Seven tips for healthy feet

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Caring for your feet is important if you live with diabetes because you are at higher risk of problems with your feet. We’ve put together seven tips to help you keep your feet healthy and in top condition, and 10 warning signs to look out for.

Foot complications

Diabetes-related foot complications are one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions. People with diabetes are three to seven times more likely to have a non-traumatic amputation than people without diabetes. This is because:

  • Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet and legs.
  • Damaged blood vessels means less blood will reach your reach your feet.
  • Damaged nerves can change the feeling in your feet.
  • Reduced feeling in your feet means you may not notice a pressure injury, blister, corn or callous.

10 warning signs for your feet

The following can be symptoms of poor blood supply to your feet:

  1. Numb or cold feet
  2. Aches and pains in feet or legs after walking
  3. Slow healing
  4. Changes in skin colour

The following can be signs of nerve damage:

  1. Numbness
  2. A burning sensation
  3. Pins and needles
  4. Sharp pains or cramps in feet and legs
  5. Being unable to feel sores, cuts or blisters. This can lead to infections, ulcers, gangrene and amputation
  6. Dry skin

Seven tips for healthy feet

Sometimes we forget about our feet. We need to wash, dry and moisturise our feet every day. Here are seven helpful tips that you can use at home to keep your feet in top shape:

  1. Wash your feet every day
  2. Dry your feet well, paying particular attention to between the toes – moisture trapped in between the toes can lead to skin breakdown and infection
  3. Moisturise your feet daily – do not apply creams in between your toes, this area needs to be kept dry
  4. Look after your toenails – cut your nails straight across and gently file any rough edges. If your nails have thickened, see a podiatrist
  5. Wear the correct foot wear – enclosed shoes are best that have adjustable fastening devices such as laces, Velcro or buckles. Enclosed shoes help prevent dry, cracked heels and protect the whole foot from injury
  6. Make sure your shoes fits well, be sure they don’t cause blisters or rubbing and have a small heel height of less than 2cm
  7. Wear well-fitting seamless socks or stockings

More tips to keep your feet healthy can be found in this factsheet.

Footwear

Wearing the right footwear is important to prevent wounds or ulcers and keep feet healthy. Ensure your shoes do not cause foot problems – they should be professionally fitted and broken in slowly. Check both feet carefully after wear for blisters or skin irritations. If there is nerve damage in the feet, you should check your shoes inside for torn linings or sharp objects before putting them on. Shoes which do not fit properly or have been known to cause tissue damage or injury should be avoided. Any signs of infection or skin breakdown should be assessed by your GP or podiatrist.

There are different types of shoes for different activities but the following features are recommended. However, pay attention to your individual needs as well.

Tips for buying well fitting shoes

  1. Firm heel counter: Provides heel stability and support.
  2. Heel height: No greater than 2 ½ cms. Broad base gives greater stability.
  3. Sole: Should be reasonably firm throughout and flex or ‘break’ across the ball of the foot. Rubber composition provides shock absorption.
  4. Toe box: Deep and wide enough to allow toes to spread naturally.
  5. Upper lining: Leather is best. Perforations allow for the passage of air.
  6. Fastenings: Laces, buckles or velcro to ensure snug fit and prevent foot fatigue.
  7. Length: Approximately one thumb’s width beyond the longest toe.

It is advisable to try on new shoes in the afternoon as your feet tend to swell during the day. When you add our tips for buying well fitting shoes to our seven tips to keep your feet healthy – you should be able to keep your feet in good shape.

Socks

Socks are also important. Avoid elasticated cuffs and check for pressure marks on your ankles. Seamless socks are also helpful as they reduce the risk of rubbing and blisters. Moisture-wicking materials help keep feet dry so that excess moisture doesn’t form a breeding ground for fungal infections. White-soled socks may be useful as they can alert you if you have a wound that is bleeding. Check out the socks in-store at diabetesshop.com.

Subsidised podiatrist visits

If you are living with diabetes you are entitled to five subsidised visits per calendar year to an allied health professional, such as a podiatrist. If you look after your diabetes with exercise and diet you should see a podiatrist once or twice a year. For those using medication three times a year is recommended.

See a podiatrist or your GP or diabetes educator if:

  • There is any sign of infection, skin breakdown, ulcer or cracking skin
  • There is new pain, swelling or redness, especially if you have nerve damage

Have more questions?

Call the Helpline on 1300 342 238 and ask to speak with a health professional.

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