What type of shoes should a diabetic wear?

Choosing the right shoes is important for everyone, but especially critical for those with diabetes. Proper footwear can help prevent foot problems that often occur as a complication of diabetes. With diabetes, nerve damage in the feet causes loss of feeling. This lack of sensation means foot injuries or irritation can go unnoticed and lead to ulcers or infections. Additionally, poor circulation from diabetes makes it harder for wounds to heal. Finding shoes that provide protection, comfort, and support is essential for people with diabetes to stay active while also preventing injury. This article will provide guidance on choosing appropriate diabetic shoes.

What makes shoes good for diabetics?

Diabetic shoes are designed with special features to meet the specific needs of people with diabetes. Here are some key characteristics to look for in footwear for diabetes:

Extra depth and width

Shoes for diabetics tend to run wider and deeper than standard shoes. The extra room accommodates inserts or orthotics and allows for bandages or braces. It also reduces pressure on the feet from rubbing against the sides or tops of shoes. Ill-fitting shoes are one of the most common causes of blisters and sores.

Seamless interior

The inside of shoes for diabetics should be smooth without seams that could irritate skin. Seamless construction helps prevent rubbing that can lead to blisters or other injuries.

Lightweight soles

Heavy, inflexible soles can restrict foot flexibility and circulation. The best diabetic shoes have lightweight, cushioned soles that absorb shock and allow the feet to move more naturally.

Adjustable closure

Shoes with velcro or buckle closures make it easy to adjust the fit as needed throughout the day as feet swell or subside. Laces allow more points of adjustment but can be difficult for some people to tie and get the right pressure.

Removable insoles

Insoles that can be removed make it easy to accommodate custom orthotics or inserts. Prescription orthotics help distribute weight and pressure optimally.

Rockered soles

Specialized soles with a curved, rockered shape make walking easier by encouraging the feet to roll smoothly through each step. This enhances stability and takes pressure off sensitive areas.

What to avoid in diabetic shoes

Some features to avoid when selecting shoes for diabetes include:

High heels

Heels, especially over 1 inch, push weight forward onto the toes and balls of the feet. This increases pressure on those areas and throws off balance. Low heels or flats are best.

Pointed toes

A pointed toe box compresses the toes and can cause nerve damage over time. Round or square toe boxes give toes room to move comfortably.

Thin, unsupportive soles

Minimal soles without proper cushioning don’t absorb impact well. That forces the feet to take the brunt of each step, increasing pain.

Slip-on styles

Though convenient, slip-on shoes typically don’t have adjustable closures to customized the fit. They can easily slide around and chafe the feet.

Plastic or rigid materials

Non-breathable materials like plastic trap in heat and moisture creating breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus. Stiff materials also rub and apply excess pressure.

Irregular tread patterns

Deep treads or uneven lugs are more likely to catch and cause tripping. Opt for smoother soles.

What to look for in athletic shoes for diabetics

Exercise provides many benefits for people with diabetes, from improving blood sugar control to reducing cardiovascular risks. But the right athletic shoe is a must to help avoid foot injuries during workouts. Here’s how to select optimal sports shoes:

Cushioning and support

Cushioning in both the heel and forefoot absorbs impact from running and jumping. Arch support promotes proper foot alignment and weight distribution. Both help prevent repetitive stress injuries.

Correct fit

Athletic shoes for diabetics should fit snugly without compressing or rubbing the feet. Consider going up a half size to accommodate orthotics or swelling. Shop at the end of the day when feet are most swollen.

Breathable materials

Exercise generates perspiration so look for moisture wicking fabrics to keep feet dry and cool. Ensure any waterproof materials like Gore-Tex are also breathable.

Wide toe box

The toe box should have sufficient width and depth to keep toes loose and uncrowded during workouts. This prevents painful abrasions.

Proper ankle support

Opt for mid to high tops that provide ample ankle support and stabilization during activities with jumping or quick pivoting. Low tops can lead to rolled ankles.

Minimal seams

Seams inside athletic shoes should be soft, flat, and unobtrusive to prevent blisters or calluses during exercise.

Flexible sole

Flexible, non-skid soles allow natural foot movement. Inflexible soles inhibit motion and circulation. Check flexibility by twisting the toe upwards before buying.

Everyday shoes for diabetics

For daily wear, shoes for diabetics should combine comfort, protection, and style. Here are some of the best options:

Orthopedic walking shoes

Specifically designed for foot health, orthopedic walking shoes have removable insoles, cushioning, support, and adjustable closures. brands like Orthofeet, Drew Shoe, Vionic, and Propet make excellent options.

Slip-on sneakers

Slip-on walking sneakers provide the perks of athletic shoes without the hassle of tying laces. Look for versions with stretch fabric uppers for a customized fit and velcro closures across the instep.

