9 Tips on Choosing the Right Diabetic Shoes for You

For someone with diabetes, choosing the right pair of diabetic shoes is crucial because their feet are so vulnerable. Here's a guide to not only getting shoes that protect your feet, but how to care for your feet as well.

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Have a foot-protection plan

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The feet can take a beating when you have diabetes. Poor circulation from damaged blood vessels slows healing and makes feet more prone to infection, while nerve damage can dull sensation and leave you oblivious to injuries that can quickly get out of control. Foot troubles are one of the more common complications of diabetes—here are 11 other silent diabetes complications.

In the grand scheme of things, foot hassles may seem almost comically mundane, but you just can’t dismiss broken skin, corns, calluses, bunions, or ingrown toenails when you have diabetes. Left untreated for long, such conditions can put you at risk of losing a foot—or even a leg—to gangrene. In fact, about 15 percent of people with diabetes in the United States eventually develop foot problems that threaten a limb, and more than 50,000 must undergo amputations every year.

The sole piece of equipment you need for an effective exercise plan is a good pair of walking shoes. They’ll help you travel farther and faster with more comfort—and no blisters or injuries. And if you want to try an approach that can put you in control of your diabetes, try this step-by-step plan.

Shop at a respected athletic-shoe store

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A skilled salesperson can size your feet and find the best shoe for your foot shape and size. Tell the salesperson what type of terrain you’ll be walking on and how many miles on average you plan to walk a week. Check out these 20 shoe-buying secrets from shoe salespeople.

Bring an old pair of walking shoes

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And don't forget your walking socks when you go to the store. The salesperson can look at the wear pattern on your shoes to determine what type of shoe you need. For example, if the inner heel is more worn than the outer heel, your foot probably turns in excessively as you walk. In this case, you’ll want some extra arch support and a shoe designed for “motion control.” Be sure you try on walking shoes while wearing the socks you plan to walk in, not thicker or thinner ones. Did you know that you should never wear shoes without socks? Here's why.

Try on your shoes and walk around the store

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Make sure the shoe hugs your heel; your heel should not slide up and down as you walk. The shoe should also have a firm arch support, and the forefoot of the shoe should bend with the natural bend in your foot. Most important, the shoes should feel comfortable when you walk. 

Do the twist test

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A good walking shoe should be flexible enough to accommodate your foot’s natural heel-to-toe roll. If you can’t twist the sole from side to side, it’s too stiff. You want those shoes to be comfortable because they'll not only encourage you to walk more, they can be your ticket to better blood sugar control and weight loss. Take a look at these 16 ways to lose weight walking.

Examine your feet daily

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If you have nerve damage, you could have sores, cuts, swelling, and infection that you can’t feel, so give your feet an exam once a day, perhaps at bedtime. Go over them with both your eyes and your hands. Let your doctor know if you find evidence of any problems. Besides blisters, cuts, bruises, cracking, or peeling, look for areas that are shaded differently (either paler or redder), which could indicate persistent pressure from shoes. Feel for areas of coldness, which could be a sign of poor circulation, or warmth (along with redness), which might be evidence of an infection. If you have trouble seeing the bottoms of your feet, place a mirror on the floor and look at the reflection. Did you know that there are at least 10 subtle signs of disease that your feet can reveal?

Clean and treat minor scrapes and cuts right away 

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If you find a small cut or sore on your foot, treat it immediately. Wash your hands with soap and water. Then wash the wound with soap and water, rinse with more water, and pat it dry with a clean towel or tissue paper. Dab some antibiotic ointment onto a cotton swab and smear a thin layer of the ointment onto the wound. (Don’t apply the ointment with your finger.) Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage. If the wound doesn’t look better within a day, or if you see signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, warmth, or oozing, call your doctor or podiatrist immediately. 

Keep your tootsies smooth and dry

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Avoid cracked skin and reduce the risk of infection by toweling off your feet thoroughly after bathing, especially between your toes. Rub lotion or cream on the tops and bottoms of your feet to keep them moist, and sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes to prevent fungal growth. Here are some more tips on taking care of your feet if you have diabetes.

Trim your toenails 

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Do it at least once a week after bathing, cutting straight across the nails and smoothing them with a nail file or emery board. If this is difficult for you, ask your podiatrist to trim your toenails at your next visit. Want to know what your doctor is thinking? Here are 13 things your podiatrist won't tell you.

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