Diabetes affects over 2 million Canadians, making it a major health concern in our country. Foot complications make up a large proportion of hospitalizations for people with diabetes, putting prevention and patient education top of mind. Footwear is an important element in developing a preventative and reactive treatment plan for someone with diabetes. Ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear is a leading cause of foot complications in people with diabetes, and many of these complications can be avoided with the right shoes.
Things to Consider When Shopping for Diabetic Footwear
Shoes are often overlooked as a component of foot care for people with diabetes. As much as being in the right shoe can make work, activity, or just everyday life more comfortable, being in the wrong shoes can drastically increase your risk of foot complications. While there is no ‘one shoe to rule them all’, there are three key things to consider when choosing footwear for any part of your daily life: fit, features and function.
Shoe fit is one of the most important components of finding the right shoe, particularly for those living with diabetes. What few people are aware of though, is that fit is so much more than overall length alone. Last shape (overall shape of the shoe), heel to ball length, width and depth are other key components of getting a good fit and need to be carefully considered when choosing footwear.
Generally speaking, overall length is a good indicator of where to start when finding the right size shoe, but considerations for width, depth and structure are also important. The width of a shoe should match not only the resting width of your foot but also the dynamic width of your foot when standing and walking. The depth of a shoe, in addition to the construction, should be sufficient to accommodate any hammer toes or other elements of your foot structure.
As diabetes can cause your foot to change shape over time, having a professional shoe fitter measure your feet is the best place to start whenever you’re purchasing a new pair of shoes. Specialty shoe stores like Seigel’s by SoleScience have expert fitters who can not only measure all of the dimensions of your foot, they can also recommend shoes that fit the other essential components of features and function.
There are several key features to look for when choosing footwear. For people with diabetes, footwear features that reduce or mitigate pressure, friction, and shear within the shoes is of paramount importance when shopping for footwear:
- Natural materials or materials with stretch – Natural materials such as leather or bamboo are soft and breathable on the foot, allowing for more movement, accommodation, and airflow within the shoe.
- Seamless or soft-seamed interior – Shoes without stiff seams are ideal to reduce the risk of friction or point pressure on the foot. Shoes lined with soft materials helps to reduce pressure and friction within the shoe.
- Removable footbed and extra depth – Having a removable footbed allows for the use of a custom orthotic device, if required, and provides extra interior space as required to accommodate for bony prominences like bunions or hammer toes.
- Wide stable base of support and strong structure – A well-structured shoe not only provides a good base of support for your daily activities but also provides a solid foundation upon which to use a custom foot orthotic, as needed.
- Rocker sole – Shoes with a rockered sole can help to reduce pressure on the sole of your foot and protect against ground reaction forces.
Choosing a shoe for diabetes that is both effective and intended for your activity is as important as the fit. While there is some flexibility (you can certainly use a running shoe for walking the dog), you should always carefully consider what you intend on doing in a shoe and choose footwear designed to suit those needs.
There are three typical “functional uses” for footwear: Work, activity, and casual use. When choosing a shoe for any of these three uses, consider what you will be doing in the footwear and what functionality you may want from the shoe itself. For example, if you are choosing a shoe to wear while walking the dog and going to the gym, you should be looking for an athletic shoe that provides support, cushion and stability for your activity. Always choose shoes that are suited to the things you’ll be doing in them.
Visit a Specialized Footwear Retailer
Fit, features, and function are all essential components when selecting appropriate footwear for people with diabetes. For the best combination of all these elements, choose a footwear retailer with the experience, expertise, and selection that suits your needs. Our expert shoe fitters at Seigel’s by SoleScience are fully equipped to help you find a shoe that’s right for you!