How Do I Care for My Diabetic Feet?
People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing foot problems than
those without diabetes. These problems may be severe. All people with diabetes should make sure to monitor their feet regularly.
With a diabetic foot, minor injuries can become major emergencies quickly and with seemingly little notice. A wound as small as a blister from wearing a shoe that's too tight may lead to a limb- or life-threatening infection. As a diabetic, your infection
may spread quickly, and if you have any loss of sensation (neuropathy), you may not recognize that the problem is getting worse.
If you have diabetes, follow these tips from foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to care for your feet and catch problems early.
Inspecting Your Feet
If you have diabetes, examine your feet several (3-5) times every day:
- Look for puncture wounds, bruises, pressure areas, redness, warmth, blisters, ulcers, scratches, cuts, and nail problems. Make sure to look at your entire foot including between your toes. Get someone to help you or use a mirror. Wounds can be hidden
in areas that are hard to see, such as between the toes, in the skin folds on the ball of the foot, and on the sole of the foot.
- Check five major locations on the bottom of each foot: the tip of the big toe, where the toes join the foot, the heel, the outside edge of the foot, and across the ball of the foot.
- Feel each foot for swelling.
- Check for the ability to feel light touch, such as a cotton swab, in each foot.
If you find any injury — no matter how slight — don't try to treat it yourself. Go to a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon right away.
Taking Care of Your Feet
- Wash your feet every day with mild soap and warm water. Test the water temperature with your hand first to make sure it is not too hot or cold.
- Do not soak your feet.
- When drying your feet, pat each foot with a towel and be careful between your toes.
- Use quality lotion to keep the skin of your feet soft and moist — but don't put any lotion between your toes.
- Trim your toe nails straight across. Avoid cutting the corners.
- Use a nail file or emery board. If you find an ingrown toenail, see your doctor.
- Do not use antiseptic solutions, drugstore medications, heating pads, or sharp instruments on your feet.
- Do not put your feet on radiators, heating pads, or in front of the fireplace to warm them. Doing so may result in serious burns. If your feet feel cold, put on warm, well-fitting socks and shoes.
- Wear loose socks to bed.
- If your feet get wet in snow or rain, do not allow them to stay wet for any longer than absolutely necessary. Change your shoes and socks and dry your feet as soon as possible to prevent wounds and infections.
- Do not smoke. Tobacco use decreases the body's ability to heal.
Choosing and Wearing Shoes and Socks
- Choose your shoes carefully. Try on new
shoes late in the day when your feet are larger, and buy shoes that are comfortable without a breaking in period. Check how your shoe fits in width, length, back, bottom of heel, and sole.
- Avoid pointed-toe styles and high heels. Try to get shoes made with leather upper material and deep toe boxes.
- Wear new shoes for only two hours or less at a time until they are broken in.
- Do not wear the same pair of shoes every day.
- Inspect the inside of each shoe before putting it on and feel inside it with your hand.
- Do not lace your shoes too tightly or loosely.
- Wear clean, dry socks every day and avoid socks with holes or wrinkles. Thin cotton socks are more absorbent for summer wear. Square-toed socks will not squeeze your toes.
- Avoid stockings with elastic tops. Seamless socks are available for those with neuropathy. Consider using compression stockings if your feet tend to swell.
- Never walk barefoot or in sandals or flip-flops as serious burns from standing on hot surfaces may occur.
I have diabetes. Should I check my feet every day?
Yes. If you have diabetes, check your feet several times throughout the day, especially before and after putting on shoes and socks.
What shoes are best for diabetics?
If you have no deformity, comfortable shoes with stiff soles are usually best. Avoiding high heels and shoes that are too tight can prevent wounds. If you have a deformity, you may need a shoe made to the shape of your foot.
What do I do if I notice a wound?
Contact your foot and ankle orthopaedic specialist immediately if you notice a wound. Do not attempt to take care of the wound yourself, even if the wound is not painful.
What should I do if I can not see the bottom of my feet?
If you are unable to see the bottom of your foot, use a floor mirror (like you may see at a shoe store) or have another person inspect your feet.
Contributors/Reviewers: F. Ray Nickel, MD; David Macias, MD
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute
for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.