Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook

31. Steps to Healthy Feet

Summa Health System developed this fact sheet for patients with diabetes to help them understand the importance of foot care. Care providers give it to patients during diabetes planned visits, and it is part of the Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook.

When You Have Diabetes—Steps to Healthy Feet

Family Medicine Center

Loss of feeling in your feet or coldness, numbness, pain, blisters or sores may be signs that your diabetes is out of control. People with diabetes who get corns, calluses and bunions have an increased risk for getting foot ulcers. Infection in these ulcers can lead to hospitalization and even amputation of a foot. To keep your feet healthy, follow these steps.

Step #1. Have your doctor check your feet at every visit.

  • See your family doctor regularly to be sure your diabetes is in good control. Have your doctor look at your feet at every visit.

Step #2. Wear the right shoes and socks.

  • Don't wear shoes that fit too tightly or pinch your feet. Shoes should be well-cushioned with plenty of room in the toes. Do not wear open-toed shoes, sandals or 'flip-flops'. Do not wear shoes without socks.
  • Check the inside of your shoes every day for cracks, pebbles, nails or anything that could cause a blister or cut. Do not put an insert or pad in your shoe unless you check with your physician or podiatrist first.
  • Socks should fit smoothly with no wrinkles, fold or holes. Socks should not bind around the ankles or knees. Choose socks that keep your feet dry. Change socks daily.

Step #3 Never go barefoot.

  • Always wear shoes or slippers in the house. Always wear protective footwear (water-proof sandals) in the shower, in the pool and on the beach.

Step #4. Call your doctor immediately if you find :

  • Cuts.
  • Blisters.
  • Swelling.
  • Color changes.
  • Ingrown toenails.
  • Scrapes.
  • Cracks between the toes.
  • Calluses.

Step #5. Check your feet every day.

  • Look at your feet very carefully every day. Look at every part of the foot, including the bottom of the foot and between your toes. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, ask your doctor to teach you how to use a mirror to check them. Or, your doctor can teach a family member how to check your feet.

Step #6. Keep your feet clean.

  • Gently wash your feet with soap and water every day. Pat your feet dry. Put on a moisturizing cream or ointment (for example, petroleum jelly) on your feet but not between your toes.

Step #7. Cut your toenails correctly.

  • Cut your toenails straight across the top, not curved at the sides, to prevent ingrown toenails. Ask your doctor for help if your nails are too thick or if they crack when you try to cut them.

Step #8. Treat athlete's foot.

  • Athlete's foot is more common in people who have diabetes, and it can cause problems. If you have athlete's foot, wear a different pair of shoes at least every other day. This lets your shoes dry out. Always wear absorbent cotton socks. Your doctor will prescribe an antifungal cream to treat the athlete's foot.

Step #9. Get proper treatment for thickened skin, calluses and corns.

  • Don't trim or cut these spots at home with razor blades or other sharp tools. Do not use chemical corn and callous removers. Ask your doctor how to treat these spots.

Step #10. Avoid heating pads and hot water foot soaks.

  • Because diabetes can hurt the nerves in your feet, you might not be able to tell if something is hurting your feet. It's best not to use heating pads or hot water soaks, since you could burn your feet without knowing it.

Step #11. Take action to improve your circulation.

  • Make sure you walk around a little bit every hour. Sit with both feet on the floor, and avoid crossing your legs. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and smoking can harm the circulation in your feet and keep sores from healing.

Questions about Healthy Feet? Please call the Family Medicine Center at (330) 375-3584 or 1-800-460-2332.

Page last reviewed October 2014
Page originally created January 2008
Internet Citation: 31. Steps to Healthy Feet. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/education/curriculum-tools/diabnotebk/diabnotebk31.html