Caring for Your Feet When You Have Diabetes


With diabetes, there are several complications that can make you more prone to foot issues. First, high blood sugar can mean you’re at risk for infection. Second, you might unknowingly suffer from nerve damage, or neuropathy. Diabetes can also impede circulation, making you more prone to injuries, cuts, calluses, and blisters. Here are a few things you can do to safeguard against those problems.

Image via Flickr by Charli Lopez

Perform Daily Checks

Nerve damage, also called neuropathy, is a common complication of diabetes. Nerve damage can be tricky because it presents differently for different people. Not all nerve damage is painful or numbing. In fact, some patients with nerve damage don’t have any symptoms at all.

Some nerve damage keeps you from feeling hot or cold or even pain. That means you can be unaware of cuts, blisters, sores, and other problems that can lead to infection. So if you have diabetes, important to check your feet daily for potential problems.

When you put shoes and socks on, take a moment to examine your feet for cuts, cracks, and other injuries (use a mirror if you have difficulty bending over.) Even a seemingly small cut can lead to infection or take awhile to heal. Make a note of any cuts you have and keep track of how long they take to heal. People managing diabetes often have difficulty healing, but it’s important to be able to tell your healthcare provider how long you’ve had the injury.

Stop Dipping a Toe in the Water…Literally

Have you ever dipped your toe in the bath to test the temperature? Don’t. If you have nerve damage, you might not feel the heat. You could be placing your toes into scalding water and not realize it, causing your skin to burn and blister. Instead, use a bath thermometer that can give you an accurate reading without running the risk of injuring yourself.

Wash Your Feet

Good hygiene is an excellent way to fight infection, but there are a few things you want to be careful of. Wash your feet, but don’t soak them. Soaking can dry them out and leave them more prone to cracking. Instead, wash them and apply lotion to the tops and bottoms. Avoid applying lotion in-between your toes as that can also cause infection by leaving the area too moist.

Use Proper Toe Nail Care

Clipping your toenails is critical to properly managing your diabetes. Long toenails can scratch, even in your sleep. Scratches can get infected or turn into sores that take a long time to heal. Short, unevenly clipped nails can also be troublesome.

If you rip toenails or clip them unevenly or too short, you can run the risk of developing an ingrown nail and suffering subsequent infection. Always clip straight across just below the top of the toe. If you’re not able to do it yourself, go to a nail technician or a podiatrist for regular nail care.

Be Mindful of Your Shoes and Sock Choices

When it comes to diabetic footwear, you want to select shoes and socks that are less likely to cause blisters. That means avoiding potentially painful seams in socks or shoes as well as leaving plenty of room in the toe box. When trying on shoes, make sure there is not a lot of slipping of the shoe on the back of your heel. This can cause blisters.

If you’re unsure of the shoe’s fit, ask a salesclerk to help. You should also keep in mind water weight/retention as you try your shoes on. If you’re prone to swelling in the morning and the shoes are just right, know that in the afternoon they may be too large for you.

Wear Shoes

It’s lovely to feel the soft carpet under your feet, but going without shoes can leave your feet unprotected. That places you at greater risk for splinters, cuts, scrapes, and other injuries that can become something more serious. Even a pair of slippers can give your feet some protection. Get in the habit of protecting your feet with footwear whether you’re outside or in.

Have Corns and Calluses Removed Professionally

Don’t file down corns or calluses on your own. If you have nerve damage, you might not feel the burning of the friction until it’s too late. Instead, treat yourself to a pedi or ask your podiatrist to take care of it for you.

Again, you can feel confident applying moisturizer to the tops and bottoms or your feet, even massaging it into your calluses to soften them, but avoid getting moisturizer between the toes.

Keep It Cool

Whether it’s a chilly day or you simply have cold feet, which can be a symptom of nerve damage, don’t use home remedies to warm them up. Avoid a hot water foot soak, hot water bottle, placing them close to the fire, or laying an electric blanket on your feet. You may not feel the extent of the heat and could accidentally burn yourself.

Instead, if your feet are cold, add another layer of socks or a regular blanket. That way you can benefit from the warmth without burning yourself.

Safeguard Your Circulation

Ever sit in a position for a while and then move only to feel pins and needles in your extremities? That happened because of a lack of circulation. But if you have diabetes and nerve damage, you may not feel the prickling sensation that causes many of us to move.

To avoid this, don’t cross your legs or remain standing or in the same position for a long time. Instead, prop your feet up when sitting and wiggle your toes every few minutes to increase circulation.

Taking care of your feet is important to your overall health if you’re diabetic. What appears to be a small blister can become so much more than that. Do you have a suggestion of your own that you’d like to share with us at Scheck & Siress? Leave it for us in the comments and we’ll add it to our post.