes, walk around in both of them, since many people have one foot that’s larger than the other.
If you have nerve damage or diabetic foot disease, ask your doctor about therapeutic shoes and/or inserts. These range from footwear custom-made for the shape of your foot to orthotic inserts that add extra cushioning and relieve pressure.
Don’t… go faux. Artificial leather, PVC, plastic and other materials can make feet hot and sweaty, increasing your risk for foot problems, the Joslin Diabetes Center warns.
Do… keep it natural. Soft leather and canvas allow feet to breathe.
Don’t… be a slave to fashion. High heels and thin-soled dress shoes put extra pressure on feet. Backless shoes (like thongs and clogs) and slip-ons don’t give feet enough support.In a Veterans Affairs study of 400 women and men with diabetic foot ulcers, women spent half their time in shoes with these dangerous features and men spent a quarter of their time in them. Save fancy footwear for special occasions.
Do… wear shoes that lace up and have a cushioned sole and tongue. The Veterans Affairs researchers report this style is the most protective. If you can’t resist sandals in the summer, shop for a pair that don’t rub your feet or expose them to hazards on the ground that could cause injuries.
Don’t… hang on to shoes that are past their prime. If your kicks are worn down, they won’t absorb shock well. Shoes that are stretched out can rub skin the wrong way.
Do… treat your feet to new shoes. Replace shoes once the heels wear down or collapse or the sides begin to wear out. The same advice goes if the inner lining rips. The rough edges could injure skin, the American Diabetes Association warns.
Don’t… walk around in socks or bare feet. If you have diabetes-related nerve damage that makes it hard to feel, you may not notice if you step on a pebble or other object that could scrape or cut your skin, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Do… wear socks or stockings with your shoes. You’re less likely to get blisters. Thick, soft, seamless socks are best, says the National Institutes of Health. Steer clear of socks that fit tightly around the top. They could interfere with blood circulation.