Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.

Diabetes can cause problems, literally head-to-toe. And the damage that can occur to your feet is no joke. While most of us have a vague idea that diabetic feet need special care, we usually don’t look into the details until it’s absolutely necessary—in other words, when things are already going wrong.

That’s why I’d encourage you—whether you’ve experienced trouble with your feet to date or not—to take a moment to learn about foot health with diabetes.

There’s no replacement for good old-fashioned caution. This means you should choose footwear that fits well, avoid walking around barefoot, and inspect your feet yourself every day. 

What are you looking for?

Look for any changes in the skin, blisters, cuts, or any signs of irritation. If you find such changes, watch them closely, and let your regular doctor or podiatrist (foot specialist) know immediately if they worsen or if they don’t improve within several days. This special attention to your feet will have a major impact on reducing your chance of future foot problems.

Here is your diabetes foot care to-do list:

  • Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water, including between the toes. Dry them gently and moisturize well.
  • Diabetes may cause you to sweat less, which can lead to cracked, dry skin. So when you trim your toenails, take care not to injure the surrounding skin.
  • If you have poor blood circulation in your legs or aren't able to see well enough to trim your nails, have your podiatrist (foot doctor) do it for you.
  • If you have neuropathy, wear moisture-resistant socks and well-fitting shoes with flexible soles made from crepe or foam rubber and soft leather tops that allow your feet to breathe.
  • To prevent pressure sores on your feet, make sure your socks don't bunch or wrinkle inside your shoes.
  • Be sure to see your doctor if any sores on your feet don't start to heal in a few days.

In case you’re not very flexible and have trouble twisting around to see the bottoms of your feet for these daily inspections, check out the Insight Foot Care Scale, available on Amazon.com for about $50. It’s a bathroom scale specially designed with an integrated “illuminated and magnified mirroring system” that gives you a good look at the bottoms of your feet without all the contortions usually required.

Can you still get a pedicure if you have diabetes?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the answer is a cautionary "yes."

They suggest you check out several salons and look into sanitation practices—the cleanliness of their tools and the foot tubs used. Be sure to let the technicians know you have diabetes so they will monitor water temperature (not higher than 90 to 95 degrees), avoid razors and lotion between the toes, and be especially gentle. 

DO NOT go in if you have an infection, open wound, or neuropathy in your feet. These just open the door for bacteria that will make any foot damage worse. Nerve damage will make it hard for you to tell if you’ve been cut or if the bathwater is simply too hot.

Other articles in this series:

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

With Neuropathy, No Pain Isn't Always a Good Sign

Diabetic Neuropathy Symptoms: Beware of Tingling Feet

How to Prevent Diabetes Foot Damage