Maybe you’ve heard horror stories of how your friend’s second-cousin (or their great-aunt, or their mechanic, or a guy they saw once on TV) got their foot amputated from diabetes. Maybe you’ve Googled “diabetic feet” and seen images that you can’t unsee. The horror stories are enough to make you want turn a blind eye and just hope for the best. It’s understandable, but not the best strategy.
The truth is that amputation is rare, and foot care is completely doable. It’s just a little more involved for people with diabetes (aren’t you surprised?). Diabetes can lead to nerve damage and poor circulation in your feet, which puts you at risk for an array of foot complications (see the entire unpleasant list here). These complications can build off each other so that your feet are both more prone to injury and less able to deal with them.
But let’s not talk about every single thing that could go wrong. Here are 8 ways to keep your feet healthy so they avoid complications as much as possible!
1. Control Your Blood Sugar
Let’s get this one out of the way because you’re likely already doing the best you can to control your blood sugar. If that’s the case, please proceed to tip number 2!
If you are in need of more motivation to control your blood sugar, then know that the better you control your blood sugar, the less likely you are to develop neuropathy and poor circulation. This means you will be at less risk for diabetic foot ulcers, which happen to about 25% of people with diabetes. Complications from diabetic ulcers are a leading cause of foot amputation.
Poorly controlled blood sugar also puts you at risk for peripheral arterial disease, which can make it painful to walk or cause numbness or tingling.
So in the off chance that you aren’t motivated to monitor your blood sugar—do it for your feet!
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2. Establish a foot care routine
Things are easier if they’re a part of a routine. Commit to good foot health by setting aside a small amount of time each day to quickly but faithfully perform the foot care 101 routine:
- Check your feet every day. Check the tops, bottoms, heels, and in between your toes for cuts and sores. Since a small injury can become a big deal, and since any neuropathy may compromise sensation, make sure to visually check your feet each day. If you can’t see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or enlist a supportive loved one.
- Wash your feet every day. Your infection risk will decrease if your feet are clean. Wash and thoroughly dry your feet. Moisturizing is a good idea to prevent cracking, but avoid moisturizing between the toes where bacteria likes to grow.
- Use warm, not hot, water. Neuropathy and/or poor circulation may make it possible for you to put your feet in scalding water and not even know it—not the best way to avoid injury! Test the water with another part of your body first so that you know it’s safe.
3. Dress your feet in style
Your socks and shoes need to protect your feet throughout the day, so make sure that they are up to the task. Choose socks that are protective, good-quality, and won’t irritate your feet. See the complete diabetes sock-buying guide here. Socks should, at minimum, keep your feet dry and comfortable.
As for shoes, just say no to shoes that pinch, rub, or cause pain. Shoes that are too tight or that squish your toes can cause hammertoes, corns, bunions, and ingrown toenails. These complications can become infected or cause lasting deformities. Choose shoes that absorb impact well and evenly distribute your weight. Loose shoes aren’t a good idea either, because those can rub and cause blisters. This is your excuse to go for good-quality, comfortable shoes that make you feel like you’re walking on the clouds!