So you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes and are wondering what the future holds. As this is Diabetes Awareness Month we’re going to touch on the basics of diabetic foot care and footwear options for diabetics. Foot problems associated with diabetes are similar to those of normal feet. They just require close attention. The damage from blisters, bunions, calluses, corns, athlete’s foot, and other common ailments is just more likely with diabetes and recovery more difficult. Keep in mind the fact that problems with diabetic feet need not be severe or disabling. With proper vigilance, care, and footwear, your feet can remain healthy. Here are some basic tips for diabetic foot care.
1. Check Your Feet Daily
High blood glucose levels can cause problems with nerves and blood vessels, so diabetics need to be especially vigilant of their extremities, especially their feet. Damage to the nerves in the feet often causes pain initially and eventually loss of feeling. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy is the most common form of neuropathy affecting the feet. Symptoms include tingling, burning, numbness, acute pain, loss of balance, and if left untreated, bunions, hammertoes, charcot foot, and other deformities. The good news is that careful inspection of your feet on a daily basis, say at bedtime, and consultation with a podiatrist at the first sign of anything unusual can go a long way toward the avoidance of these complications.
2. Exercise Daily
Mild exercise improves blood circulation and lowers blood pressure, both important for reducing the risk of complications from diabetes. But the trick is to get some exercise while remaining healthy and without injuring your feet. 30‑minutes of mild exercise is recommended daily and most exercise not in the swimming pool involves your feet. When running, biking, or walking the proper footwear can help reduce injuries and prevent foot complications. Properly fitted running and walking shoes with more room in the toe box, a snug fit at the heel, and breathable uppers will keep your feet dry and cushion impact stress.
3. Wear Orthopedic Footwear During the Day
Certainly an important part of your diabetic lifestyle should be the selection of proper footwear. Shoes should relieve excessive pressure on any area of the foot. Most orthopedic shoes have extra-depth to accommodate inserts for pressure relief. Shock-absorbing soles and heels will cushion your tread. Other considerations include less shear (the foot sliding around in the shoe), breathable tops to wick away moisture, and of course arch support – everyone should wear shoes with the appropriate arch support. As a newly diagnosed patient, you will most likely not have severe foot deformities requiring custom made shoes. The most important consideration, after consulting with your doctor, may just be ensuring the shoes you purchase are designed for the diabetic foot and are appropriately sized.
4. Protect Your Feet at Home
We all ran around the house barefoot as children. But, if you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes your feet need to find that Goldilocks Zone: not too hot, not too cold. Sweaty feet provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Cold restricts blood flow to the feet. Even when just walking around the house excessive pressure, shock and shear, and ill-fitting shoes all can cause problems. Banging your unprotected toe against a table leg could result in serious foot wounds. Orthopedic house shoes or slippers are the answer here. They’ll wick away moisture while keeping your feet in that comfortable zone.
5. All Around Diabetic Foot Support
Shoes are all important when it comes to keeping your feet healthy. But there are other things you can do to help ensure happy feet. Believe it or not, socks can make a tremendous difference. Socks made from synthetic fibers or cotton blends will wick away moisture from the foot keeping your skin dry. (100% cotton socks do just the opposite – absorbing moisture into the material – providing a great environment for the growth of bacteria and fungi.) Diabetic socks are designed to protect feet from external damage, minimize irritations, offer no or light compression, provide therapeutic benefits, reduce pressure points, and offer comfort. There are numerous styles of orthopedic socks available from non-binding socks, to extra large socks, to athletic socks, and even socks that can be worn with dress shoes at the office.
The Healthy Feet Store has a wide selection of diabetic shoes for work and play. Supportive shoes like those from Drew or Aetrex come with a slew of cushioning features to absorb shock might be a good start.
Various foot care products such as orthotic inlays and insoles are available as well as socks with extra-wide and non-binding fit, antibacterial properties, and supportive weaves.