Foot problems are a common concern for those with diabetes. The disease causes nerve damage that impacts your ability to recognize when your feet are injured and elevates your risk for ulcers and, in some cases, amputation. Diabetes also affects your body’s ability to heal. Your feet receive less blood and oxygen when you have the disease, so recovery from even a minor skin irritation can be lengthy. Reduce your risk for long-term foot injury by following a few safety guidelines when purchasing walking shoes.
While many walking shoes initially have a tight fit but stretch over time, a lack of sensitivity in your feet caused by diabetes often prevents you from recognizing your shoes are too tight until a blister has developed. Choose walking shoes that are comfortable and give your feet and toes sufficient room for movement. Socks are essential to your foot protection, so check that any new shoes have room for socks made of thicker fabric. Your feet are often more swollen late in the day, so try on walking shoes in the afternoon or evening to ensure the shoes will be comfortable around the clock.
MedlinePlus recommends leather, canvas or suede walking shoes for those with a diabetes diagnosis. Bypass potential foot injury that can come from wearing walking shoes that don’t let your feet breathe, including those made of plastic or other hard material.
Walking shoes for diabetics should be adjustable to accommodate swelling or the need for special padding. Look for shoes with laces or buckles that can be loosened with minimal time and effort. Velcro walking shoes can also be adjusted to provide more flexibility. Open-toed shoes, thong sandals, flip-flops and high heels are typically rigid and don’t protect your feet from the environment.
Your doctor may recommend orthotics, or custom-made walking shoes, based on the level of sensitivity in your feet. Orthotics help stabilize your foot and control the motion of your joints to accommodate for the lack of feeling. Most orthotics are made based on the results of a foot and ankle evaluation to determine what type of shoe is best suited to your health condition and level of activity. A plaster mold will be made of your foot in some cases to ensure an ideal fit. Ask your doctor if the shoes may be covered by your insurance, as orthotics are expensive.
Reduce pressure on your feet by alternating your walking shoes every five hours or giving your feet time to breathe. Ensure proper blood flow by setting aside at least three times daily to extend your toes and move ankles up and down. Alert your doctor if you notice any sores, blisters or swelling on your feet, as fast treatment is essential to prevent minor injuries from developing into potentially life-threatening problems.