Foot Care Advice for People With Diabetes

Woman and Shoesthinkstock
When you’re living with diabetes, what you can’t feel can still hurt you. This is especially true when it comes to your feet and the nerve damage you may be suffering. If you’ve just learned you have diabetes, you should arrange to meet with a podiatrist and talk about the importance of foot care, say experts Erika M. Schwartz, DPM, a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and Dr. David G. Armstrong, a podiatric surgeon and professor at the University of Arizona’s Department of Surgery.

Here, the doctors help you sidestep the foot pain complications of diabetes:

Q. When it comes to foot care, what is the first thing someone just diagnosed with diabetes should know?
Besides building a relationship with a podiatrist, a person with diabetes should know that most ulcerations and amputations are preventable, but proper foot care is essential.

Q. What is actually happening when you lose sensation in your feet?
Neuropathy describes the loss of sensation that arises from nerve damage. Over time, diabetes leads to what’s called a “loss of protective sensation,” or LOPS and because it occurs so slowly, many people don’t notice it. According to the National Diabetes Clearing House, about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, which can occur in other organ systems, not just the feet.

Q. How can I protect myself from nerve damage?
Neuropathies are the result of several factors, the largest being exposure to high blood glucose levels. Keeping blood sugar levels low is the best protection against nerve damage in a diabetic person. “There is some compelling emerging evidence that controlling high lipid levels may reduce the progression of neuropathy, too,” says Dr. Armstrong.

Q. Do feet need to be examined everyday?
Examining your feet should be as regular a habit as combing your hair or brushing your teeth. Dr. Armstrong recommends replacing your bathroom scale with a mirrored one. Red flags for foot problems include any swelling or redness, including new areas of discoloration and ingrown toenails. Any break in the skin is reason to contact your podiatrist immediately.

Q. How can I care for my toenails?
If you have neuropathy or symptoms of vascular disease you should leave toenail clipping to your podiatrist. If you are cutting your own toenails, cut straight across the top of the toenail, leaving part of the whiter nail plate, advises Dr. Schwartz who adds, “If you are unable to feel a cut, or don’t have the blood supply required to heal a cut, you likely shouldn’t be cutting your own toenails.”

More Expert Foot Care Tips

  • Use caution when shoe shopping — particularly in warmer weather. Neuropathy requires more protective footwear than a flip flop or sandal. Patients with nerve damage should avoid wearing sandals with straps that weave between the toes, or those that place extra pressure against the foot.
  • Know the dangers of going barefoot. If you’ve lost protective sensation in your feet you’re better off keeping them in shoes — even when you’re indoors. “Unfortunately,” Dr. Armstrong says, “up to 85% of steps are taken in and around the home– and most of those are taken barefoot.” Keep doctor-approved shoes in several places throughout your home. Love your flip flops? See a list of which earned a seal of acceptance from a panel of podiatric physicians.
  • Work with your endocrinologist to regulate your blood glucose levels. Checking your levels at home as instructed will help you to make better choices throughout the day. Learn more about why blood sugar matters.
  • Before you slip your foot into a shoe, check inside for foreign objects. It is a scary reality, but more than a few patients have needed to undergo an amputation brought on by ulcerations from items inside foot wear.
  • Slip on some white socks. An open sore on the foot may be easier to spot when you see drainage on the sock, suggests Dr. Schwartz.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy