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Steps for Better Foot Health – What You Can Do Today

By Rachel Soong and Jeemin Kwon

Learn practical tips on taking care of your feet and how to easily make them a part of daily diabetes management

Having healthy feet is easy to take for granted, but feet literally support our day-to-day lives. This article is all about taking small steps to keep feet healthy today and for years to come.

Why is foot care important?

Neuropathy is a complication for many people with diabetes, and it occurs when a person’s nerves become damaged (read more about neuropathy here). Due to the numbness often caused by neuropathy, people often cannot feel small foot injuries. When untreated, these small injuries can become more serious, particularly because neuropathy and high blood glucose contribute to slower healing. In some cases, this may lead to amputation.

The good news is managing blood sugar levels and following recommended foot care guidelines can reduce the risk of amputation by 45-85%.

Help Your Feet In Less than 5 Minutes Per Day! Things You Can Do:

  • Check feet for sores, blisters, cuts, cracks, redness, tenderness, swelling, or scratches. Using a mirror may be helpful for checking the bottom of the feet.

  • Wash feet in lukewarm water, dry gently, especially between the toes – an area more prone to fungal infections.

  • When showering or bathing be sure to test water temperature with a hand or elbow before stepping in to avoid burns.

  • Use lotion on feet to prevent cracking, but don’t put the lotion between toes.

  • Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between toes to keep the skin in those areas dry.

  • Trim toenails carefully – straight across and file sharp ends. Trimming toenails straight across with a nail clipper can help prevent ingrown toenails that can be caused by rounding the corners of the nails.

Foot Care Bright Spots:

  • Buy shoes that fit properly and provide support and cushioning for the heel, arch, and ball of the foot. Visit a local shoe store and get fitted properly – it makes a big difference. Running stores often have great specialists and can give you personal attention (even if you don’t run).

  • Wear socks with breathable fabrics that draw sweat away from your skin (cotton and special acrylic fibers – check the label for fabric that “wicks” sweat).

  • If you find calluses, cuts, or other areas of concern on your feet, see a doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor) to receive care.

  • Ask your doctor to do a comprehensive foot exam at least once a year. (People diagnosed with neuropathy need more frequent foot exams). Your doctor should check the skin on your feet, muscles, bones, and blood flow, and sensation on your feet. Your doctor may assess sensation or feeling in the feet by touching them with a nylon monofilament (similar to a bristle on a hairbrush) attached to a wand or by pricking your feet with a pin.

  • Take foot injuries seriously and consult a physician about any concerns.

What to avoid:

  • Going barefoot anywhere – even in the house – to prevent injury to feet.

  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes or socks.

  • Wearing socks made out of non-breathable fabric like nylon or socks with tight elastic bands, as these reduce circulation.

  • Soaking feet – if the skin begins to break down, your risk for infection increases.

  • Smoking – it impairs circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood (these circulatory problems can result in more severe wounds and poor healing).

Symptoms worth bringing up to your healthcare provider:

  • Tingling, burning, prickling sensation, sharp pains, or cramps in feet.

  • Increased sensitivity in feet to touch even light touch, sometimes feeling like you have gloves or socks on when you don’t, or feet and hands getting very cold or very hot.

  • Insensitivity to pain or temperature even with blisters or injuries.

  • Can’t feel feet when walking (feet are numb).

  • Muscles in feet and legs feel weaker.

  • Open sores (ulcers) on feet and legs that heal slowly.

  • Loss of balance and coordination (unsteady when you stand or walk).

  • Changes in your gait.

[Information sourced from the NIDDK]

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