7 Tips for Buying Type 2 Diabetes-Friendly Shoes
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When you have type 2 diabetes, you need to pay close attention to your feet — and the shoes you put on them.
Here’s why: People with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing poor circulation and nerve damage in their feet, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Poor blood flow to the feet makes it more difficult for wounds to heal. Even minor issues, like calluses, blisters, and cuts, can become serious problems and lead to infection. And nerve damage can cause loss of sensation in your feet, so you may not feel if you step on something sharp, if your shoes are rubbing or pinching, or if you get a blister.
All of this means that the right footwear is a must. Your shoes must not only be comfortable but fit well too, says Adam Isaac, DPM, director of the Complex Foot Wound Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States. Shoes that fit properly can help protect your feet and reduce your risk of developing foot ulcers and infections.
Here’s how to be sure the shoes you wear are diabetes-friendly:
See your podiatrist before you shop.Your podiatrist can recommend the best type of shoes for you and let you know if you need custom orthotics, says Dr. Isaac. Orthotics can provide additional comfort and support, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. “You may need prescription diabetic shoes that have extra depth to them and supportive arches,” Isaac says.
Shop for shoes later in the day.“Your feet can swell over the course of the day, and you want to get a true idea of how the shoe is going to feel in real-life scenarios,” Isaac says. A shoe that fits in the morning may feel too tight by the end of the day.
Check the size of both feet.One foot can be larger than the other. “The differences aren’t going to be significant, like two sizes bigger,” Isaac says. “But there can be subtle differences, and you should go with the foot that’s slightly larger. That way you are sure to have the extra room so your foot won’t rub and cause a problem.”
Come prepared.Always try the shoe on with the socks you’re likely to wear. That way you can be sure there’s enough room. Also, if you put insoles or arch supports in your shoes, bring them to the shoe shop “to make sure they work well with any pair that you’re potentially buying,” Isaac adds.
Know what features to look for.The ADA says you want shoes with supportive soles so you’re less likely to trip or fall. Avoid shoes with high heels because you’re more likely to fall in them and because they can change the architecture of your foot. Isaac suggests looking for a shoe with some structure: “You shouldn’t be able to squeeze it so it collapses on itself,” he says. Some other diabetes-friendly features:
- Soft interiors and no seams, which can irritate or rub against your skin.
- Closed toes are a must; open-toe shoes leave your feet vulnerable to injury.
- Cushioned interiors are best because they absorb some of the impact when you walk.
- A toe box that’s wide enough that it doesn’t pinch your feet, but not so wide that your feet slide from side to side.
- Laces or other closures that allow you to adjust the fit of your shoe.
- Shoes made of soft leather, or other flexible material, which will have some give and stretch as you wear them, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston notes.
Break in new shoes before wearing.Don’t wear new shoes all day. Instead, break them in slowly by wearing them for one to two hours the first day, three to four hours for the next few days, and so on. This will help soften them so they don’t rub or cause blisters, Isaac says.
Know when it’s time to buy new shoes.You may love the pair you’ve been wearing every day for months, but if the soles are wearing thin or the lining is tearing, it’s time to shop for new ones. You need good support and you don’t want holes in the lining to rub against your foot and cause blisters or calluses, the Joslin Diabetes Center notes. “How often you need to replace your shoes will depend on the wear and tear,” Isaac says. “This is another way a podiatrist can be helpful — telling patients when it’s time to replace their shoes.”
In addition to wearing diabetes-friendly shoes, you should also inspect your feet daily. If you can’t see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or have a family member help you. “I tell patients they can use their smartphone and take a foot selfie,” Isaac says. If you’ve lost sensation in your feet, inspecting them daily may help you spot trouble (blisters, sores, redness, or other changes that could indicate an infection) before it becomes serious.
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