Diabetes & foot care

If you have diabetes, it is important to look after your feet to avoid infections and ulcers.

How can I look after my feet if I have diabetes?

Looking after your feet involves checking them every day, caring for them properly and wearing proper footwear. You should also avoid doing things that could damage your feet. 

Foot checks

Check your feet every day for:

  • blisters
  • breaks in the skin
  • pain
  • any signs of infection, such as swelling, heat or redness.

If you can't do this yourself, ask your partner or carer to help you.

If you discover any breaks in your skin, minor cuts or blisters:

  • cover the area with a sterile dressing
  • contact your podiatrist or GP immediately
  • go to your local after-hours clinic if it is after hours and there's no sign of healing after one day.

Foot care

Wash your feet every day.

  • Use warm water and mild soap.
  • You may not be able to feel hot or cold temperatures very well. Test the temperature of the water with your elbow or ask someone else to test the temperature for you.
  • Rinse your feet thoroughly.
  • Don't soak your feet, as this may damage your skin.
  • Dry your feet carefully, especially between your toes.

If your skin is dry, apply a moisturising cream every day. Avoid the areas between your toes.

Change your socks, stockings or tights every day. Choose ones without bulky seams and elasticised tops.

Wear socks if your feet are cold.

Always remove hot water bottles or heating pads from your bed before getting in.

Shoes

Wear well-fitting shoes and avoid going barefoot at all times, even when indoors. Your podiatrist may advise you about shoes, including buying new shoes or getting prescription shoes.

Before you put on your shoes, check the bottom to make sure that nothing sharp has pierced the outer sole. Run your hand inside each shoe to check that no small objects such as small stones have fallen in.

If your podiatrist or orthotist (the person who makes the shoes) has supplied you with prescription shoes:

  • follow the instructions they give you
  • only wear these shoes
  • only remove insoles if your orthotist or podiatrist advises you to.

Whoever provided your shoes will repair or alter them so they match your prescription.

Things to avoid

  • Don't cut into the corners of your toenails.
  • Avoid high or low temperatures.
  • Avoid walking barefoot, as you could stub your toes or stand on sharp objects.
  • Don’t wear badly fitting shoes.
  • Don’t burst blisters.
  • Don’t try to remove hard skin or corns yourself. Your podiatrist can provide treatment and advice.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter corn remedies, as they can damage your skin and cause ulcers.
  • Don’t sit with your feet in front of a fire or heater to warm them up.

Other things that can help to protect your feet

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.
  • Go to your GP regularly for follow up.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Exercise regularly and keep active.

Learn more

Diabetes and how to care for your feet Diabetes NZ
The right steps to healthy feet Diabetes NZ
Feet Diabetes NZ
Diabetes and foot problems Diabetes UK
How to look after your feet if you have diabetes NHS, UK​ 

Reviewed by

Dr Jeremy Tuohy is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with a special interest in Maternal and Fetal Medicine. Jeremy has been a lecturer at the University of Otago, Clinical leader of Ultrasound and Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Capital and Coast DHB, and has practiced as a private obstetrician. He is currently completing his PhD in Obstetric Medicine at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Jeremy Tuohy, Obstetrician & Researcher, University of Auckland Last reviewed: 20 May 2020