Looking after your feet

Diabetes can cause complications of the feet that affect the nerves and blood supply, resulting in altered sensation and an increased risk of injury and poor wound healing. During the hot summer months it’s commonplace to wear footwear that may not provide as much protection for your feet. There are a number of precautions you can take to ensure the safety of your feet and enjoy summer.

Choosing your footwear

Walking around barefoot is not recommended for people with diabetes. Injuries can easily occur, especially if you have reduced sensation in your feet and you don’t feel objects underfoot. Choosing the correct footwear is important to reduce the risk of injury and infection.

Thongs are a popular choice of footwear during the hot summer months. Unfortunately they don’t provide much support or protection for your feet. Try to wear them occasionally, such as at the pool or in communal showers as fungal infections are common in these areas.

It is important to expose the feet more during summer and footwear that can help you do this safely is the best choice. Make sure footwear fits correctly, including sandals, and you have support in the arch area and around the heel. Adjustable straps are good as they allow for any swelling that may occur.

  • If taking part in water sports, choose shoes that are designed to get wet and protect the feet.
  • When wearing heels, a heel height of less than 2cm should be considered.
  • If wearing enclosed shoes, socks made of natural fibres that allow the foot to breathe and reduce sweat and excessive moisture are advised.

Skin care and your feet

Conditions such as cracked heels, tinea infection, and fungal toe nails are common problems for people with diabetes. Along with correct footwear, basic first aid of the feet can reduce the risk of these problems occurring. A good place to start is by checking your feet daily. Check all areas, especially on the sole and between each toe. If you can’t see the sole of your foot ask someone else to check or place a mirror on the floor and hold your foot above it to look.

Look for:

  • Dry skin, especially around the heels
  • Excessive moisture, especially in between the toes
  • Breaks in skin, blisters or ulcers
  • Thickened skin such as calluses or corns
  • Any signs of infection including redness or darker skin than usual
  • The shape and thickness of your nails

Wash and moisturise your feet daily – Be sure to dry in between each toe after washing and apply moisturiser to the top and bottom of your feet and legs, but not between your toes. You can use methylated spirits or alcohol wipes if there is a lot of moisture between your toes.

Keep hydrated – Drink plenty of water during warmer weather to keep hydrated. This helps keep your skin healthy.

Apply sunscreen – Avoid sunburn on your feet and legs by regularly apply sunscreen throughout the day if exposed to the sun.

Look after your toenails – Cut your nails straight across and file any sharp edges. See a podiatrist if this is difficult for you or your carer to perform. Tea tree oil can be applied to each nail every second or third day to help prevent infection.

First aid kit – Have a kit ready with some foot care equipment. This could include nail scissors, a metal nail file, pumice bar, moisturiser, alcohol wipes, blister pads, bandaids, antiseptic cream or tea tree oil, antifungal cream and sunscreen.

See a podiatrist

It is important to see your doctor or podiatrist if you are concerned about your feet. Podiatrists are experts in looking after feet and lower limbs and you should see a podiatrist at least once a year as part of your annual cycle of care.

 

By Suzanne Leahy, Credentialled Diabetes Educator

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