Stretchable casual oxfords

Leather or suede oxfords with stretchy gore paneling provide a secure but comfortable fit. Classic wingtip styles offer versatility for both casual and business attire.

Accommodative dress shoes

Dress shoes from brands like Aetrex, Dr. Comfort, and Orthofeet have interior padding and adjustable features while maintaining a formal aesthetic. Options include oxfords, loafers, and Mary Janes.

Custom inserts

For those struggling to find perfectly fitting shoes, custom orthotic inserts molded specifically for your feet can transform the fit and comfort of regular shoes.

Tips for finding the best diabetic shoes

Finding the optimal shoes involves some trial and error. Follow these tips for the best results:

– Have feet professionally measured each time you shoe shop to track changes in size or shape

– Shop later in the day when feet are swollen

– Bring any custom orthotics or inserts with you when trying on shoes

– Walk around the store in potential shoes to assess comfort and fit. Make sure toes don’t hit the front when walking

– Ensure a finger’s width of space between the longest toe and shoe tip

– Try on both shoes. Feet are often different sizes.

– Choose leather shoes that mold to your feet over time

– Consider custom-made shoes for the best fit if off-the-shelf options fail

– Break in new shoes gradually at home before wearing all day

Shoe modifications for added comfort

Simple modifications to shoes can enhance comfort and prevent irritation:

– Add foam, gel or cork padding to pressure points

– Use mole skin to cover irritating seams or rough edges

– Insert heel grips to prevent slippage

– Replace standard insoles with more cushioned orthotic insoles

– Stretch shoes oversize with a shoe stretcher to make more room if too tight

– Wear natural fiber socks like cotton or wool to wick moisture and prevent blisters

– Apply petroleum jelly to heels and toes to reduce friction in new shoes

When to replace diabetic shoes

Replace diabetic shoes every 6 to 12 months or sooner if you notice:

– Bottoms worn down from use

– Uppers stretched out permanently, affecting fit

– Lack of support from compressed cushioning

– Visible cracks or tears

– Redness, blisters or calluses forming on feet indicating poor fit

Diabetic shoes lose their protective qualities over time so monitor wear and replace before problems develop.

Shopping considerations for diabetic shoes

– Expect to pay $100 to $300 or more for a quality pair of diabetic shoes. They are specialized medical footwear.

– Many insurance plans cover diabetic shoes with a doctor’s prescription. Coverage varies so check your benefits.

– Shop in the afternoon when feet are most swollen. Bring any custom orthotics.

– Try shoes with your typical socks. Thicker athletic socks require more room.

– Walk on various surfaces – carpet, tile, wood, grass. Shoes should feel comfortable on all.

– Don’t rely on break-in period. Shoes should feel comfortable immediately.

– Ensure a certified pedorthist properly fits specialty diabetic shoes.

– Buy two pairs and rotate daily to extend the life of diabetic shoes.

Caring for diabetic shoes

Proper care helps diabetic shoes last their full lifespan:

– Use shoe trees to maintain shape when not worn

– Allow leather shoes at least 24 hours to air out between wearings

– Spray suede or fabric with protector to prevent stains

– Check soles for wear and replace before holes appear

– Use hard acrylic inserts to keep toe box shape

– Rotate two pairs of shoes so each fully dries between uses

– Wash removable insoles regularly to prevent bacterial growth

– Disinfect shoe interiors periodically with ultraviolet light

– Store shoes away from direct heat and sunlight

– Take shoes to a cobbler for repairs instead of DIY fixes

Warning signs of improper diabetic shoes

Monitor feet closely after wearing new shoes or any type of uncomfortable footwear. Stop wearing them immediately if you notice:

– Redness, blisters or calluses forming on the feet

– Persistent foot pain during or after wearing

– Tingling, burning or numbness in the feet

– Chafed areas, irritation or rashes on feet

– Unusual warmth or sweating of the feet

– Swelling of the feet

These signs indicate shoes aren’t fitting properly or adequately protecting the feet. Keep blood sugars under tight control. See a podiatrist promptly about any concerning foot issues. Catching and treating problems early is crucial to prevent serious complications like infection or ulceration. Don’t take chances with your feet.


Selecting optimal footwear is vital for people with diabetes to stay active and comfortable while also preventing injury. Look for specialized diabetic shoes designed with extra depth and width, cushioning, support, seamless interiors, adjustable closures and other accommodative features. Avoid ill-fitting shoes, high heels, or inadequate soles. Consider custom orthotics for optimal comfort and fit. Shop later in the day when feet are most swollen. Replace diabetic shoes every 6 to 12 months or sooner if they show signs of wear. Properly caring for diabetic shoes extends their lifespan. Pay close attention to how shoes fit and feel on your feet. See a podiatrist at the first sign of problems to keep your feet healthy. With the right footwear and proactive care, diabetics can avoid serious foot complications and confidently stay on their feet.

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