Shoes and Diabetes: What's on Your Feet Matters (2024)

When you have diabetes, you need to take special care of your feet. That's why it's important to check your feet daily and choose your shoes wisely.

Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes to help keep small foot problems -- like a corn, blister, or a callus -- from turning into severe ones.

Find the Right Size

If you haven't had your foot measured in a while, visit a shoe store to see what size you should wear, says podiatrist James Wrobel, DPM. Don't buy shoes that are too small or too big, which can cause blisters and calluses, he says.

About 6 out of 10 people with diabetes wear the wrong-size shoes, a study at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom shows. Another study shows that only about one-fourth of all people wear the correct-size shoes.

Don't mistake a tight fit for good support, Wrobel says. Instead, wear shoes with comfortable support.

Tips to Pick the Right Shoe

Once you know your correct size:

1. Look for shoes that don't have pointed toes. Instead, choose ones with a spacious "toe box," so your toes have plenty of wiggle room. That way they won't be crushed together. You'll have less chance of corns, calluses, and blisters that can turn into ulcers.

2. If you can remove the shoe's insole, take it out and step on it. Your foot should fit comfortably on top of it with no overlap. If your foot is bigger than the insole, it will be crammed inside the shoe when you wear it. Choose a different shoe.

3. Avoid high-heeled shoes, because they put pressure on the ball of your foot. If you have nerve damage, you might not realize that area is sore or getting calluses. High heels can also cause balance issues, especially if you have nerve damage.

4. Steer clear of sandals, flip-flops, or other open-toe shoes. Straps can put pressure on parts of your foot, leading to sores and blisters. Open-toe shoes can make you prone to injuries like cuts. It's also easier for gravel and small stones to get inside them. These can rub against your feet, causing sores and blisters.

5. Consider laced shoes instead of slip-ons. They often provide better support and a better fit.

6. Try on shoes at the end of the day. Your feet are more likely to be a little swollen. If shoes are comfortable when your feet are swollen, they should feel fine the rest of the time, too.

7. Don't buy shoes that aren't comfortable, planning to break them in as you wear them. Shoes should feel good when you first try them on. If you take off new shoes after wearing them for a couple of hours and find red, tender spots, don't wear them again.

8. Buy at least two pairs with good support. Each pair will likely have different pressure points on your feet, so change your shoes daily.Your shoes will also get to dry and air out when you don't wear them every day.

9. In some cases, Medicare covers the cost of special shoes for people with diabetes. You must meet certain criteria, such as having changes in your foot shape, past foot ulcers, or calluses that can lead to nerve damage. A doctor needs to prescribe them. Talk to your foot doctor or primary care doctor to find out more.

Keep Your Shoes On

Once you find shoes that fit well, wear them all the time. Don't go barefoot, even around the house or pool areas. "Some patients, when they are numb, may walk on a piece of glass and not be aware of it," says podiatric surgeon Robert K. Lee, DPM.

Foot doctors suggest you put on shoes even if you just take a few steps to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There's always a chance you could step on something, not feel it, and injure yourself.

Enjoy Occasional Fancy Feet

Having diabetes doesn't mean you have to wear sensible shoes every day for the rest of your life.

"The need for being careful depends on how advanced the neuropathy is," Lee says. "The risks vary significantly depending on how advanced the disease is and how numb or how bad circulation is."

If you have normal feeling and blood flow, it might even be OK to wear dressy shoes like high heels or pointy wing-tips for short periods of time, Lee says. Ask your foot doctor what's best for your feet, though.

Shoes and Diabetes: What's on Your Feet Matters (2024)


Shoes and Diabetes: What's on Your Feet Matters? ›

Do not wear shoes with pointed toes or high heels, because they put too much pressure on your toes. If your feet have changed shape, such as from Charcot's foot, you may need special shoes or shoe inserts, called orthotics. You also may need inserts if you have bunions, hammertoes, or other foot problems.

Is Vaseline good for diabetic feet? ›

Use unscented lotion or petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on your feet, though not between your toes. Diabetes can cause very dry skin, which in turn can cause cracking and other problems. ... but remember, DON'T put lotion or Vaseline between your toes.

What should diabetics wear on their feet? ›

A moist foot is a breeding ground for bacteria to grow in a wound and cause infection. Diabetic socks are made out of moisture wicking material, which help keep feet dry. This might be wool, cotton or a blend of synthetic materials.

Should diabetics wear socks to bed? ›

Wear socks without seams. Avoid tight-fitting socks and garters. Wear socks in bed if your feet are cold at night. Do not use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your feet.

Why can't diabetics cut toenails? ›

Wounds. A wound can occur if you trim your toenail too short or the nail catches on a sock or blanket and rips off. Because a wound can go undetected due to diabetic nerve damage, it may not be noticed right away, putting you at risk for infection.

Which ointment is best for diabetic foot? ›

Metronidazole has antibiotic effects and thus helps bacterial wounds in diabetic foot ulcers. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and thus reduces the swelling and redness around the diabetic foot wound. Metronidazole is commercially available as brand names like Metrocream, Noritate, Metrogel, etc.

How do diabetics get rid of hard skin on their feet? ›

Let a health care professional on your diabetes care team cut your calluses. Also, do not try to remove calluses and corns with chemical agents. These products can burn your skin. Using a pumice stone every day will help keep calluses under control.

What color socks should diabetics wear? ›

Some suggest that white cotton or wool socks are preferable, saying this is because “cotton socks allow feet to breathe and helps prevent sweating.”

Why should diabetics wear white socks? ›

Diabetic socks are designed with padded soles to add cushioning and comfort. These soles can often be done in white fabric so that blood from an injury or draining from a wound can easily be seen if not felt.

What part of the foot hurts with diabetes? ›

When you have diabetes, high glucose levels in the blood can damage nerves and blood vessels. Because the nerves and blood vessels supplying the feet are so long and delicate, the feet — and especially the toes — often get affected first.

Do diabetics get free foot care? ›

Everyone with diabetes should have an annual foot check.

Your foot check is part of your annual review, which means you should have it as part of your diabetes care and it's free on the NHS. This is because you're more likely to have serious foot problems and these can lead to amputations.

What is the first rule of diabetic foot care? ›

1. Inspect your feet daily. Check your feet for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, or nail problems. Use a magnifying hand mirror to look at the bottom of your feet.

What not to do for diabetic feet? ›

Don't soak your feet. Dry your feet completely and apply lotion to the top and bottom—but not between your toes, which could lead to infection. Never go barefoot. Always wear shoes and socks or slippers, even inside, to avoid injury.

Is walking bad for diabetic feet? ›

If you have nerve damage in your feet, avoid repetitive, weight-bearing exercises, such as jogging, prolonged walking, and step aerobics. Repeated stress on feet that are affected by neuropathy can lead to ulcers, fractures, and joint problems. Choose exercises that do not put stress on your feet, such as: Swimming.


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