Reviewed by Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFNC.
Dressed up, dressed down, propped up, or running around town, feet bear the brunt of our hectic lives. Take care to make sure you have healthy feet that stay at their best at all times.
Check out our top tips for healthy toes and feet:
Wash your feet in warm water every day
Make sure the water is not too hot by testing the temperature with your elbow. Try not to soak your feet but if you do, do not soak them for more than 3 to 4 minutes. Also, dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
Check your feet every day
Look for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or other possible injury or signs of excessive rubbing or pressure from shoes. Checking every day is even more important if you have nerve damage or poor blood flow. If you can’t bend over or pull your feet up to check them, use a mirror. If you can’t see well, ask someone else to check your feet. Contact your doctor right away if any of these signs are found.
If your skin is dry, rub lotion on your feet after you wash and dry them
Do not put lotion between your toes. Lubricate the entire foot. Suitable lubricants include olive oil, any vegetable oil, vitamin E oil, emu oil, mink oil, and emulsified lanolin.
Many oils and lotions that contain products as major ingredients are available commercially. Do not use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), mineral oil, or baby oil. These products are not absorbed by the skin. The exception to this would be if you swim regularly for exercise.
Cut your toenails regularly
Ideally, your podiatrist will be the one to do this for you in order to be as safe as possible. If you do choose to do it yourself, cut the toenails when they are soft from washing.
Shape them to your toe and not too short. File the edges with an emery board. Do not trim your toenails if you cannot see them clearly. Ask a friend or relative, podiatrist, or your physician to do this for you. If you have thickened toenails, ask your doctor to have clippings tested for fungal infection.
Do not attempt to file down, remove, or shave calluses or corns
The toughened skin of a callus is the body’s way of protecting against irritation, such as by a shoe that rubs your foot. Filing it off removes that protection, and is often the initial cause of foot ulcers.
If you have calluses, show them to your doctor. Ask him or a podiatrist to arrange for your shoes to be stretched, prescribe special shoes, or prescribe orthotic inserts. Your doctor may instruct you in the use of a shoe stretcher or a “ball and ring,” both of which can be ordered by a shoe repair shop. By eliminating the pressure on your foot, the callus should go away over time.
Never walk barefoot
We know you want to tiptoe through the tulips, but the reward may not be worth the risk to your healthy feet. Always wear shoes or slippers to protect your feet from injuries.
Make sure your shoes fit well. In the warm weather, don’t wear sandals with thongs between the toes. In the warm weather, wear warm socks and well-fitting shoes.
And try to alternate at least two different pairs of shoes every few days. It is wise for all people with diabetes to have the circulation in their feet measured every few years. If circulation is impaired, do not remain in the cold for more than twenty minutes at a time.
Always wear socks or stockings to avoid blisters
Do not wear socks or knee-high stockings that so tight below your knee that they cause visible depressions in the skin. Don’t use garters. Don’t wear socks with holes or those that have been darned, have thick seams, or are so large that they bunch up.
Before putting your shoes on, check inside
Feel the insides to make sure they have no sharp edges or objects that might injure your feet. Inspect your shoes daily for foreign objects, torn lining, protruding nails, or bumps. Have them repaired if you find any of these.
Do not smoke cigarettes
Yes, this relates to your feet. Nicotine can cause the closure of the valves that permit blood to enter the small vessels that nourish the skin. The result? Neuropathy, or nerve damage.
Keep your doctor in the loop
Call your physician immediately if you experience any injury to your foot. Even a minor foot injury can become an emergency, so don’t procrastinate. With some routine care and diligence, you can have healthy feet for a lifetime.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
- Bernstein, Dr. Richard. 2011. Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Revised and Updated The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars. New York: Little, Brown, and Company.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes and Foot Problems. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/foot-problems