Foot care with diabetes

Reasons to care for your feet

Diabetes puts you at higher risk for foot problems in two ways 

  1. Damage to the nerves. You may feel pain, numbness or loss of feeling, and stinging.
  2. Damage to blood vessels in the legs. A small wound on the foot that is not taken care of can lead to a bad infection. That infection might lead to amputation.

How to care for your feet

Do the following

  • Check your feet each day.
    • Use a mirror to help you look for ingrown toe nails, redness, drainage, and swelling. 
  • Wash your feet each day in warm water and dry them well (especially between the toes).
    • Test the water temperature with your hand or elbow before putting your feet in the water. 
  • Keep your toenails trimmed. 
    • Trim nails straight across and file the edges. 
  • Put lotion on dry feet. 
    • Do not put the lotion between your toes. 
  • Take off your shoes and socks each time you see your doctor.  
  • Always check inside of your shoes before you put them on to make sure nothing is in them that could hurt your feet. 
  • Have a foot exam every year.

Things you should avoid:

  • Do not go barefoot. 
  • Do not soak your feet. 
  • Do not wear shoes that do not fit or socks that are tight. 
  • Do not try to fix foot problems at home. 
    • Do not use a razor blade. 
  • Do not use heating pads or put a hot water bottle on your feet. 
  • Do not cross your legs for long amounts of time. 
    • This lowers blood flow to your feet.

What to wear on your feet

For your socks: 

  • Choose socks that are seamless or have soft, flat seams.
  • Wear clean, cotton socks that will absorb sweat. 
  • Choose light colored socks to help show blood or fluid draining from an unseen wound.
  • Do not use socks with tight bands on top.

For your shoes:

  • Have your feet sized each time you buy new shoes. 
  • Shop for shoes later in the day, when your feet may be swollen, to make a better fit
  • Choose shoes that have enough room inside so your toes do not curl or rub against your shoe.
  • Buy shoes with a low heel. This will put less stress on your feet. 
  • Break in shoes slowly. 
  • Choose slippers with sturdy toes.

Be aware of these signs of decreased blood flow in your feet

  • Leg pain when walking or doing activity that goes away with rest
  • Shiny skin on lower legs
  • Legs that are dark purple when hanging
  • Lack of hair growth on your legs

Call your doctor if you have any of the following 

  • Nerve damage to your feet (diabetic neuropathy) and you need your toenails cut and calluses removed 
  • Ingrown toenails 
  • Open sores (with or without drainage), rash, or blisters on your feet.



    Last reviewed: 
    September 2018

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