Foot problems are common in people with diabetes—but taking care of your “dogs,” starting with a daily foot exam (and visiting your doctor when needed), can go a long way in helping you prevent complications. Proper foot care comes down to two overarching principles, says Jessie Ahroni, Ph.D., author of 101 Tips on Foot Care for People with Diabetes: regular exams and wearing proper shoes. To that end, follow these helpful tips:
Check your feet daily. Make it a soothing ritual rather than a task. Be sure to do the following:
- Wash and dry carefully, then apply lotion everywhere but between your toes, where it can be abrasive.
- Keep your toenails trimmed straight across; file with an emery board.
- Look for danger signs: cuts, sores, blisters, swelling or breaks between the toes. See a doctor if any lesion takes longer than two days to heal.
Get an annual exam. Make sure your doctor checks your feet annually—and more often if you have had any foot problems in the past.
Choose your shoes wisely. Running shoes are your best choice, Ahroni says. But maybe wearing running shoes all the time isn’t an option—or your preference. That’s fine. Just make sure that the shoes you wear fit properly. Here’s how:
- Try them on in person. Avoid mail-order purchases unless you can easily return those that do not fit correctly.
- Test shoes with the same type of socks you normally use and try them on late in the day when your feet are the largest.
- Have your shoe size checked each time you buy shoes, especially if you have lost or gained weight.
- If you need orthotic support, ask your doctor if you are eligible for Medicare coverage for shoes designed specifically for people with diabetes.
Replace shoes regularly. Telltale signs that it may be time for a new pair: uneven wear at the bottom of the shoe and knee pain.
Keep blood flowing. People with neuropathy—foot numbness—are most at risk of severe foot problems, Ahroni says, because they cannot feel pain, such as a shoe rubbing against the foot. Most cases of neuropathy are caused by poor blood flow; you can help avoid that or keep it from getting worse by getting regular exercise. Also, wiggle your toes and put your ankles up regularly; avoid crossing your legs for long periods.
Protect your feet from injury. Always wear shoes and socks. Use sandals on the beach and in the water. Before you get into a pool or the tub, test the water for proper temperature. Check your shoes for foreign objects and to assure the lining is smooth and won’t rub. A little prevention—and pampering—pays off.