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Caring For Your Feet

Medical Information Authored by The Cleveland Clinic

When you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is very important. Poor foot care can lead to serious problems, including possibly having to remove the foot or leg (amputation).

As a person with diabetes, you are more vulnerable to foot problems because the disease can damage your nerves and reduce blood flow to your feet. The American Diabetes Association estimates that one in five people with diabetes who seek hospital care do so for foot problems. By taking proper care of your feet, most serious problems can be prevented.
Here are some tips to follow:

Wash and Dry Your Feet Daily

  • Use mild soaps.
  • Use warm water.
  • Pat your skin dry: do not rub. Thoroughly dry your feet.
  • After washing, use lotion on your feet to prevent cracking. Do not put lotion between your toes.

Examine Your Feet Each Day

  • Check the tops and bottoms of your feet. Have someone else look at your feet if you cannot see them.
  • Check for dry, cracked skin.
  • Look for blisters, cuts, scratches, or other sores.
  • Check for redness, increased warmth, or tenderness when touching any area of your feet. Check for ingrown toenails, corns, and calluses.
  • If you get a blister or sore from your shoes, do not “pop” it. Apply a bandage and wear a different pair of shoes.

Take Care of Your Toenails

  • Cut toenails after bathing, when they are soft.
  • Cut toenails straight across and smooth with an emery board.
  • Avoid cutting into the corners of toes.
  • You may want a podiatrist (foot doctor) to cut your toenails.

Be Careful When Exercising

  • Walk and exercise in comfortable shoes.
  • Do not exercise when you have open sores on your feet.

Protect Your Feet With Shoes and Socks

  • Never go barefoot. Always protect your feet by wearing shoes or hard-soled slippers or footwear.
  • Avoid shoes with high heels and pointed toes.
  • Avoid shoes that expose your toes or heels (such as open-toed shoes or sandals). These types of shoes increase your risk for injury and potential infections.
  • Try on new footwear with the type of socks you usually wear. Do not wear shoes for more than an hour at a time.
  • Look and feel inside your shoes before putting them on to make sure there are no foreign objects or rough areas.
  • Avoid tight socks.
  • Wear natural-fiber socks (cotton, wool, or a cotton-wool blend). Wear special shoes if your healthcare provider recommends them. Wear shoes/boots that will protect your feet from various weather conditions (cold, moisture, etc.).
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly. If you have neuropathy (nerve damage), you may not notice that your shoes are too tight. Perform the “footwear test” described below.

Footwear Test

Use this simple test to see it your shoes fit correctly:

  • Stand on a piece of paper. (Make sure you are standing and not sitting, because yourfoot changes shape when you stand.)
  • Trace the outline of your foot. Trace the outline of your shoe. Compare the tracings. Is the shoe too narrow? Is your foot crammed into the shoe? The shoe should be at least 1/2 inch longer than your longest toe and as wide as your foot.

Proper Shoe Choices

  • Closed toes and heels
  • Leather uppers without a seam inside.
  • At least 1/2 inch extra space at the end of your longest toe. Inside of shoe should be soft with no rough areas.
  • Outer sole should be made of stiff material.
  • Shoe should be at least as wide as your foot.

Tips for Foot Safety

  • Don’t wait to treat a minor foot problem. Follow your healthcare provider’s guidelines and the first aid guidelines
  • Report foot injuries and infections to your healthcare provider immediately.
  • Check water temperature with your elbow, not your foot.
  • Do not use a heating pad on your feet.
  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Do not self-treat your corns, calluses. or other foot problems. Go to your healthcare provider or podiatrist to treat these conditions.

When to Call Your Doctor

See your healthcare provider it you have any of the following problems with your feet:

  • Athlete’s foot (cracking between the toes)
  • Sores or wounds on your feet
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Increasing numbness or pain
  • Calluses
  • Redness
  • Blackening of skin
  • Bunions
  • Infection
  • Hammer toes (when the middle joint of toes is permanently bent downward)
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