The Best Shoes for People with Diabetes

By

Cindy Kuzma

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The Best Shoes for Diabetics

Finish off an outfit with omfortable shoes or boots and you can prevent sores, nerve damage and even amputation.
Male Walking in Sneakers

Cowboy boots, pumps, wingtips, or sneakers? If you have diabetes, choosing shoes is far more than a matter of looks—it’s a vital part of your treatment plan. Finish off an outfit with well-fitting, comfortable shoes or boots and you can prevent sores, nerve damage, and even amputation.

It may take some time and patience, and perhaps the advice of your podiatrist or an experienced footwear professional, but you can find footwear that’s both flattering and healthy for your feet. Look for shoes that:

  • Breathe. Air circulation can keep your feet safe from fungus or bacteria. Choose shoes made of porous materials, such as leather or fabric. Skip those made with stifling plastic. However, don’t aim for too much of a good thing. Sandals and flip-flops may give your feet more oxygen, but they also increase your risk of injury. Avoid them.

  • Absorb shock. Special shock-absorbing soles, often found in athletic shoes, can reduce the impact your feet take with each step. If your shoes don’t come with this feature, you may be able to purchase special insoles that serve the same purpose.

  • Don’t pinch or crowd. High heels and pointed toes may be in vogue, but they’re likely to cause long-term damage. Search for low-heeled styles that don’t rub or pinch your feet or cause calluses or blisters. Over time, these seemingly minor annoyances can turn into big problems, including ulcers and infections.

  • Fit well. Shoes that are too big may cause your foot to shift inside without you noticing, squashing your toes, or increasing the pressure on them. But don’t be tempted to buy shoes that are too small, which can hinder your circulation.

After receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, it may be hard to motivate yourself to make the necessary life changes. But the side effects of ignoring diabetes, like blindness, nerve damage, and stroke, can be a wake-up call.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 13, 2015

How do you get it just right? It’s best not to rely on how a shoe feels—especially if you know you have nerve damage. Have your feet measured regularly when you go to purchase new footwear. Then, choose a style and size that leaves 10 to 15 millimeters between your toes and the front of the shoe. Try to match the shape of the shoe’s toe-box to the shape of your toes. And check that the widest part of your foot—across the base of your toes—aligns with the widest part of your shoe.

Since your feet may swell and shrink during the course of a day or month, seek out shoes with an adjustable fit. Laces, Velcro, and buckles all allow you to make changes to accommodate your comfort.

Follow the doctor’s orders

If you have concerns about finding the right shoe, or if you’ve already had foot sores, your doctor may suggest prescription footwear specially designed for your feet. They’re often covered by insurance, and some styles can reduce the pressure on your feet by as much as 30 percent, according to a recent study in the journal Diabetes Care.

Brands approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association for people with diabetes include CrocsRx and Dr. Comfort.

Key takeaways

  • Wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes can help prevent sores, nerve damage, and even amputation.

  • Choose shoes made of porous materials, such as leather or fabric, but avoid sandals and flip-flops.

  • Search for low-heeled styles that don’t rub or pinch your feet or cause calluses or blisters.

  • Have your feet measured. Then, choose a style and size that leaves 10 to 15 millimeters between your toes and the front of the shoe.

Medical Reviewers: Williams, Robert, MD Last Review Date: Feb 5, 2013

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. Comparison of shoe-length fit between people with and without diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a case–control study. McInnes, AD, et al. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. April 16, 2012;5(1):1-8.;
  2. Evaluation and Optimization of Therapeutic Footwear for Neuropathic Diabetic Foot Patients Using In-Shoe Plantar Pressure Analysis. Buss, SA, et al. Diabetes Care. July 2011;34(7):1595–1600.;
  3. The effect of shoe lacing on plantar pressure distribution and in-shoe displacement of the foot in healthy participants. Fiedler, KE, et al. Gait & Posture. March 2011;33(3):396-400.;
  4. Exercise: How to Get Started—Shoes Are Important. National Institutes of Health, Senior Health. Accessed Feb. 2013. (http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseandphysicalactivityhowtogetstarted/shoesandequipment/01.html);
  5. Care of the Diabetic Foot. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2011. (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00148);
  6. Shoes and Orthotics for Diabetics. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. 2013. (http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/diabetic-foot/Pages/Shoes-and-Orthotics-for-Diabetics.asp...;
  7. How to Care for Your Diabetic Feet. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Accessed Feb. 2013. (http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-health/Pages/How-to-Care-for-Your-Diabetic-Feet.aspx);
  8. How to Select the Right Athletic Shoes. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Accessed Feb. 2013. (http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/footwear/Pages/Selecting-Athletic-Shoes.aspx);
  9. Products by Category. American Podiatric Medical Association. 2012. (http://www.apma.org/learn/CompanyProductsList.cfm?navItemNumber=3862);
  10. Take Charge of Your Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. (http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/tcyd/foot.htm);
  11. Living With Diabetes: Keep Your Feet Healthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2, 2012. (http://www.cdc.gov/Features/DiabetesFootHealth/);
  12. Foot Complications. American Diabetes Association. 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/?print=t);
  13. Foot Care. American Diabetes Association. 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/foot-care.html?print=t...;
  14. Steps to Prevent or Delay Nerve Damage. American Diabetes Association. 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/neuropathy/steps-to-prevent-or-delay.html...;
  15. Diabetes and Pedorthotics: Conservative Foot Care. Pedorthic Footcare Association. Accessed Feb. 2013. (http://www.pedorthics.org/?DIABETESANDPEDORTHIC.);

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