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Diabetic Footwear Can Protect Your Feet For a Lifetime

Blue shoes on a yellow background
Blue shoes on a yellow background

Shoes are important for all, but they’re especially critical for people living with diabetes. A shoe that fits properly can help protect feet and prevent injury, especially for those experiencing a loss of sensation, known as neuropathy. Neuropathy can prevent a person with diabetes from feeling the pinching and pain of minor injuries that can quickly turn into major problems. The right shoes can help prevent the types of problems that can put people at risk for hospitalization and/or amputation.

Tips for buying shoes as a diabetic

  • See a footwear specialist for measuring and fitting your shoes every time you buy new ones.
  • Shop for shoes in the evening: your feet swell throughout the day and you want to make sure they’ll fit even when your feet are at their largest.
  • Choose shoes that are: lightweight, flexible, and made of a breathable material, such as leather.
  • Ensure your shoes have a shock-absorbing sole to relieve pressure on your feet.
  • Make sure your shoes have a seamless interior because seams can cause irritation and injury.
  • Select shoes with laces, buckles, or Velcro to prevent your foot from sliding around.
  • Check to make sure your shoes have a solid back to provide support.
  • Wear heels that are less than 2 cm high, so they don’t put pressure on the balls of your feet.
  • Ensure there is 1 cm of space between your longest toe and the end of your shoe when standing. (1 cm is the approximate length of a thumbnail.)
  • Wear seamless white socks so any injury to your foot resulting in bleeding or a discharge of fluid will be detected easily.
  • Select socks made of natural, breathable fibres such as cotton to prevent sweating which can lead to athlete’s foot.
  • Avoid wearing darned socks as the repairs can cause rubbing and injury.
  • “Test drive” your shoes indoors and take them to a foot specialist to assess the fit.

Poor-fitting footwear can be very dangerous for a person with diabetes! A shoe that is too tight can cause pressure on the foot, and a shoe that is too loose can cause your foot to slide around, causing blisters, sores, and calluses.

An easy trick for preventing problems

If you have diabetes, a daily foot check is a simple but essential practice for preventing foot problems. Here’s a short checklist that takes only a minute to go through. Make it part of your daily ritual, either every morning or just before you go to bed each night:

  1. Check that your toenails are trimmed straight across and well cared for.
  2. Check the tops, bottoms, and heels of your feet and between toes for hard skin, sores, cracks, and blisters.
  3. Check for any changes in colour; no parts of your toes or feet should be red, blue, or blackened.
  4. Check your feet and toes for any changes in shape.
  5. Check the insides of your shoes before you put them on to make sure they don’t contain foreign objects that could hurt your feet.

If you notice any problems with your feet or shoes, contact your health care team.

By wearing the proper shoes, conducting a daily foot check, and working with your health care team, people with diabetes can keep their feet healthy for life!

Additional resources

Wounds Canada provides education to support the learning needs of Canadians in the areas of skin health and wound management. Visit their Diabetes, Healthy Feet and You program for more diabetes foot care and footwear-related materials in multiple languages.

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