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Footwear Tips Critical for People with Diabetes

Footwear Tips Critical for People with Diabetes

Footwear is not just a fashion statement, it also can be a critical health and safety issue. This is especially true for people with diabetes, who are at risk for serious problems with their feet if they choose improper footwear and don't take care of their feet. Here’s the latest research and tips for people with diabetes who want to care for their feet.

What’s new on diabetes and footwear?

A new study from researchers at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands reports that people with diabetes often walk without wearing shoes that have been designed to protect their feet from sores and infections. Individuals with diabetes are prone to various foot problems because of poor circulation and reduced feeling in their feet due to neuropathy (nerve damage).

The researchers monitored the walking habits of 107 people with diabetes for seven consecutive days. All the participants were at high risk for developing foot ulcers because of neuropathy and a history of foot ulcers.

Twenty-nine percent of the steps the participants took were made while they were not wearing their therapeutic shoes. The researchers made these determinations using monitoring devices places in the therapeutic footwear of the patients, and from ankle monitors that measured their steps.

When the researchers looked at walking within the home, which is where the subjects walked the most, 39 percent of the steps were taken without use of the special footwear.

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According to Sicco Bus, the study’s senior author and a staff scientist with the Academic Medical Center at the University, “Patients generally think they have to primarily wear their footwear when they go outside, even though the doctor tells them to wear (customized shoes) as much as possible.” The study’s authors also noted that less than one-third of people with diabetes who have foot problems wear their prescribed footwear 80 percent of the time or more, based on previous research.

Why is taking care of your feet so important if you have diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 600,000 people with diabetes develop foot ulcers each year, resulting in 80,000 amputations. So what can you do to help prevent foot problems if you have diabetes?

Footwear and foot care tips for people with diabetes

  • Maintain a healthy blood glucose level. This is the best way to prevent foot problems and other complications of diabetes.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly and that do not expose your feet to potential damage, such as open-toed shoes or high heels.
  • Avoid walking barefoot, even in the house.
  • Ask your doctor about therapeutic shoes. Because neuropathy can cause your feet to change shape, mainstream shoes may cause further damage to your feet. Special shoes can help you maintain better foot health.
  • Keep your feet dry and warm. Wear cotton socks to bed if your feet get cold.
  • Inspect your feet daily for cuts, bruises, blisters, or other signs of damage. If it is difficult for you to check your feet, try using a large hand mirror. Another option is to have your partner or friend check for you. Every doctor visit also should include an inspection of your feet.
  • Wash your feet daily with mild soap and warm water. If you have neuropathy in your feet, test the water with your elbow. Dry your feet well, including between your toes.
  • If your feet tend to be dry, apply a thin layer of plain petroleum jelly or foot cream on the top and bottom of your feet after washing them. Do not treat between your toes, however, because the moisture may breed infection.
  • If you have corns or calluses, you can help control them by using an emery board or pumice stone on them every day. Your feet should be wet when you use the emery board or stone. Apply lotion after you are done.
  • If calluses become too thick or large, have your physician cut them for you. Removing calluses yourself can result in the development of infection or foot ulcers.
  • Keep your nails trimmed straight across and smooth the toenails with a nail file. If you cannot do this safely yourself, have a nurse or other health professional do it for you, or someone who has been shown how to do it properly.
  • Consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you detect any problems with your feet.

Diabetes makes people susceptible to a variety of complications, and foot ulcers, infections, and the potential for amputation are among them. That’s why it’s critical for people with diabetes to take proper care of their feet and to choose proper footwear.

American Diabetes Association
Waaijman R et al. Adherence to wearing prescription custom-made footwear in patients with diabetes at high risk for plantar foot ulceration. Diabetes Care 2013 Jan 15. Online before print. Doi:10.2337/dc12-1330

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