Diabetic shoes may cost more than normal shoes, but they are worth it. One of the most dreaded side-effects of diabetes is amputation of the lower extremities, due to gangrenous ulcers of the feet and lower legs. Good quality diabetic shoes can go a long way towards preventing the foot injuries that can lead to eventual amputation. If that is not a good reason to invest some extra money in your foot wear, I don’t know what is!
A good pair of diabetic shoes will have plenty of room inside – ie they will be ‘comfort fit’ rather than ‘tight’. However they must not be too loose either. Overly tight shoes can cause “pressure ulcers” in a diabetic patient, and such ulcers are one of the most difficult types of foot injuries to treat and heal. Be especially careful that your shoes have enough room around the toes and ball of the foot. On the other hand, overly loose fitting shoes can slip and chafe, causing blisters and friction burns, which greatly increase the risk of skin infection in a diabetic patient.
Many companies specialize in the manufacture of diabetic and other “special needs” shoes. It is worthwhile to ask your doctor for a list of recommended brands, and research your options. Diabetic shoes generally share the following features:
- Roomy, contoured toe boxes. Your toes should have room to wiggle without rubbing against the inside of the shoe.
- Seamless, or near-seamless inner linings. While regular shoes often have ‘lumps’ or seams near the ball of the foot and/or around the heel, diabetic shoes should have seamless and cushioned linings to prevent chafing.
- Extra-thick contoured insoles. The soles of the feet are especially prone to pressure ulcers, so diabetic shoes and diabetic insoles are usually extra thick, and have extra-cushiony padding materials often at the heels and balls of the feet.
- Good “breatheable” ventilated designs. Diabetics are susceptible to fungal infections and cracked skin, both of which can be prevented by keeping the feet dry and well-ventilated.
- Elastic fit features. To ensure the fit of the shoe stays snug across the top of your foot, but never too tight, many diabetic shoes feature elastic inserts in the ‘uppers’.
Some shoe companies sell ‘regular’ shoes that are fairly well-suited for diabetics as well. Shoes designed for people who stand on their feet all day (such as nurse’s shoes) often meet most of the requirements for diabetic shoes. Other “natural” shoe companies design their shoes with roomy, contoured toe areas, and orthopedically “correct” footbeds. Many of their shoe designs could be ‘converted’ to acceptable diabetic shoes with the simple addition of extra insole padding. However, until you are very familiar with diabetic shoes and their special features, it is probably advisable to shop with the specialty diabetic shoe manufacturers, as their designs take the guesswork out of shoe shopping for you!
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