For diabetes patients, foot problems are common complications. The disease causes damage to nerves, leading to decreased blood flow to your feet. This can mean chronic pain, worsening conditions, and major surgery, including amputation.
Thankfully, there are easy ways to take care of diabetic feet and keep them as healthy as possible. The goal is prevention as well as early detection.
1. Wear Diabetic Socks
If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to wear socks specifically designed for diabetes patients. Diabetic men’s socks are no ordinary socks. They have smooth toe seams and are non-elastic, making them more comfortable and helpful in increasing blood flow. They also have extra cushioning in the sole, which can help prevent cuts and scratches on your feet – while also keeping them dry.
Not every diabetic person needs to wear diabetic sock for women and men. However, they are a good idea for anyone experiencing neuropathy, or for those who regularly suffer from sore or swollen feet.
Diabetic socks are usually found in various sizes, lengths, and colors, so they don’t look different from other socks. They also come in both cotton and wool, so regardless of what kind of socks you like to wear, it should be easy to find diabetic socks that you like. The best rated diabetic socks will have flat seams, relaxed tops, cushioned bottoms, and use breathable material. Also, diabetic socks are not the same as compression socks. Read more about diabetic socks here.
2. Check Your Feet Every Day
It sounds simple, but taking care of your feet begins with taking a close look at them every day. You need to be on the lookout for:
- Dry and cracked skin
All of these can lead to an infection, which is extremely serious with an underlying condition like diabetes.
You may assume that you’ll be able to feel if you have a cut on your foot or an issue with your skin. However, nerve damage caused by diabetes can numb your foot, so you might not realize when there’s something wrong with it.
This is why you need to make it part of your daily routine to examine your foot from ankle to toes and back again in search of any concerning blemishes. A mirror can help you look at the bottom of your feet, and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend or family member help out.
3. Avoid Walking Around Barefoot
Examining your feet every day should be one of the few occasions that you ever go barefoot, as diabetes patients should always have something on their feet as protection.
This includes spending time indoors. Even inside, you should be wearing socks or hard-soled slippers. And when going outside, socks are essential.
Here’s why. Walking around barefoot leaves you vulnerable to cuts and scrapes that could be caused by anything sitting on the ground that you don’t see. Hopefully, you don’t have any loose sewing needles or thumbtacks hiding in the carpet. But even less harmful things, such as an elevated kitchen floor tile, can cause minor cuts and scratches.
With reduced sensation in your feet because of nerve damage, you can’t always assume that you’ll feel something you step on. This is why it’s so important to check your feet every day – and avoid walking around barefoot.
4. Keep Your Feet Clean
Diabetic patients should care for their feet by cleaning them every day. This is one of the best ways to prevent calluses and blisters, among other foot problems that people with diabetes should be trying to avoid.
When you wash your feet, make sure you use warm water. Also, always use your hand to check the water temperature before dipping your foot in. The nerve damage can prevent you from recognizing water that’s too hot.
First, it’s important to emphasize that you want to wash your feet, not simply soak them.
Second, you want to thoroughly dry every inch of both feet.
Third, apply lotion to the top and bottom of your feet – but avoid getting any lotion between your toes. This part of your foot must remain dry and lotion-free; otherwise, it can become vulnerable to infection.
5. Find Proper Footwear That Fits Perfectly
Diabetics have to pay careful attention to their footwear more than most people. This means that, unfortunately, certain types of footwear will be off-limits.
The WORST type of diabetic shoes:
- Shoes with pointed toes
- High heels
- Open-toed sandals, which can leave feet susceptible to cuts that lead to infection
The BEST type of diabetic shoes:
- Is soft on the inside with no rough areas
- Has no inside seams that can rub against your feet and cause redness and irritation
- Covers your toes and heels
- Features a stiff outer sole
Most importantly, your shoes need to fit well. You don’t want to be forcing your foot into a shoe that’s too tight, especially since you may not be able to feel any discomfort if you’re experiencing nerve damage.
When you pick out new shoes, always try them on with the socks that you’ll be wearing every day. You should also avoid wearing new shoes for more than an hour right after you get them. New shoes need to be broken in slowly to prevent foot pain later. This is an important step when traveling and caring for diabetic feet.
6. Do Regular Exercise and Movement
Exercising your feet and legs is important for everyone, especially for people with diabetes. After all, exercise can help get your blood pumping, which helps reduce swelling in your feet.
The trick is finding the right kind of exercise – and to never overdo it. Anything that includes jumping or bouncing should be avoided, as it can put too much strain on your feet, especially since neuropathy can prevent you from feeling normal soreness.
On the other hand, walking or riding a bike are both great ways to exercise your feet and legs without putting too much of a burden on that part of your body.
Swimming can also be a great way to remain active and get regular exercise. Just keep in mind that swimming isn’t an excuse to go barefoot! There are special shoes and socks available to wear when swimming.
It’s highly recommended—and potentially crucial—to clear your preferred method of exercise with your doctor.
7. Get a Foot Massage
After exercising, a foot massage sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? But even if you didn’t exercise that day, getting a foot massage means a professional is applying firm pressure to your feet, which helps to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
Plus, massages release endorphins that give you an emotional boost. That’s what we in the industry like to call an added bonus!
If you’re a diabetic patient who is already feeling the effects of neuropathy, regular visits to a massage therapist can be helpful in reducing pain. For others, a foot massage can help stimulate nerve endings and reduce your chances of developing neuropathy.
If you can’t afford regular sessions with a professional massage therapist, there are foot massage devices that can be helpful for people with diabetes. Do some research and find one that’s right for you and within your budget.
8. Keep Your Feet Elevated
When you’re not exercising or getting a foot massage, you should put your feet up and relax a little. In addition to staying active, keeping your feet elevated can improve blood flow.
If you find yourself sitting down for extended periods of time, flex your knees and rotate your ankles to help promote blood flow to your feet.
You will also want to avoid crossing your legs, as this can hinder circulation to your feet.
9. Know When To See Your Doctor
The most important thing for any diabetic patient is knowing when you need to seek help from a medical professional. If you sense something is wrong with your feet, don’t put off seeing a doctor – make an appointment as soon as possible.
In fact, it’s usually best for those with diabetes to start seeing a podiatrist who they trust to help them deal with any foot-related issues. For certain problems, dealing with it yourself—or even using over-the-counter products—isn’t always best when you have an underlying condition like diabetes.
If you have any kind of wounds or sores on your feet, even a tiny cut, you might want to see a doctor rather than take any chances. The same is true for any calluses, bunions, or ingrown toenails that develop on your feet.
Signs of athlete’s foot are also issues that require a doctor’s attention. Look for things like cracking between the toes or increased redness or blackening of the skin on your feet.
Ultimately, you know your body better than anyone. If you notice anything amiss with your feet, it might be best to err on the side of caution and have a doctor examine the issue. The worst they can say is that everything is fine, giving you (potentially priceless) peace of mind.
People with diabetes always wonder how to take care of diabetic feet. The solution lies in preventative measures. If you follow our 9 tips on caring for diabetic feet, it will go a long way in keeping your feet healthy and preventing problems down the line.