Foot-related problems are more common among those with diabetes, so caring for your feet is essential. From neuropathy and nerve damage, to poor circulation and infection, high blood glucose can put feet at risk. Here’s a look at why foot care for diabetics is so important and ways you can help protect your tootsies.
How Diabetes Causes Common Foot Problems
High blood glucose over an extended period of time can lead to diabetic neuropathy. Nerve damage or loss of circulation to the body’s extremities can affect sensation, so feet can become numb. As such, many diabetics won’t even realise they’re experiencing foot problems straight away. It’s possible feet can be damaged, such as by blisters or even stones in a shoe, without the person being aware. This damage could develop into a serious complication if not treated.
Foot ulcers can affect around 1 in 10 diabetics. These can be slow to heal and require extensive treatment; suddenly small wounds or blisters could lead to the the threat of infections in the lower body or even amputation.
It’s important to avoid damage to your feet and general foot problems, including the likes of blisters, corns, cracked and dry skin, bunions, ingrown toenails, warts, athlete’s foot and calluses.
In caring for your feet and avoiding the common problems that can lead to complications, well-fitting shoes and non-restrictive socks are essential.
Diabetes & Serious Complications For Feet
Complications of diabetes-related foot problems can include the likes of foot ulcers (open wounds), Charcot foot (deformation) and at the extreme even amputation.
Because nerve damage can contribute to changes in the foot bones and muscles, feet are at risk of changing shape and becoming deformed. Furthermore, it’s possible to suffer a so-called ‘foot attack’, whereby a serious infection develops from a small break in the skin; what may start out as a small blister, cut or sore can become infected and will be a medical emergency. If you have concerns, please contact your GP.
If you develop poor blood flow it means the blood vessels aren’t able to get enough blood moving around your legs and feet. Extremities are most often as risk when it comes to blood flow problems. Areas with poor blood flow can struggle to heal infections and sores, which could lead to gangrene. Treatment may be antibiotics, such as is the case with foot attacks, but unfortunately some cases require gangrenous flesh being removed. Some diabetics have no choice but to have toes or a whole foot removed.
Tips For Caring For Your Feet With Diabetes
Foot care should be a high priority for diabetics, involving any ways you can reduce damage, improve circulation and regularly examine feet.
- Avoid walking barefoot to reduce risk of damage
- Keep feet clean
- Check your feet on a daily basis for signs of damage – Keep an eye out for things like colour changes, grazes, swelling, cuts, bruising, redness, ulcerations, nail problems, blisters, hard skin, cracking from dry skin, and sores
- Wear well fitting footwear that don’t pinch or rub toes/heels
- Bathe feet each day with lukewarm (not hot) water and gently dry them, patting dry between the toes
- Receive an NHS check-up from a professional at least once per year, though you may need these more regularly if you have symptoms of neuropathy, damage or poor circulation
- Wear soft, light-fitting socks that aren’t restrictive to bed if your feet get cold at night
- General advice is to eat a healthy diet, stay active, not to smoke and to keep on top of your BP, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- If you feel your diabetes isn’t well managed with diet/lifestyle changes/medication, speak to your GP
- Have any calluses removed by a podiatrist regularly, with wounds cleaned, dressed and allowed to breathe
- Use suitable products where necessary for elevating pressure, such as an orthowedge (special shoe to relief pressure to the front of your foot)
- Wear clean, well fitting socks that don’t impinge on circulation and change them daily
Diabetic Socks : Recommendations
Socks are an imperative part of the picture when caring for feet. I hadn’t realised just how important they are until researching for this article. The right socks and shoes are a valuable investment in looking after your tootsies and preventing problems from developing.
I’ve previously reviewed and recommended Heat Holders socks. There’s a great range of comfortable, soft socks that are available online for other occasions, such as thermal socks for wearing with boots.
Diabetic socks should have extra cushioning to protect feet from damage, be higher at the ankle with no tight elastic, and use fibres capable of wicking away moisture.
IOMI Footnurse have a great range of diabetic socks. From Sock Shop, these are specially designed for a comfortable fit, with extra wide, non-binding legs so as to aid circulation. They have extra cushioning in the foot and smooth toe seams, and are made from super soft fabric.
IOMI Footnurse Cushion Foot Diabetic Socks are specialist socks designed for ultimate comfort and with diabetics in mind :
- They’ve got wider lower legs and ankles with soft tops that don’t dig in. This means they’re not restrictive and they won’t hinder blood flow.
- The cushioned sole helps protect the feet from damage and the smooth toe seams prevents toe rubbing and chafing.
- The CoolMax fabric cleverly wicks away moisture so your feet stay dry and clean, and the sanitising treatment helps in preventing infection.
I’ve kindly been gifted the diabetic socks pictured above by Sock Shop so that I can include them in my post. They’re surprisingly soft and incredibly comfortable, and very different from the tightness you tend to find in regular ankle socks.
There’s also the IOMI Footnurse Gentle Grip Diabetic range. These have soft touch cotton for fresh, dry tooties. What’s special here is the top part, which is where you need more give so as to not impact circulation. These make use of their HoneyComb Top design, which moulds to the contours of your leg so they stay put without constricting at all. They’re non-binding to avoid any pressure and toe seams are hand linked so as to be smooth.
I’ve actually been buying my parents regular Gentle Grip socks for the last 2-3 years. They both complained of socks digging in and being too tight around the ankle/calf, and with their circulation issues I didn’t want to take any chances. The Gentle Grip don’t have elastic, yet they mould to your calf and don’t slip down. My folks only wear these socks now (which is why I’ve been giving them a new pack for each birthday & Christmas!)
Considering the quality and comfort, I’d say such socks are suitable for anyone with or without diabetes. For diabetics, the specialist range is ideal because of the extra cushioning and smooth toe seams. There are also socks specially designed for those with oedema and general swelling, made with a wider calf and a soft touch around the ankle to support rather than hinder circulation.
All socks on the Sock Shop Website
By taking good care of your feet, you can help reduce and prevent the problems caused by diabetes. As always, if you have any concerns please speak to your GP.
Do you have diabetes or know someone that does who’s had foot problems? Are there any things you’d like to try, or any tips you’d like to add?
[ Gifted/Ad – Products mentioned were kindly gifted so that I could share my honest thoughts & personal recommendations in this review. I was a Heat Holders user & had personally purchased other products prior to being gifted those included here ]