Doctors insist on wearing comfortable, fit shoes all the time, and for very good reasons. The wrong pair can affect your health (we’ll get to that in a minute.) Of course, investing in high-quality materials and cuts is something we try to achieve with each pair of shoes we buy, but there are times when we can let an uncomfortable structure slide for the sake of design.
Have you ever thought that some conditions don’t let you make that compromise ever, because you might lose your foot if you do? Well, if you thought we are talking about rare injuries or syndromes, think again. Diabetes can lead to those sort of problems.
Let’s see how having diabetes impacts the health of your feet and how you need to change your style and choice of shoes when you are dealing with it.
How Does Diabetes Lead to Foot Injuries?
One must understand that injuries to the feet are only one of the consequences of living with type 2 diabetes. The disease affects the body in different ways, some of which can lead to wounds that are hard to heal, necrosis of the tissue and loss of feeling in your limbs.
The damage that diabetes does to the nerves, also known as neuropathy, is the main cause for injuries and accidents that linger in diabetes patients. They tend to lose sensitivity to pain until they no longer feel if they have anything in their shoe, if something is hurting them or if they have broken a bone. Regular visual inspections are required to solve any damage as soon as it happens, raising the chances of a quick recovery.
Unobserved injuries remain untreated and usually degenerate into infections, necrosis, and sometimes even amputations.
Diabetes also affects the blood circulation. One of the first areas that suffers is the peripheral circulation in the legs. That’s because it takes time for the blood to get there from the heart. The blood vessels, capillaries and big arteries and veins alike, tend to shrink in diameter and let less blood in. That results in slow irrigation of the foot tissue, which means that any injury will take more than usual to heal.
Slow healing, combined with the necessity to keep using the feet and further damage it, can result in wounds that stay open for months at a time.
When to Start Worrying About Foot Injuries and What To Do About It?
Usually, according to metabolic disease doctors, foot injuries begin after 10-15 years of diabetes, if the blood sugar levels are kept under control. If the patient is neglecting his disease and improperly treats it, foot injuries may start to appear sooner than that.
If you start noticing that you lose the feeling in your feet or you find injuries that you didn’t know you have, you should start monitoring the condition of your feet every day. Look for cuts, bruises, swollen or warm areas, red areas, anything unusual that might indicate an injury. If you have any open wounds, disinfect and dress them before you get to your doctor.
If you already have other feet-related conditions, such as corns, bunions or hammertoes, you should pay even more attention to how you take care of your feet, because any pressure point can result in slow healing ulceration. Consult a podiatrist when you notice that your regular shoes, even though they are worn in, give you blisters or pain.
How to Choose the Proper Shoes When You Have Diabetes
When choosing your shoes, you need to address you particular needs. So, it is hard to say that a certain brand is the best for all people with diabetes. Of course, some manufacturers are specialized in medical shoes, and they will deliver a high-quality product for those who no longer can wear regular shoes without being affected.
Some of the questions you need to ask yourself are related to how aggravated your diabetes is and what other challenges you need to address. You can then decide on the model, price range and style of the shoes.
Does it mean that you need to wear “ugly” orthopedic shoes the moment you are diagnosed with diabetes? Certainly not. Circulatory problems in your extremities and nerve damage happen over a long period and would have to be quite advanced to start posing risks related to foot injuries. You can wear standard shoes, as long as your diabetes is kept under control and you don’t see any signs of discomfort.
As mentioned before, close monitoring of the health of your feet is crucial in intervening as early as possible when other shoes are needed. If you notice new things, like blisters, bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails or other abnormalities, report to your doctor and have them checked. You will decide together if a change of footwear is needed.
What Are the Worst Shoes to Wear When You Have Diabetes?
It is a good idea to avoid uncomfortable or risk-inducing shoes as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes to prevent complications later, but if you want to keep wearing high heels and narrow, rigid shoes, you may do it with caution.
Limit the period when you are wearing rigid, uncomfortable shoes, and always have a spare pair of sneakers or supportive, cushioned shoes to switch to in case of pain.
It may seem surprising, but there is one type of shoe that is even worse than high heels, and it is ironically worn on vacations, mostly. The unpretentious flip-flop is a big no-no when you have diabetes, as it exposes your feet too numerous damaging factors and does not provide any support to your soles, creating pressure and friction points. The ones that have a strap in between your toes are the worst of them because they can cause hard to heal ulcerations.
What Type of Shoes Are the Best for Diabetes Patients?
As you may have concluded by now, the best shoes for people with diabetes are comfortable, roomy and offer protection against injury. Soft, elastic materials like foam, soft leather, and gel cushions are recommended for their ability to absorb shocks, to reduce friction and to protect against blows, cuts, etc.
Make sure that the shoes you wear are not too small, but not too big either. They should offer plenty of space for your toes, so look for square-tip shoes, but not too much space, so that your foot slides everywhere when you walk. If you have bunions or hammertoes, skip the narrow shoe section altogether and go for the ones with a wide toe box. Comfort is beautiful; ulcerations are not.
If you don’t have serious problems and your doctor confirmed that it’s ok, you can choose a non-medical shoe from the sports section, particularly walking or jogging shoes. Choose the ones with extra-cushioning and support, preferably seamless interior and breathable materials.
But if, on the contrary, your feet are suffering from extensive damage and your diabetes is giving your feet a hard time, you might need to get prescription shoes. A podiatrist will recommend therapeutic shoes or inserts if they are needed, and they can range from orthotic inserts to full-cast custom-made shoes.
Patients who are given a prescription for diabetic hoes must not “make an exception” and wear normal shoes in any circumstance, as it can be dangerous for them. There are cases of extensive injury caused by a one-time event of wearing regular shoes instead of the custom medical shoes.
Other Tips on Choosing Diabetic Shoes
Now that you have all the principles worked out and you know that you have to make a plan with your doctor for choosing the right type of shoes, here are a few more general tips that may help you:
- Stay away from rigid leather or other non-flexible materials, and go with soft leather, foam, textile;
- Choose shoes that you can immediately adjust with laces or velcro straps;
- Thin soles will not provide enough cushioning, so go with thick, elastic ones;
- Break in new shoes little by little and always check for signs of friction or pressure;
- Replace your shoes with new ones as soon as you notice signs of deformity in their structure;
- Keep your shoes dry at all times and replace your socks with fresh, clean ones whenever needed;
- Don’t stress about style – comfort will always look good on you!
If you have diabetes or know someone who is, share this information and talk to the doctor about it. The quality of life for patients with diabetes can be very high, as long as the condition is kept under control.