Foot trouble can be a scary complication of diabetes. The stories you hear are often quite exaggerated and the problems are sometimes wildly misrepresented.
But it’s still important to be educated on what to look for and what you can do to reduce risks and keep your feet in good health. Short of stocking up on diabetic shoes and socks (more to come on those), what do you really need to pay attention to in the sea of stinky-feet-stories, and what can you gloss over?
The bulk of foot issues with diabetes happen as an indirect side-effect of damaged nerves (peripheral neuropathy for my brainaics) and reduced circulation. Nerve problems can impact both the sensory nerves in the skin or even some of the motor nerves that control muscle movement.
Symptoms can range from numbness, burning/tingling pain like the pins-and-needles sensation of a foot falling asleep, extreme sensitivity to touch/heat/cold, or even lack of coordination/balance. All of this means those tiny toes become easy targets for little injuries that can quickly become much larger problems. Especially if they are somehow injured and you don’t notice.
What you can do
But never fear! Here are 5 tips on how to maintain those precious piggy’s and keep you in your dancing shoes.
- CLEAN YOUR FEET! Sounds basic, but the truth is, good basic hygiene is important! And if you make a concerted effort to regularly glance down at those feet during your shower (bonus points if you include soap and water), not only are you helping avoid the malodorous drama of stinky feet at the gym, but you are also actively protecting yourself from unknown sores and nasty ulcers.
- EMBRACE PEDICURES! Even an at home pedicure can save the budget and still pamper those aching dogs. Before visiting a salon for a pedicure, there are a few important things to consider - see the section below to learn more
- NO POLAR BEAR RUNS! Sure, your wild urges to run barefoot thru nature seem like a good idea, but the #truthbomb here is that going barefoot outdoors can be dangerous! Ignoring the host of squirm-worthy bacteria, if you have even the earliest stages of neuropathy, the hot ground or cold snow might not FEEL as intense as it really is, thus you could be damaging your feet without even knowing it. Be super smart about protecting your feet.
- WHEN IN DOUBT – CHECK IT OUT! Don’t play it cool if you think you have something amiss with your feet. Odd sensations, call the doc. Sore that just keeps coming back or won’t heal right, head on in. Don’t wait, and don’t doubt yourself. Your FEET ground you in your day-to-day (literally) and keeping them healthy is an important part of your overall diabetes care. Your endocrinologist is a good start for having a solid foot check on a regular basis.
- TAME THE BEAST! I mean, you knew this was coming right, but if you want to have a foundation of good feet, you need to feed them with good fuel. Aim for awesome nutrition, stellar hydration, and ultimately do your best to maintain steady/healthy blood sugars!
If you are dealing with any foot complications, like nerve trouble, poor circulation, open wounds, or existing infections you’re better off skipping the salon and visiting a podiatrist or dermatologist for nail care. If you’re not dealing with any of that and decide to go to the salon, keep these things in mind to reduce your risk of trouble.
Don’t shave your legs day of the appointment, they’re more vulnerable to infections when freshly shaved. Let the person doing your nails know you have diabetes and request a more gentle treatment and instruct them to avoid any sharp tools to remove dead skin (gentle use of pumice stones are recommended instead). Don’t cut the nails too short, and make sure there are no sharp edges. Be very picky about salon sanitation and be sure they are very strict about following clean practices. Inspect tools to ensure cleanliness and if you’re not sure, ask!
After each service, everything should be cleaned with a hospital-grade, EPA-registered disinfectant especially designed for pedicure stations. If they are not cleaned as often or with proper chemicals, don’t take the chance. You can also check out these great articles for more details:
Diabetic shoes & socks
What’s the deal with special shoes and socks for people with diabetes, anyway? Are they legit? Or just another money-making method employed by marketing predators?
What makes a shoe a “diabetic shoe” and what makes a sock a “diabetic sock?” There are actually a few differences you should know about.
Shoes for people with diabetes usually have extra wiggle room for your toes, helping prevent hot spots or blisters from toes rubbing together too much or rubbing against the edges of the shoe. They’re also deeper with a removable insole, making more room for orthotics to correct any imbalance, cushion your heel, and support your arches.
The soles are thick and wide, cushioning your feet and allowing extra room to prevent hot spots from rubbing. Look for lace-up shoes rather than slip-on. Feet often swell during the day, so something that fits fine in the morning may need to be adjusted in the afternoon. And check for a smooth inner lining. You don’t want inner seams that rub your feet in all the wrong ways.
Socks for people with diabetes are made with antimicrobial moisture-wicking material which prevents extra moisture from creating a happy home for fungal infections. They have less elastic to reduce constriction and not create added circulation issues. Extra padding is available for sensitive areas. And you’d see signs of any injuries or draining wounds easier with white soled socks than with dark colors.
The folks at https://siren.care/ make technology infused socks that actively monitor foot temperature and can call your attention to potentially developing problem areas.
Alright! There you have it! Now you’re in the know about diabetes and foot health.
Don’t let the urban legends of diabetes complications scare you into ignoring those mighty meta-tarsals. Take the lead and run with it!