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Foot Health for Happy Feet

In honor of National Foot Health Awareness month (April) this article will focus on foot health.

Feet are vital to so many daily activities; it can be easy to take healthy feet for granted. Poor foot health can make even the most basic self-care tasks such as: bathing, toileting, showering, and preparing food a true challenge.

According to the 2018 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, “Foot ulcers and amputation, which are consequences of diabetic neuropathy and/or peripheral artery disease are common and represent major cause of morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes.”1 Such complications can be delayed and possibly prevented with early recognition and optimal treatment.1

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage related to diabetes. Nerve damage can affect any part of your body, however the nerves in your feet and legs (diabetic peripheral neuropathy) are most commonly affected.2 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Between 60% and 70% of people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy…”2

Early symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include: pain, burning, and tingling. Additional symptoms may also include numbness and loss of protective sensation.1

Nearly 50% of those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy have no symptoms. If necessary foot care and preventative measures are not taken there will be a greater risk for foot injuries.1

Risk factors for diabetic neuropathy

  • Diabetes duration
  • Poor glycemic control (i.e. hyperglycemia and elevated A1c)
  • Age
  • Prediabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipids)
  • Obesity
  • Height (i.e. greater height associated with greater risk)
  • Smoking3

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the blood vessels to the legs, stomach, arms and head. The legs are most commonly affected.4 Some of the common symptoms of PAD include: cramping, pain, or tiredness of the lower extremities (area from the hip to the toes) that occurs while walking or climbing up stairs.4

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease

  • Aging
  • History of cardiovascular disease or stroke
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Limited physical activity5

Other common foot problems not specific to diabetes

If you have diabetes, any of the following foot problems may be a greater threat; especially if an infection develops:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Toenail with fungal infection
  • Calluses
  • Corns
  • Blisters
  • Bunions
  • Dry skin
  • Foot ulcers
  • Hammertoes
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Plantar warts6

Foot care recommendations

According to the 2018 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, your physician should be inspecting your feet at every visit and additionally, “perform a comprehensive foot evaluation at least annually to identify risk factor for ulcers and amputations.”1 During your foot exam, the following should be evaluated:

  • Skin health
  • Foot deformities
  • Neurological assessment
  • Vascular assessment
  • Preventative foot care education should also be provided1

Self-care tips for keeping feet healthy

If you are vision impaired, have limited mobility, and/or limited range of motion, ask a family member or close friend to assist you with daily foot care.

  • Inspect your feet everyday and closely observe for cuts, sores, blisters, an any other abnormalities.
  • Wash your feet in warm water daily and dry completely. Test water first to ensure it is not too hot.
  • Use lotion to keep feet well moisturized
  • Toe nail care (ask your primary care physician, endocrinologist, or podiatrist for guidelines on trimming your toe nails)
  • Always wear clean socks
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly. Feel the inside of your shoe before putting it on to make sure nothing is in your shoe that shouldn’t be there.
  • Avoid walking barefoot7

When to seek medical attention

Inform your physician as soon as possible, if you are experiencing any of the following (in regards to your feet):

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. American Diabetes Association. Microvascular Complications and Foot Care. Sec 10. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2018. Diabetes Care. 2018; 41: S105-
  2. Diabetes and Your Feet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published November 27, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018.
  3. Papanas N, Ziegler D, Risk Factors and Comorbidities in Diabetic Neuropathy: An Update 2015. The Review of Diabetic Studies.  2015; 12(1-2): 48–62.
  4. About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). American Heart Association. Published February 20, 2018. Accessed March 3, 2018.
  5. Understand Your Risk for PAD. American Heart Association. Published February 20, 2018. Accessed March 3, 2018.
  6. Diabetes and Foot Problems. WebMD. Published January 20, 2017. Accessed. March 3, 2018.
  7. Foot Care for People with Diabetes. Cornerstones4Care. Published May 2016. Accessed March 3, 2018.