When you have diabetes, you need to take special care of your feet.
Diabetic nerve damage, or peripheral neuropathy, can make you less able to feel pain, especially in your feet. You can get a corn, blister, callus, or foot injury and not know it. These foot problems can become open sores or lead to foot ulcers. That's why it's important to inspect your feet daily and choose your shoes wisely. Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes to help keep small foot problems 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, suggests podiatrist James Wrobel, DPM. Make sure you are not buying 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 found. Another study found that only about one-fourth of all people wear the correct sized shoes.
If you start to have nerve damage or numbness, you may pick shoes that are too small because tight shoes are more likely to feel the snug on your feet. But don't mistake tightness for good support, Wrobel says. Instead, wear shoes with comfortable -- not tight -- support.
Tips for Picking the Right Shoe
Once you know your correct size, these nine guidelines can help you choose a good shoe:
- 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.
- 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.
- Avoid high-heeled shoes because they put pressure on the ball of your foot. If you have nerve damage, you may not realize that area is sore or even getting calluses. High heels can also cause balance issues, especially if you have nerve damage.
- 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 shoes can make you prone to injuries like cuts. It's also easier for gravel and small stones to get inside open-toe shoes. These can rub against your feet, causing sores and blisters.
- Consider laced shoes instead of slip-ons. They often provide better support and a better fit.
- 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.
- Don't buy shoes that are not 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 a couple of hours and find red, tender spots, don't wear them again.
- Buy at least two pairs of comfortable shoes 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.
- 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.