Little Treats for Happier Diabetic Feetby 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.