Walking, biking, hiking, swimming—regular exercise is an important part of diabetes management. The type of activity doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you do it regularly. To keep up with a regular routine, you’ll also have to take good care of your body, especially your feet. For someone with diabetes, a small foot injury can lead to prolonged injury or infection with poor outcomes. However, a few footcare tips along with consistent care from heels to toes can help keep you active.
Diabetes, Feet, and Exercise
Diabetes causes changes in circulation that limit the blood supply to the extremities, in particular, the feet. It also weakens the immune system. This combination opens the door to infections and complications from any nick, cut, crack, or injury to the foot. Exercise, even mild exercise in the wrong shoes, can put more stress than normal on the feet, causing blisters, calluses, or cuts.
Activity and exercise also cause more perspiration. Due to the nature of the disease, diabetics have a higher concentration of sugar in their sweat. That, along with lowered immune system function, puts diabetics at higher risk for developing fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
If there’s diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels) present, they may not feel the discomfort and burning associated with the infection. Consequently, it could spread and become more serious before it’s even been noticed. The same holds true for other foot infections and injuries.
However, careful and regular foot care can help keep you on your feet and on the go.
Footcare Tips to Keep You Moving
Life with diabetes need not be limited, but it does require extra vigilance. These five tips may not prevent all foot issues, but they’ll help you identify problems before they begin or as they’re in the early stages of development.
Daily Foot Checks
Check your feet for discoloration, cracks, cuts, blisters, and calluses. Use a mirror to check the bottom of the toes and heel. Don’t forget between the toes, where moisture and athlete’s foot like to hide. Make foot checks a regular part of your routine after you shower or before you go to bed. If you’ve been particularly active, you may want to check in the morning, at night, and after you’re done exercising.
Prep the Foot
Wash your feet at least once a day with a gentle, non-drying cleanser, and dry them thoroughly after taking a bath or shower. Avoid harsh products with chemicals and fragrances as they can dry the skin.
Before putting on socks, moisturize your feet to keep the skin hydrated. Clean, well-moisturized skin on the feet helps maintain the skin’s integrity, avoiding injury and infection. Use an antifungal lotion like VitalFitSRX Day Moisturizer. This formula has antifungal ingredients and reduces friction to protect the feet during activity. You may need to wash and moisturize the feet more than once a day if you’re particularly active.
Socks offer more than comfort. They absorb moisture, prevent rubbing, and insulate the feet. Soft, thick socks put more material between the foot and the shoe, protecting you from chafing, rubbing, and blisters. Look for socks without seams to prevent irritation around the toes.
A word of caution—you should still have wiggle room in the shoe. Super thick socks may make your shoes so tight that they compromise your circulation. Focus on finding a balance between cushioning, comfort, and maintaining good circulation.
Invest in Your Shoes
Shoes are not a place to cut costs. Invest in running shoes or cross-trainers that fit well. They should provide adequate support and cushion for the type of activities you do most. You should have at least a thumb’s width of space between the end of the shoe and your longest toe, with plenty of wiggle room in the toe box.
You want to prevent any kind of rubbing. If needed, get wide width shoes to give yourself a little extra space. If you’re a runner, make sure to buy a half to a whole size larger than usual to leave room for swelling.
Talk to Your Doctor
Finally, if you find a cut or develop a blister on your foot and it doesn’t heal within 48 hours, call your doctor. Any discharge, nail discoloration, or more serious signs of a problem require a call to the doctor as soon as possible.
The Final Note
Regular foot care puts a stop to complications before they take hold. Be consistent, and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.