Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people globally. As of 2021, approximately 24.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with this diabetes. However, managing diabetes extends beyond just monitoring blood sugar levels and medication—it also involves taking care of one’s foot health.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to foot issues, including ulcers, infections, poor circulation, and deformities. According to the National Library of Medicine, out of the 500 million people with diabetes worldwide, up to a third could get a foot ulcer at some point. Each year, about 1.9% to 4% of people with diabetes might develop these ulcers.
Proactive foot care can significantly mitigate these risks, which is where diabetic shoes come into play. Diabetic shoes are specialized footwear designed to provide comfort, support, and protection to those with diabetes. They feature unique design elements to relieve pressure points, reduce friction, and prevent injuries.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key features and benefits of diabetic shoes, highlighting their crucial role in effective diabetes management.
Impact of Diabetes on Foot Health
Among the various aspects of diabetes care, foot health holds immense significance. Diabetes can lead to a variety of complications that affect the feet, primarily due to two common conditions: neuropathy and peripheral artery disease.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a prevalent complication among individuals with diabetes. It can result in decreased sensation in the feet, making it difficult to detect injuries or changes in temperature. As a result, minor cuts, blisters, or sores may go unnoticed, leading to infections and ulcers if left untreated.
Neuropathy can also cause muscle weakness and deformities, altering the shape and structure of the feet, which may further increase the risk of pressure points and injuries.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is another common condition associated with diabetes. It occurs when blood vessels in the legs and feet become narrowed or blocked due to the buildup of fatty deposits. Reduced blood flow can result in poor wound healing, decreased ability to fight infections, and an increased risk of developing ulcers and gangrene.
Why do Diabetic Shoes Matter?
Diabetic shoes are designed to minimize the risk of foot complications, such as ulcers, infections, and injuries. Diabetic patients may experience reduced sensation in their feet (neuropathy) and impaired circulation (peripheral artery disease), making them more susceptible to unnoticed injuries and slow healing.
Diabetic shoes provide additional cushioning, support, and protective features to reduce pressure points, prevent friction, and shield the feet from potential harm.
Regular shoes may have seams, stitching, or rough interior surfaces that irritate sensitive diabetic feet and lead to blisters or sores.
In contrast, diabetic shoes are crafted with seamless interiors, minimizing friction and reducing the risk of skin breakdown. They are also made from breathable materials that promote airflow and moisture management, preventing excessive sweating and maintaining a dry foot environment.
Features of Diabetic Shoes
Diabetic shoes offer a range of features that prioritize foot comfort, protection, and support for people with diabetes. Some of them are as follows:
Wide and Deep Toe Box
Diabetes disturbs blood circulation, leading to foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or Charcot’s foot.
Diabetic shoes have a wider and deeper design, including a roomy toe box, to accommodate these deformities and reduce the risk of further complications. The wide toe box allows proper alignment and prevents excessive rubbing or constriction.
Diabetic shoes are made from breathable materials like leather or canvas that promote airflow and control moisture. They help in preventing excessive sweating and maintaining a dry foot environment. These materials also reduce the risk of fungal infections.
Diabetic shoes feature ample cushioning to provide support and distribute weight evenly. This helps reduce the pressure on the feet during walking or physical activities. Excessive pressure on the feet can lead to foot ulcers, injuries, and complications due to reduced sensation and impaired healing in diabetic patients.
The cushioning, thus, prevents foot pain from excess pressure on the feet. It also helps protect vulnerable areas like toes and heels prone to injuries. As diabetes makes the skin very thin and weak, even a small injury can become a fatal infection for the patient.
Diabetic shoes also have non-binding uppers for extra comfort. They are designed to eliminate tightness and irritation. These uppers allow easier foot movement.
The non-binding nature of these uppers is particularly beneficial for individuals with sensitive or neuropathic feet. It helps to prevent friction, rubbing, and the formation of blisters or ulcers.
