Diabetes Foot Care

You're more likely to have foot problems with diabetes because it can damage your nerves and lessen blood flow to your feet. The American Diabetes Association estimates that it's the reason why 1 in 5 people with diabetes who seek hospital care do so.

You have to take care of your feet when you have diabetes. Poor foot care may lead to amputation of a foot or leg.

Your doctor will check yours each year for problems. If you take good care of your feet, you can prevent most serious problems related to diabetes.

Wash and Dry Your Feet Daily

Use mild soaps and warm water.

Pat your skin dry; do not rub. Thoroughly dry your feet.

After washing, put lotion on them to prevent cracking. But not between your toes!

Check Your Feet Every Day

Look carefully at the tops and bottoms of your feet. Have someone else do it if you can't see them.

  • Check for dry, cracked skin.
  • Look for blisters, cuts, scratches, or other sores.
  • Check for redness, increased warmth, or tenderness when you touch an area.
  • Watch for ingrown toenails, corns, and calluses.

If you get a blister or sore from your shoes, don't "pop" it. Put a bandage over it, and wear a different pair of shoes.

Take Care of Your Toenails

Cut toenails after bathing, when they are soft. Trim them straight across, then smooth with a nail file. Avoid cutting into the corners of toes. You may want a podiatrist (foot doctor) to do it for you.

Don't cut cuticles.

Be Careful When Exercising

Walk and work out in comfortable shoes. Don't exercise when you have open sores on your feet.

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Protect Your Feet With Shoes and Socks

Never go barefoot. Always protect your feet with shoes, hard-soled slippers, or similar footwear. Wear shoes/boots that will protect your feet from weather conditions like cold and moisture.

Don't wear shoes with high heels and pointed toes. Avoid shoes that leave your toes or heels unprotected, like open-toed shoes or sandals. They leave you vulnerable for injury and infections.

Change your socks daily. Wear natural-fibers: cotton, wool, or a cotton-wool blend. Avoid tight socks.

Try on new footwear with the type of socks you usually wear. Don't wear new shoes for more than an hour at a time.

Look and feel inside your shoes before putting them on to make sure there's nothing irritating in them or rough areas.

Wear special shoes if your doctor recommends them.

Make Sure Your Shoes Fit

Are your shoes too narrow? Is your foot crammed into the shoe? If you have neuropathy (nerve damage), you may not notice that your shoes are too tight.

Use this simple test to check:

  • Stand on a piece of paper in bare feet. (Make sure you're standing and not sitting. Your foot changes shape.)
  • Trace the outline of your foot.
  • Put your shoe on and stand on another piece of paper.
  • Trace the outline of your shoe.
  • Compare the tracings. 

The shoe should be at least 1/2 inch longer than your longest toe and as wide as your foot.

Good Shoe Choices

People with diabetes should wear shoes that have:

  • Closed toes and heels
  • An outer sole made of stiff material
  • Leather uppers without a seam inside
  • Insides that are soft with no rough areas

Cuts, Bumps, Sores, and Burns

Don't wait to treat a minor foot problem if you have diabetes. Report foot injuries and infections right away. Follow your doctor's guidelines and first aid guidelines.

Don't self-treat your corns, calluses, or other foot problems. Go to your doctor or podiatrist to treat these conditions.

Check water temperature with your elbow, not your foot.

Don't use a heating pad on your feet.

Don't cross your legs.

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When to Talk to Your Doctor

Your doctor should look at your feet during each visit. Give him a call when you notice problems such as:

  • Athlete's foot (cracking between the toes)
  • Sores or wounds on your feet
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Increasing numbness or pain
  • Calluses
  • Redness
  • Blackening of skin
  • Bunions
  • Infection
  • Hammer toes (when the middle joint of toes is permanently bent downward)
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 14, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Singh, N. JAMA, 2005.

Boulton, A. New EnglandJournal of Medicine, 2004.

Lipsky, B, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2004.

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