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The Best Shoes for People with Diabetes

Two complications people with diabetes may be at risk for are poor circulation and the absence of sensation, according to John Giurini, DPM, Chief, Division of Podiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is an affiliate of the Joslin Diabetes Center).  People with these diabetes complications may not be aware of whether or not their shoes fit correctly, so their feet must be properly measured and fitted before purchasing shoes.

Tips for Buying Shoes with Diabetes

  • Have feet measured periodically, because feet change over time.
  • Shop later in the day, because feet swell throughout the day, especially if you have heart disease and kidney problems.
  • Have shoes fitted with the socks you’ll be wearing with those specific shoes.  That way you’ll know they will fit properly.
  • The distance between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe should be ½ of your thumb’s width, so you have the right amount of space to fit your feet.

When you buy a new pair of shoes, break them in before wearing them for a long period of time.  Wear them for one to two hours, then check your feet for any cuts or blisters.  Wear them three to four hours the next day, and so on, until they feel comfortable, Giurini says.

Important Shoe Features for People with Diabetes

  • Shoes should be made of soft leather, because they can stretch.
  • Choose a cushioned sole over a thin, leather sole, because the shock absorption is better.
  • The back of the shoe should not collapse to one side or the other, because it won’t provide good support.
  • Choose laced shoes over loafers, so they fit better and provide better support.

People with diabetes and specific foot deformities should buy shoes that match the width of their foot, perhaps with extra depth.  Those with diabetes and severe foot deformities can get a custom molded shoe made, but Giurini says to only do this if it’s absolutely necessary.

When To Replace Shoes

It’s a good idea to alternate your shoes everyday so you don’t wear one pair down too quickly, the heel doesn’t lose support and the sole doesn’t lose shock absorption.  You should replace your shoes when:

  • the heel starts to collapse to one side or the other
  • the heel itself is worn down
  • the inner lining of the shoe is torn
  • the mid-portion of the shoes is worn down

It’s important that people with diabetes visit a podiatrist on a regular basis based on their risk for diabetes complications.  If you’re at a higher risk for diabetes complications and already have foot problems, you should go more frequently.

To make an appointment at the Joslin-Beth Israel Deaconess Foot Center, please click here.

The Foot Book explains why people with diabetes should take care of their feet, what the common foot problems are, types of treatment and how to prevent minor foot problems before they become major ones.

Purchase this book from the Joslin Store.

Page last updated: November 07, 2019