Treat Your Feet Right With Diabetes

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Valerie Danner on February 5, 2022

If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to consider how to keep yourself healthy, which diet to follow and how to check your blood sugar. But there is another question you should talk to your doctor about--how to protect your feet.

  • itchy feet
    An Unnerving Condition
    If you have diabetes, you have blood sugar levels that are too high. Over time, this can damage your nerves and the blood vessels in your body. Damaged blood vessels mean your feet (including delicate nerve fibers) aren't getting enough oxygen or blood. With nerve damage, you may experience burning pain or a loss of feeling in your feet. It's why a small blister can turn into a major problem in the form of an ulcer.
  • emergency-room-entrance
    Take Steps to Healthy Feet
    Infected ulcers mean a trip to the hospital, and in severe cases, they can even lead to amputation. It's easy to see why taking care of your feet when you have diabetes is an important component of your overall health plan. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that your tootsies stay in tip-top shape.
  • Sandaled feet
    Check Your Feet Daily
    Give your feet a thorough once over. It's vital you check them every day, as you could have a serious foot problem but not be able to feel it. Look for any sores, red spots, or infected toenails. Call your doctor right away if you see a cut, bruise, or sore that doesn't start to heal after one day. Another tip: If you have a difficult time bending to examine the bottom of your feet, grab a mirror or enlist the help of family or friends.
  • If the Shoe Fits, running shoe
    Get the Right Footwear
    Find shoes and socks that fit well and comfortably--and wear them all the time. Walking barefoot—even indoors—makes it all too easy to step on something and injure your foot. It's also a good idea to check the insides of your shoes before putting them on to make sure they are smooth and there isn't anything in them that shouldn't be there.
  • Diabetes
    Clean Your Feet
    Wash your feet in lukewarm water. The water should never be hot, and you should avoid soaking your feet, as it can dry your skin out.  A temperature of 90 to 95 degrees is safe.
  • towels-in-sauna
    Pat Feet Dry
    Your washed feet also need a proper drying routine. Make sure you pat—not rub—your freshly bathed feet with a soft towel, paying attention that you dry them well between the toes.  One helpful hint: Sprinkle cornstarch on your toes to keep the skin between them dry.  You may also want to dust some on your feet before putting on your shoes and socks.
  • pedicure, feet
    Trim Your Toenails
    After you've washed your feet, it's a good time to trim your toenails, since nails will be softer after a soak. Nails should be trimmed about once a week and always clipped straight across—never cut into the corners of the toenail, as this can lead to ingrown nails.
  • Keep Skin Smooth
    Keep Skin Smooth
    Keep your feet smooth by applying lanolin lotion or petroleum jelly to the tops and bottoms of your feet, paying special attention to your heels. If you notice the skin is cracked, ask your doctor for the best way to treat it.
  • foot care, blister
    Avoid Extreme Temperatures
    Practice temperature control. Gearing up for a day at the beach? Make sure you wear shoes to avoid walking on hot pavement. Also slather sunscreen on top of your feet to prevent sunburn. If it's a frosty day, wear lined boots to protect your feet from the outside chill or socks at night if your feet tend to get cold while you sleep. When the temperature drops, it's also a good idea to check your feet regularly for frostbite if you've been out in the elements.
  • barefoot, feet
    Move Your Feet
    Do some toe wiggling for 5 minutes, 2 -3 times per day. You can also move your ankles up and down. These exercises will help keep the blood flowing to your feet and legs. It's also smart to avoid crossing your legs for long periods of time and to refrain from wearing socks that are too tight. And when vegging out on the couch at night, go ahead and prop your feet up—it'll help you relax and keep the blood flowing to your feet.
  • Doctor making notes
    Follow Your Doctor's Advice
    Follow your doctor's advice on diet, exercise and medication as well as these simple self-care tips for foot care to make sure your feet are ready to step out for years to come.
Diabetes Foot Care Tips

About The Author

  1. Diabetic Neuropathy Prevention. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  2. Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime. National Diabetes Education Program.
  3. Diabetic Foot. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health.

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Last Review Date: 2022 Feb 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.