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Diabetes Health Center

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Find the Right Shoes for Diabetes

Experts discuss the best shoe options to avoid foot problems linked to diabetes.

Shoes for Diabetes: Double Trouble for the Feet continued...

Doctors see many similarly affected patients: those who have stepped on broken glass, knitting needles, syringes, or nails and never felt pain to alert them to injury.

Nor can they sense foreign objects in their shoes. James McGuire, DPM, PT, director of the Leonard S. Abrams Center for Advanced Wound Healing at Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine, described one patient who didn't feel a jack, the star-shaped plaything, inside his shoe. "He just put the shoe on, stepped down and drove the jack into his foot and walked around all day and ended up with an infection from that."

Besides loss of sensation, diabetes can also cause poor circulation because high blood sugar can lead to narrowing of small and large blood vessels. When blood flow is reduced in the feet, wounds heal more slowly.

Besides these two major threats, foot deformities, such as bunions or hammertoes, can also create pressure points that result in ulcerations, according to McGuire.

"Any kind of injury or damage to the foot is the main concern," says Kenneth Snow, MD, acting chief of the adult diabetes department at the Joslin Diabetes Center. "Certainly, ulcers are one such problem, but any kind of laceration injury can lead to significant problems if unrecognized and untreated, particularly in those at risk." At worst, foot complications can lead to amputation.

Most foot complications occur after a patient has had diabetes for 10-15 years, says John Giurini, DPM, chief of podiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But, he adds, "For individuals who are under very poor control, the complications may occur sooner."

Shoes for Diabetes: Choose Shoes Wisely

When it comes to shoe selection, numerous factors crop up -- not just how long someone has had diabetes, Giurini says. "Do they have normal sensation in their feet? Do they have any abnormalities or deformities of their feet? That's really what should be taken into consideration when selecting shoe gear," he says.

Diabetes patients with good blood sugar control and healthy feet can wear conventional shoes, experts tell WebMD. "They're not at any greater risk for problems than the average population. They can kind of wear whatever they would usually wear, realizing that they should inspect their feet regularly," McGuire says. Experts urge all diabetes patients to check their feet carefully each day for blisters, sores, cuts, redness, warm areas, swelling, ingrown toenails, and other abnormalities and report such changes to their doctor.

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