Little Treats for Happier Diabetic Feet

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

Leonardo da Vinci called the foot a "masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." Um, with all due respect to the great artist, when you have diabetes, your feet can feel like a total fail. In addition to diabetes, I have bunions, collapsed arches, and am prone to blisters. For people with diabetes, feet can also be the source of dangerous and even life-threatening complications like foot ulcers.

That's why I take my foot care seriously, and so should you. Check out our diabetes foot care toolkit to see what never fails my feet, and get ready to treat your feet right, too!

Cabeau bamboo compression socks
Courtesy of Cabeau

Compression Socks

To protect your feet, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that everyone with diabetes use therapeutic footwear, including socks and shoes. If you spend long periods sitting, consider using therapeutic compression socks to help aid circulation. As far as fabric, soft, breathable, moisture-wicking bamboo is a favorite. I personally like Cabeau's bamboo compression socks. They’re soft and incredibly comfortable, and provide just the right level of support for long days at my desk, or when I'm traveling.

Thorlos Diabetic Sock - low cut length
Courtesy of Thorlos

Padded Socks

In addition to compression socks, the ADA also recommends using padded socks to prevent blisters and calluses that can increase the risk of diabetic foot ulcers. Thorlos is one of the big names in socks for people with diabetes, offering a range of padded and compression socks for men and women. For some fun with a splash of style, DearMy also sells cushioned, moisture-wicking padded women’s socks in fun neon colors.

Barefoot Scientist Pre-Heel blister prevention spray
Courtesy of Barefoot Scientist

Blister Prevention Spray

Blisters can lead to foot ulcers in people with diabetes, so prevention is a must. Keep a blister protection spray handy for everyday use. Spritz it on before putting on socks, and it forms a protective barrier to help keep those bubbles at bay. My personal pick: I love the silky feel of Barefoot Scientist Pre-Heel blister prevention spray.

Amopé Pedi Perfect Electronic Foot File

Electronic Foot File

People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing foot calluses, and those calluses can increase the risk of diabetic foot complications. Here's a tip: Be careful about pedicures. Unsterile tools can increase the risk of infection. If you need your calluses shaved, see a podiatrist. At home, you can use a foot file to safely keep them under control. A manual foot file takes forever, but an electronic one like the Amopé Pedi Perfect Electronic Foot File gets the job done fast!

Dr. Rehm's Balm Riche Natural Foot Cream
Courtesy of Dr. Rehm

A Great Foot Cream

Diabetic skin tends to be dry–especially on your feet, which are more prone to cracking and damage. Keep 'em well-moisturized but bypass regular lotions, which can be too lightweight for the job; go straight for a cream that's specially designed for feet. My favorite: Dr. Rehm's Balm Riche Natural Foot Cream. It comes in a jar, but you can also get a travel-size version, too.

FitFlop Glace winter boots

The Right Shoes

Comfortable, protective shoes are the big daddy of diabetic foot protection. That's why you'll find me in FitFlop footwear most of the time. I have FitFlop's Fino flip-flops, Eloise sandals, and Glace winter boots–they have built-in features to prevent blisters and provide extra support. For dressier occasions, I go for Clarks and Merrell footwear. All these brands offer a range of supportive comfort for both men and women.

 Rad Recovery Rounds
Courtesy of Rad Roller

Exercise Balls for Your Feet

One common diabetes complication is neuropathy, a tingling and numbness in the feet. You can help improve circulation and relieve symptoms of peripheral neuropathy by exercising your feet, according to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. Make it easy using Rad Recovery Rounds–small therapeutic rubber balls that let you get a safe, gentle foot workout–and check with a physical therapist to find out how to best customize your foot workout for you.

Geekidoc home test for diabetic foot neuropathy

A Home Neuropathy Test

In addition to regularly getting checked by your doctor, you should also do a periodic home test for diabetic foot neuropathy. Geekidoc has an inexpensive filament kit that lets you do your own home neuropathy check. It's soft and flexible, and in the shape of a foot–a little more fun than your traditional test! Ask your doctor or diabetes educator to show you how to do it.

Kohm CP-240L Straight Edge Toenail Clippers

A Straight-edge Toenail Clipper

Experts recommend that people with diabetes trim toenails straight across rather than on a curve to avoid the risk of ingrown toenails. Most toenail clippers are designed to cut on the curve, so you'll need to specifically pick a straight-edge clipper. My recommendation: the large, easy-to-handle–and superstrong–Kohm CP-240L Straight Edge Toenail Clippers.

CloudMassage Shiatsu Foot Massager
Courtesy of CloudMassage

A Foot Massager

Massaging your feet can stimulate blood flow and help circulation. According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, while we need further research to confirm any long-term benefits, foot massage clearly provides temporary relief of neuropathy symptoms. You can go for a reflexology treatment or Thai foot massage, or try a home foot massager like the CloudMassage Shiatsu Foot Massager. This medical-grade massager helps increase blood flow to the feet and improves circulation.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.