Do I Need Diabetic Footwear?

diabetic footwear

Advising somebody on diabetic footwear is quite difficult because there are so many companies out there, good and bad, that use clever marketing to get you to buy one of their products- good or bad.

Just because you have diabetes does that necessarily mean that you need footwear to specific to that condition?

No not really...but then again it depends upon the foot entirely. Many diabetics have been walking around with the best shoes and still have had foot problems. Sometimes it is just the condition that causes the problems however careful you are.

But you can help yourself.

The above picture is a good running shoe- one that is fit for the purpose, for you to walk around malls and for any small to large distance. Good for work? Probably not if you are in an office.

Diabetic footwear is actually the same as a good pair of shoes that we should all be using. For diabetics it is all about prevention: preventing an issue from occurring. So preventing cuts and rubs- anything that can cause an issue to your feet.

8 tips to finding the right diabetic footwear

1- It doesn't depend upon the price.

Just because something is expensive does not always mean that it is good. Same goes with shoes. A cheap good style shoe is going to beat an expensive poor style shoe hand down.

2- Fastening. You need something to hold your foot into your shoe comfortably but enough that it is not too tight and not too loose. Lace or Velcro are the best fasteners. Buckles do not really graduate properly- you either like or do not like the hole position. Many people say that slip-ons are good. No they are not. They allow your foot to move around within the shoe. They are never a good size so you can get rubs and bumps quite easily. Velcro is present if you can not use lace.

3- Seams. Just like socks, a good piece of diabetic footwear has little or no seams from the manufacturing process. Seams can rub, indent your skin and cause sores to persist upon your foot. Thicker socks just makes your foot tighter in the shoe.

4- Job Type. If you are walking all day then a pair of dress shoes is not going to help you out- they are not designed for millage. Running shoes on the other hand depend on you walking- they are designed for that purpose. Where ever possible we direct patients to running shoes as they are light, comfortable, cushioning and have very little hard lumps which can damage the skin. Also consider your job type in regards to the weather and where you are walking. Some shoes let in water and you need to apply products to repel water. Some postal worker patients of ours find their feet literally soaking from sweat and puddles/ wet grass.

5- Color. Doesn't matter. But if you need a shoe for work, consider darker colors if you are considering a running shoe. Check with dress codes.

6- Rubbing. It is a complete wives tale that good shoes need to be broken in. A good shoe is actually one that is good to start with. Your feet naturally swell through the day, so the best time to get your feet checked is at about 2pm- not too swollen and not too thin. Rubbing is the cause of tough materials and poor fitting. Ultimately shoes should not rub at any instant. Wearing BandAids to stop the rubbing is treating the symptoms not the cause.

Also walk around the house with items that you would normally walk around in (socks, orthotics etc) for an hour or so. Then visually check your feet for redness, rubs etc. If there are some, then those shoes are not the right fit.

7- Your Foot. If you have a big foot or one that is boney then it might be more difficult to find shoes that fit your needs. Persevere. But do not buy anything online unless you can try them on and there is a send back guarantee.

8- Odd Shoes. Recently more shoewear companies are caving into public pressure and selling "softer" versions of their normal shoe styles and selling them as diabetic footwear. Heels are not really good, a court shoe is not good, slip-ons are not good...but you find plenty in stores where you once recommended patients to.

diabetic footwear

The above picture (taken from here) has 4 issues that can affect the diabetic:

  1. The heel presses into your heel adding pressure. It also reduces your calf muscle length over time
  2. Heels cause the balls of your feet to press further into the ground- adding pressure along the balls of your feet
  3. A heel presses your toes into the front of the shoe
  4. The narrow front of the shoes squashes your foot into a space too small and creates a shallow area for your foot.

We show the patients the shoes we like and then we do an assessment on the shoes that they buy- usually what they like rather than what is functional.

Ultimately the answer to the top headline of this page is not really. It all depends on your feet. But what I would get are sensible shoes that follow the above guidelines.

Diabetic footcare 101 including more information on diabetic footwear