How to choose right shoes when you have diabetes?

August 10, 2018Diabetes Care

How to choose right shoes when you have diabetes?

August 10, 2018

Decision to replace a pair of shoes depends on how often you wear them. For everyday shoes, a good rule of thumb is to change them at least once a year since the interior cushioning of the shoe wears down over time. If you see any considerable and irreparable damage to your shoes change them instantly e.g. the heel begins to collapse to one side or the bottom of the heel is worn down or the inner lining of the shoe is torn.

The Right Fit – Why it is Important?

We all can relate “bad shoe day” to the blistered heel or painful arch that goes away quickly in a day or two. But for people with diabetes like Mr. Narang, a poor footwear triggered infected blister on his sole which lead to foot bone injury. Though it was cured with antibiotics and foot surgery but recovery took away two important years of his life. Diabetes can affect almost all parts of the body including feet. It can cause nerve damage, or neuropathy, that lessens the foot’s sensitivity. It means a person may not feel heat, cold, or pain in his feet. Apart from nerve damage, people with diabetes are at high risk of developing impaired circulation to the feet. Poor circulation causes wounds on the feet to heal more slowly, raising their risk of becoming infected.

In diabetes even minor foot problems, like calluses or blisters, can lead to serious diabetes-related complications or even result in amputation. That’s why shopping for shoes is more than a matter of style. Before you shop for diabetes footwear, it’s important to have your feet evaluated by a podiatrist or foot specialist to determine your risk for infections or complications. Based on this assessment, the doctor can recommend exactly which types of shoes will be best for your feet. In case if your diabetes is under control and your feet are healthy, there are several factors you should consider when selecting shoes. By looking for certain characteristics and avoiding others, you can protect against irritation, infections, ulcers, and potentially worse foot problems.

Right Shoe – What are the Characteristics?

  1. Correct size: It is important to measure your feet each time you buy shoes to make sure the shoes you select fit your feet. Feet tend to change shape and size over time, and few people can wear the same shoes at age 50 as they did in their teen age. In addition, many people have one foot that’s larger than the other because of factors such as swelling, so it’s always better to have both feet measured.
  2. Comfortable: Comfort should top the priority chart while selecting the shoes. In fact, your first thought when you try on a new pair of shoes should be “How do these feels?” rather than “How do these looks?” You can take a short walk to check its feel.
  3. Wide toe-box: Check that the shoe fits well and provides enough room to wiggle your feet. Avoid narrow or pointed toes that pinch the foot and restrict blood supply. Shoes should have round and wide toe-box which is spacious enough, so that your toes do not rub against the front of the shoe. However, it should not be so wide so your foot slides around inside.
  4. Adjustable Closure: Look for shoes that have laces or velcro like sports shoes. The built-in flexibility allows you to tighten or loosen your shoes depending on swelling in the foot. It will give your feet enough room to breathe and enhance flexibility.
  5. Cushioned Inner Sole: It’s important to choose footwear with a good amount of cushioning inside the shoe. It should be well-padded at the top (where foot slips in), or the rim, and inside so it does not rub, causing friction against your anklebones This added support helps reduce foot pressure and the risk for developing foot ulcers, and other complications.
  6. Hard Outer Sole: Although the inside of your shoe should provide support with cushioning, the outer sole of any shoe you select should be hard. This will help protect your feet from rough or sharp objects and provide shock absorption.
  7. Low Heel: Shoes with heels less than two inches high are a better option than shoes with higher heels. Lower-heeled shoes reduce the amount of pressure applied to the ball of the foot and prevent foot injuries due to friction.
  8. Choose Shoe Material Carefully – Shoes comes in a variety of materials, some more breathable and flexible than others. Choose styles made from soft materials, such as leather, suede, cloth, canvas or mesh. Since feet tend to swell throughout the day, these softer fabrics will provide enough space. Breathable fabrics will also prevent the build-up of moisture within the shoe. Avoid purchasing a shoe that contains plastic or other abrasive material.

Going for Shoe-shopping? TIPS to Remember

  • Avoid going for shopping wearing footwear like sandals, flip-flops, slip-ons, high heels or loafers or anything made of plastic or hard material. This kind of footwear often don’t cover feet properly and support is also limited which increase the risk of injury. They can cause irritation or put extra pressure on feet which may result into callus, blisters and ulcers.
  • Consider shopping later in the day. Since feet tend to swell throughout the day, visiting the shoe store in the afternoon or evening when feet are swollen to their maximum capacity is best way to get a more accurate size.
  • The real test is how shoes feel on your feet. Make sure you are wearing the sock you normally wear, and don’t forget to bring any orthotics or inserts you will be wearing in the shoe.
  • After finalising take the shoe trial. Put on both shoes and attach the laces, buckles, or straps, then stand up. Walk around, and make sure that your arch is fully supported and that the break or bend of the shoe is located at the ball of your foot.
  • Break in slowly into your new shoes. Consider wearing your new shoes for 2 to 3 hours for the first time. This gives you enough time to check your feet for cuts or blisters. After the first day, wear your shoes for a period of 3 to 4 hours to gradually get comfortable in them.

Note: Inspect your feet daily and especially when you break into new shoes. Check feet for problems or signs of irritation redness, cut or bruise. People with diabetes should be evaluated by a podiatrist annually and get sensation, circulation and pressure analysis done. Anyone diagnosed with neuropathy, foot deformity, calluses or foot ulcers — should be prescribed customised footwear or insoles according to the foot condition.

Have a Happy and Healthy Feet….!


From the Expert Desk

Ms. Bhawana Rani

She is a proficient diabetes expert and a passionate medical writer. She has over 9 years of experience in the field of diabetes and nutrition. She specializes in educating and developing teaching and training tools for patients and healthcare professionals on different aspects of diabetes education and management. Apart from diabetes, her special interest is writing on various other subjects like health, lifestyle, wellness, nutrition and research.


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