The Best Shoes for Diabetic Neuropathy

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If the Shoe Fits, running shoe

Good shoes are important for everybody, but if you have diabetic foot neuropathy, good shoes are even more invaluable—they might even save your feet.

Diabetic foot neuropathy is a nerve disease that causes numbness and tingling in your feet. It can also cause burning pain. Most people who get diabetic neuropathy have had diabetes for a long time and have had trouble keeping their blood sugar under control. Diabetic neuropathy can affect any nerves, but it most commonly affects the nerves of your feet.

Numbness in your feet increases your risk of injuring them. An untreated injury can allow bacteria to enter through the skin of your feet and cause an infection. Because diabetes also causes decreased blood supply to your feet, an infection can get out of control quickly, even before you feel it or notice it.

Diabetic foot infections cause about 70,000 amputations every year. Most could be prevented with better foot care. That is why choosing the right shoe is so important. You want to focus on support and comfort, rather than style.

Protecting Your Feet

Before you put any shoe on your foot, feel inside the shoe with your hand to make sure there are no rough spots or seams that could cause a blister or cut. Sneakers are a good choice, but steer clear of high heels and flip-flops. Specially made diabetes shoes are another good option—they have twice the room for your toes as normal shoes, and may be covered by your insurance.

Here are some shopping tips for slipping into safe shoes:

  • Start with the right socks. You want cushioned socks that are absorbent and don't have any rough seams inside. White socks tip you off to any drainage that could indicate injury or infection.

  • Make sure the shoes are roomy. You want your shoes to be comfortable and to allow for some swelling of your feet.

  • Take plenty of time to walk around the store and make sure the shoes feel comfortable.

  • You may need more specialized adaptive footwear if you have any foot abnormalities like a high arch, wide foot, or bunion.

  • A certified specialist called a pedorthist can use computer technology to design shoes that fit and support your feet.

You may also have an abnormal gait because of diabetic neuropathy. This can affect the wear and tear on your feet and your footwear. If you have this condition, work with a physical therapist or occupational therapist to correct your gait as much as possible.

Caring for Your Feet After Taking Your Shoes Off

Every time you take off your shoes, inspect your footwear for any stones or damage. Check your socks for any stains that could signal a foot problem, and examine your feet for any signs of irritation, injury, or infection. After inspecting your feet, clean them with a washcloth and gently pat them dry without rubbing. Next, moisturize your feet, but don't let ointment or cream remain between your toes. This can encourage fungal overgrowth.

If you find any evidence of redness, swelling, soreness, blistering, open cuts, or infection, call your doctor.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in your feet.

  • Numbness and poor circulation due to diabetes can put your feet at risk for injury and infection.

  • Shoes for diabetes are about support and fit, rather than style and fashion.

  • Get help if your gait or a foot abnormality makes it hard to find a shoe that fits.

  • Always check your feet for any signs of injury or infection after taking off your shoes and socks. If in doubt, call your doctor.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 25

  1. Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/

  2. Diabetic neuropathy—the agony of da feet. Harvard Health. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diabetic-neuropathy%E2%80%94the-agony-of-da-feet-201111143797

  3. Foot Care. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/foot-care.html

  4. Do Comfort Shoes Exist? The Neuropathy Association. http://nea.convio.net/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8085

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