Get the Exercise You Need and Protect Your Feet

Diabetes Walking Tips Image Masterfile 2013

Getting regular exercise is vital to managing your diabetes. The ideal workout for many people is walking, for 30–60 minutes, most days of the week. While walking is a great way to improve your overall health, it can be tough on your feet, and that's a real concern for people with diabetes—nerve damage, or neuropathy, affects up to 70 percent of people with the condition and often manifests itself as a loss of sensation in the feet.

Neuropathy puts you at high risk of developing infections. Left untreated, these infections can lead to non-healing sores and even amputation in severe cases. If your doctor has given you the go-ahead to walk regularly, follow this foot-saving advice from Stowe, VT-based podiatrist Howard Dananberg, D.P.M.

1. Invest in Good, Well-fitting Footwear

Choose comfortable shoes that do not rub anywhere. Avoid shoes that are too loose, which can cause blisters, or too tight, which can cause nerve compression. Dr. Dananberg also recommends pressure-relieving insoles to prevent blisters and sore spots from forming. And don't skimp on socks: Choose a pair that fits well, has no seams and is made of a synthetic fabric that wicks away moisture, which can cause irritation. Diabetes-friendly shoes, socks and insoles are available from podiatrists and stores that cater to people with diabetes.

2. Do a Daily Foot Check

Before and after your walk, carefully inspect all surfaces of your feet and in between your toes. Be on the lookout for small cuts, blisters, ingrown toenails or any signs of infection. If you have neuropathy you may feel less sensation than other people, and may not notice a problem until infection has already occurred, says Dananberg. If you can't reach or see your feet, have someone else examine them, or use a mirror to guide you.

3. Fix Problems ASAP

If you have been diagnosed with neuropathy, call your doctor immediately if you notice any new cuts or blisters. Otherwise, wash your feet with soap and water and apply an antibiotic cream and a bandage to any small wounds two to three times a day. If redness develops or cuts do not heal within a few days, contact your doctor. Refrain from fitness walking until injuries have healed. If you have calluses, don't attempt to remove them yourself; these can be precursors to foot sores and need to be treated by a physician.

4. See a Doctor At Least Once a Year

Symptoms of neuropathy are often subtle, or nonexistent, so it's critical for a doctor to perform a thorough foot exam and conduct basic tests for sensation (remind your primary-care physician if he doesn't do this during your routine physical). Ideally, see a podiatrist, who is more likely to know what to look for.

Source: From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2013

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 Feb 2013

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015