If you have diabetes, then you probably know about the importance of taking care of your feet, which are one of the body parts most vulnerable to nerve damage. However, if your diagnosis is recent, then you might not have a diabetic foot care routine yet. To help you out, we’ve rounded up our best diabetic foot care tips, from inspecting your feet each day to shopping for shoes for swollen feet.
Without further ado, here’s how you can take care of your feet if you have diabetes:
Understand how diabetes can affect your feet.
About half of all people with diabetes have nerve damage, which most commonly appears in the legs and feet. Nerve damage compromises your ability to feel pressure, pain and temperature, three sensations that are critical for foot health. Some people may feel numbness, tingling or pain that signals nerve damage in their feet — but other people don’t feel anything at all, which can make the nerve damage hard to detect. Diabetes can also lead to poor blood flow, which slows down healing and can exacerbate cuts and scrapes on your feet. Because of this reduced sensation, people with diabetes must take extra care of their feet in order to prevent and catch podiatry problems.
Know the risk factors for nerve damage.
Not everyone who has diabetes experiences nerve damage, and certain factors make you more likely to develop nerve damage if you already have diabetes. Having high blood pressure and/or cholesterol are known risk factors, as are being overweight and being over 40 years of age. If your blood sugar levels are hard to manage, and frequently spike higher than your target range, that will also increase your chances of developing nerve damage, as does having diabetes for a long time. Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar in check will boost your overall health and reduce your chances of developing diabetes-related nerve damage.
Inspect your feet each day.
Diabetics with nerve damage in their feet might get a blister, cut or scrape and not even notice it. If left untreated, such minor wounds can fester into a foot ulcer, and may even eventually lead to an amputation if left untreated for a very long time. This is why diabetics need to carefully inspect their feet each day for health problems. Examine all areas of your feet, including between your toes, and note any change in condition from the previous day. Inspect the skin as well as your toenails for potential problems. If you have trouble examining the bottom of your feet on your own, ask a loved one for help or hold them up to a mirror so you can see them.
Wash your feet properly.
In addition to inspecting your feet every day, you should also wash them daily to remove dirt, debris and other potential contaminants. Wash your feet in warm (not hot) water — think of the same temperature you would use to bathe a newborn. Always test the temperature of the water with your hands, since your feet might not be able to sense heat that well. Use mild soap and a soft washcloth or sponge that won’t scrub your feet. Rinse them thoroughly when you are finished and dry them off carefully using a soft towel. Be sure to get in between your toes, as those crevices tend to trap moisture, which in turn can cause fungal infections. Once your feet are completely dry, apply a light layer of moisturizer to help fend off dry, cracked skin. Don’t put the moisturizer between your toes, however, due to the risk of fungal infections.
Be careful when cutting your nails.
You need to cut your toenails often to keep your feet healthy and happy. However, cutting your nails does pose a risk to your feet if the nail cutters happen to slip. To prevent this, make sure that your feet and hands are completely dry so that your grip isn’t compromised. Trim your toenails while sitting down (so you can’t fall) and do it in a well-lit space so you can see what you’re doing. Don’t trim your toenails too short, as this can potentially lead to ingrown nails. File down any points or snags with a nail file so that the nail is completely smooth and won’t catch on anything.
Never go barefoot.
Going barefoot or wearing sandals that expose parts of your feet leaves you vulnerable to injury. You should also wear closed toes with non-skid soles, even when you are indoors, to help keep yourself safe. If you don’t like the idea of wearing your outside shoes in the house, then invest in a pair specifically for the indoors that you can leave inside to keep clean. You should also keep your floors clean of debris and other obstacles that might injure your feet or cause you to trip. Nobody wants to step on a Lego to begin with, and you definitely don’t want to do it if you have diabetic neuropathy in your feet!
Choose your shoes carefully.
Diabetics must carefully consider a number of factors when shopping for edema shoes. Like we mentioned earlier, the shoes should have a closed toe and heel. The outer sole should be made of a thick, stiff material that will protect the bottoms of your feet. The inside of the shoes should be soft, with no seams or rough areas that might chafe your feet. Prioritize shoes with laces or velcro straps over slip-on styles since they can be adjusted to provide better support. If you order shoes online from a retailer such as Silverts, make sure they have a great return policy (like ours) in case you need to return the shoes for any reason.