Extra Deep Design
Diabetic footwear is designed with extra depth, a feature specifically intended to accommodate thick orthotic inserts. This design gives a pressure-free fit even when the inserts are in place. By alleviating pressure points and providing ample space inside, these shoes relieve pressure and offer enhanced comfort, promoting better foot health.
Diabetic shoes include non-slip soles to provide stability and prevent slips or falls. Some models also have reinforced toe caps or other protective elements to shield the feet from potential injuries.
If you have slippery shoes, check out 15 methods to make your shoes non-slip.
Types of Diabetic Shoes
There are many types of diabetic shoes that cater to specific foot conditions and individual needs. The main types include:
- In-depth shoes: As the name suggests, in-depth diabetic shoes have more depth than other shoes. These shoes are ¼ -½ inch deeper than regular shoes. These are highly recommended for patients suffering from calluses.
- Healing shoes: Healing shoes are specially designed to promote the healing of foot ulcers, sores, or wounds. They have features like cushioning, offloading, and specialized insoles to alleviate pressure on affected areas and support the healing process.
- Custom shoes: Custom-made diabetic shoes are designed based on precise measurements and foot assessments. They offer the best fit, support, and comfort, addressing individual foot conditions and specific requirements. Podiatrists have started using 3D technology to get minute details of each foot. This data is then used to create a digital model, which is translated into a physical shoe using 3D printing techniques. The result is a custom-made shoe with impeccable fit, optimum support, and enhanced comfort.
What Type of Footwear Should Diabetic Patients Avoid?
For diabetic patients, certain types of footwear should be avoided to minimize the risk of foot complications. Here are some types of footwear that diabetic patients should steer clear of:
- High-heeled shoes can put excessive pressure on the forefoot, causing discomfort and increasing the risk of developing diabetic foot ulcers. They also compromise stability and balance, leading to falls and injuries.
- Pointed-toe shoes can squeeze the toes together, leading to friction and pressure points. They also adversely affect blood circulation. This can result in the formation of blisters, corns, or calluses, which can be particularly problematic for individuals with reduced sensation in their feet.
- Shoes that are too tight or narrow can constrict the feet, causing discomfort, restricting blood flow, and increasing the likelihood of developing foot problems. They may also exacerbate foot deformities such as bunions or hammer toes.
Can a Diabetic Patient Wear Regular Shoes Instead of Diabetic Shoes?
While it is possible to wear regular shoes, diabetic shoes are designed with features that provide added protection, support, and comfort for diabetic patients.
Regular shoes may not offer the same level of cushioning, proper fit, or specialized features required for diabetic foot care. So, it is advisable to wear diabetic shoes.
Is a Prescription from a Doctor Required to Get Diabetic Footwear?
Yes. A prescription from a healthcare professional, such as a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist, is usually required to obtain diabetic footwear.
This is to ensure that the shoes meet your specific foot care needs. For example, your foot care needs may include extra cushioning or arch support if you have neuropathy or foot deformities.
Are Diabetic Shoes Covered By Insurance?
In many cases, diabetic shoes are covered by insurance, including Medicare. It is important to check with your insurance provider to determine the specific coverage and requirements.
How Often Should Diabetic Shoes Be Replaced?
The lifespan of diabetic shoes can vary depending on factors such as usage, wear and tear, and individual foot conditions.
It is generally recommended to replace diabetic shoes every 9-12 months or as your healthcare professional advises.
Can Diabetic Shoes be Bought Online?
Yes, some online retailers offer diabetic shoes. Diabetic shoes generally fall in the range of $50-$100. However, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended to ensure proper fitting and selecting shoes for your specific needs.
Diabetic shoes play a vital role in the overall well-being of people with diabetes. These specialized shoes offer crucial features such as protective interiors, non-binding uppers, extra depth designs, deep toe boxes, and cushioning soles.
By providing enhanced comfort, support, and protection, diabetic shoes decrease the risk of foot complications, ulcers, and injuries.
Individuals with diabetes should prioritize their foot care and invest in a proper diabetic shoe. Regularly wearing diabetic shoes and practicing foot hygiene can significantly reduce the likelihood of foot-related problems.