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Taking Care of Your Feet

        Health | Diabetes

People who have diabetes are at greater risk for foot problems, which can lead to amputations. Following your meal plan, being active and taking your medications can help keep your blood glucose under control and help prevent foot problems.

Check Your Feet Every Day

  • Wash and check your feet. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
  • Use a mirror to look at all sides of each foot, including the bottom.
  • Look for changes in foot shape and color, including redness. Changes in your foot's shape may indicate broken bones, or fractures. Changes in color or loss of hair may indicate that too little blood is getting to the foot. Bruises suggest injuries.
  • Check for growths, such as corns, bunions or calluses.
  • Check for sores, blisters or redness.
  • Check feeling or sensation by brushing a feather or facial tissue gently against your foot. Can you feel the light touch? Run some warm water in a basin — but check the temperature first with your elbow. Put your feet in. Can you feel the warmth? Fill the basin with cold water and test again. Can your feet feel the difference between warm and cold?

If you see any problems or changes, see your primary care doctor, diabetes educator or foot doctor — called a podiatrist — immediately.

Protect Your Feet

Following these self-care tips can help you protect your feet from damage.

  • Keep skin soft by applying lotion daily. Be sure to moisturize the heels. However, do not put oils or creams between your toes. The extra moisture can lead to infection.
  • Dust sweaty feet with nonmedicated powder.
  • Trim nails straight across with a nail clipper. Never round corners. Better yet, use a nail file or emery board to file nails. Do not rip off hangnails. If you have problems seeing, reaching or safely cutting nails, have your podiatrist trim them regularly.
  • Keep calluses under control. Calluses that become too thick or dry can cause splits in the underlying skin and lead to infection. Never try to cut calluses or corns yourself — this can lead to ulcers and infection. If you have good feeling and sensation in your feet, and your circulation is good, you may be able to safely reduce calluses by using a pumice stone or foot file. It is best to use the pumice stone on wet skin, always rubbing your skin in only one direction. Then put on lotion right after you use it; avoiding getting lotion between your toes. These actions help you avoid tearing the skin. Never use chemical agents or razor blades. Check with your doctor to be sure of what's best for your feet. If you can't easily reduce calluses, talk with your podiatrist.
  • Keep your feet warm. Don't walk in wet shoes or expose your feet to extreme cold. But never use hot-water bottles, heating pads or electric blankets on your feet. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
  • Have your doctor check your feet at every appointment. Remember to take off your socks and shoes while you wait for your doctor.

Choosing Shoes and Socks

  • Wear well-padded socks that don't have inside seams or ridges. Avoid socks with elastic bands or garters. Stay away from socks that constrict your feet. Pull your socks on gently to prevent ripping a toenail.
  • Choose flat, well-fitting shoes that provide support and that don't rub or bind. Always buy shoes in the afternoon, because that's when your feet are slightly swollen. Look for shoes made of soft, breathable material such as leather. Avoid shoes made from plastic or man-made materials. If you have problems finding shoes that fit, you may need to buy custom-molded shoes. Ask your podiatrist for referrals.
  • Break in new shoes gradually. Never wear a new pair for more than two hours. Then check your feet for blisters or areas of redness. Change shoes every day to allow them to dry properly between wearing.
  • Avoid wearing sandals or going barefoot. Bare feet can easily become cut or bruised and result in deep sores, called ulcerations, which can even lead to amputations. Sandals put pressure between or on the toes. They can also allow the foot to slide and lead to injuries. Keep slippers by your bed to use when you get up at night.
  • Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure there are no pebbles, nails or other sharp objects in them. Also make sure that the shoe itself is not rough and the lining is not torn.

Written by Bobbie Hasselbring

Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD

Last updated June 2008


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