Buy the right size shoe.
Here’s another diabetic foot care tip: Carefully selecting the type of shoe won’t matter if you get the wrong size. Ideally, you should measure your shoe size at the end of your day so your feet will have had time to swell up. Slight swelling can be somewhat common, but swollen feet occur even more often with elderly people. Take off your shoes and socks and stand barefoot on a piece of paper. Trace around the outline of your foot, or have someone else do it for you if you’re not flexible enough. Repeat the process for your other foot. They may be slightly different sizes. Measure the length of the outline to figure out how big your foot is and compare your measurements to the brand’s shoe size chart. You want the shoes to be about a half inch longer than your feet so that they won’t pinch or chafe.
Shop for diabetic socks.
Shoes get all the attention, but selecting diabetic socks is just as important. Diabetic socks have extra cushioning to provide additional protection to the feet. They also don’t have elastic tops, which can cut into your calves and further impede blood flow. Diabetic socks come in higher cuts, such as crew socks, to protect the skin around your ankle. They are also made of special moisture-wicking fibers, which help wick sweat away from the skin, reducing your chances of developing a fungal infection. If you haven’t tried out special diabetic socks yet, we highly suggest that you do so because you’ve really been missing out!
Always test out new shoes and socks.
You’ve carefully selected your new diabetic shoes and socks, and they’ve finally arrived. You’re ready to jump into wearing them all day, right? Wrong! New shoes should only be worn for an hour or two at first until they are broken in enough for you to wear them comfortably. We recommend wearing them around the house first, so that way you can quickly change into other shoes if your feet begin to hurt. We also recommend taking a pair of backup shoes with you the first few times you wear your new shoes outside of the house. The same logic also applies to socks — always test them indoors for a few hours before committing to wear them all day. You should also do a test run anytime you pair a new type of socks with a new type of shoes, in case they don’t play together nicely.
Double-check shoes before putting them on.
If you already have nerve damage and reduced sensation in your feet, then you might not notice if you have a pebble or other debris in your shoe before putting them on. Before slipping your feet into your shoes, always turn your shoes upside down and shake them first. You should also feel around on the inside with your hands in case a pebble has become wedged tight enough that shaking did not dislodge it. You should do this every time you put on a new pair of shoes to get into the habit of it, even if you only took off the shoes a little while ago.Make sure you have footwear that can adapt to your swelling and fits correctly.
Keep your blood flowing.
Reduced blood flow, especially in your extremities, is another common side effect of diabetes. Because blood carries oxygen and other important nutrients that are critical for healing, sluggish blood flow to your feet can make it harder for your body to repair itself. Thankfully, there are a couple of things you can do to encourage better blood flow. If you’re sitting for a long period of time, elevate your feet to bring them closer to the level of your heart. Wiggle your feet and pump your calves to get your blood circulating. You should also aim for at least 10 minutes of physical activity every day, and more if you can. It’s better to do a few minutes every day than one hour once a week so that way you are getting your blood flowing every single day.
Don’t treat problems on your own.
Very minor foot injuries, such as a small cut or blister, should be cleaned and bandaged accordingly. However, you should not attempt more involved diabetic foot care, such as treating corns and calluses, on your own at home or using over-the-counter products. Instead, contact your doctor for professional treatment so that you don’t accidentally injure yourself further. You should also see your doctor if you have a cut, blister or other wound that simply won’t heal despite your at-home care. If left untreated for too long, it could develop in a serious foot ulcer, so it’s better to get it seen by a medical expert sooner rather than later.
Get your feet examined regularly.
Speaking of visiting the doctor, you should get your feet examined once a year by a dedicated foot doctor (and more often if you already have diabetic neuropathy). The doctor will specifically test for signs of diabetic complications, including reduced blood flow and decreased sensation, which could signal diabetic neuropathy or other foot problems. You should also get your feet examined every time you go to see your primary physician as well so that way you’re not going an entire year without a medical professional looking at them.
If you’re shopping for shoes and socks for diabetics, you’re in luck. We offer a wide range of them here at Silverts, alongside clothes and outerwear that make it easy for diabetics to get dressed by themselves or with assistance. We offer diabetic footwear and clothing for both men and women in a variety of sizes so that you can find something that suits your needs. Plus, all orders to the contiguous United States ship free for a limited time only, so start shopping now!