I’ve always been a little vain about my feet.
High-arched, narrow, with unblemished toenails, strangers at my occasional pedicures have informed me that I could have been a ballet dancer (untrue) and that I’m lucky -- no bunions, corns, or damaged nails.
Even more important, my feet have been good to me -- keeping up with my desire to score footsteps on my exercise watch, supporting my weightlifting, and generally being pain-free, reliable companions.
Until they were not.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been battling pain on the right side of my right foot. The pain, which is worse in the morning when my foot first strikes the floor, has a fancy name: peroneal tendinitis.
It’s mostly due to overuse: Those balletic high arches, wearing under-cushioned footwear, and, in my case, a long stretch of wishful thinking that if I ignored it long enough, it might go away on its own.
It did not.
Type 2 diabetes didn’t cause my foot pain, but, as I hobbled through the fall, having to abandon my beloved walks with friends and enter a 3-day-a-week physical therapy routine, it made me think of all the things that neglecting your diabetes can do to your feet.
So here are some tips:
Be vigilant. Run a weekly foot check to examine anything new: blisters, cuts, athlete’s foot. Diabetes can cause neuropathy -- or nerve damage -- which can make your feet tingle uncomfortably but can also result in numbness, which means you can be in pain but not feel it.
A physical check of your soles and between your toes can help discover if there are things happening that have escaped your notice.
Be careful cutting and trimming. I prefer my toenails and fingernails short, but cutting toenails to the quick can create problems. Avoid obliterating the whites of your nails, since you might also be chopping skin, and think twice before you (or someone else) snip your cuticles.
Moisturizing, then pushing them back gently, is preferable, once again to prevent injuries.
The same advice applies to calluses and corns. Hold the line at the nail salon on techs who come at you with sharp tools or acids that burn the skin off your feet. These are not medically necessary and open small fissures in the skin that can lead to trouble. Thick moisturizers are preferable.
And if you can resist “operating” on your nails, calluses, or corns that interfere with your ability to walk, head to a podiatrist’s office.
Be shod. Walking barefoot can be treacherous for people with diabetes. If you have neuropathy, you might not know if you’ve stepped on something and, if you don’t, you need to avoid the possibility of a slow-healing wound. Shoes or well-fitting sandals in and out of the house are a good policy.
Be cushioned. Wearing supportive shoes with lots of room in the toe box that don’t rub is extremely important. Seek out companies that specialize in comfort shoes that don’t need to be “broken in.”
And while I’m the first to admit that such footwear may not be the most fashionable, loafers, flats, and sneakers with arch support happen to be in this year, so take advantage and stock up.
While this may seem a lot, the main goal is to avoid future foot issues, which I can tell you from my recent experience are no fun. By staying on top of your blood sugars, eating mindfully, and exercising, the hope is that can put your best foot forward (sorry!) for as long as possible.
Photo Credit: Dmitry Belyaev / iStock via Getty Images Plus
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