Diabetes and looking after your feet August 10 2017

Feet. They keep us mobile and stop our legs from fraying. It’s so easy to take them for granted, especially as they’re usually hidden. So often it’s only when you haven’t got them or they hurt, that you really appreciate them. 

Did you know, feet don’t stay the same size?

Feet develop as we grow older, growing rapidly when we’re babies and toddlers, slowing down when we get to secondary school. By the time we get old, they often show the ravages of time and weight.  

The increase in obesity (often leading to diabetes) means feet have become more flaccid, requiring wider shoes, and there are more sufferers of plantar fasciitis and painful arches.  

There are 26 bones in the foot and they don’t ossify (harden) and become fully developed until we’re around 16-18 years old

If shoes are too tight or restrictive when we’re tiny, our feet can quickly become misshapen. However, the trouble doesn’t stop at being misshapen. If our natural gait (the way we walk) is affected, then other parts of our body can become unnecessarily worn too, leading to painful knees, hips, back and necks in maturity.

Sadly, there’s no government health warning on some children’s footwear, but there should be.

Irreversible damage can be caused by wearing ill-fitting, poorly made shoes in as little as 3 days

So, what’s worse than ill-fitted footwear – or shoes that are poorly made and quickly become misshapen? It’s being diabetic and not knowing the importance of shoe fitting and good footwear, and not finding a professional shoe fitting service. 

If your feet become misshapen for any reason (conditions like lymphoedema, arthritis and rheumatism all love to target the feet), then it’s likely your shoes will rub. 

For the vast majority this can be painful, leading to a blister or a corn. For a diabetic, this can be life-threatening – if an infection takes hold it can result in an ulcer, amputation or even worse. Up-to-date mortality statistics can be found online, but we’re reliably informed that it costs in excess of £95,000 to treat a diabetic and the cost goes up dramatically if they need surgical assistance. The NHS has to foot the bill (pardon the pun).

Diabetes UK does a fantastic job of informing their members how to look after their feet, while podiatrists will usually advise their patients to take special care and check their feet daily.

What can you do?

The most important first step is to choose good quality, adjustable well-fitted footwear, for instance with laces or Velcro straps (as feet fluctuate between hot and cold throughout the day), with few seams and smooth insoles and linings. Keep feet immaculately clean, drying thoroughly between the toes. And discard any badly made, overly worn or shrunken socks. 

So where can diabetics because shop safely for shoes?

Diabetes is part of our training course for S.S.F. professional fitters, but sadly there are too few shops that offer the specialisation and personal service needed. 

Independent retailers are usually the most reliable and knowledgeable, but again, too few ensure their staff are fully trained and professionally qualified to fit shoes.

Children’s shoe shops are often more enlightened, as many parents expect to have their children’s feet properly fitted. But as few adults realise their own feet continue to develop, they don’t expect to be fitted unless they have a problem.

Professionally fitted shoes

Thankfully Society of Shoe Fitter members and some retailers on the Children’s Foot Health Register can help. In addition, some Podiatrists have seen the gap in the market (and in their clients’ shoes) and are also learning to fit and sell appropriate footwear and hosiery.

The key is preventative medicine and ‘funded education – public health warnings’ for both the public and footwear industry. Realising the importance of developing feet, and the huge difference properly fitted footwear can make, would be less painful for the public and NHS budgets. 

National Shoe Fitting Week - spreading the word

The Society of Shoe Fitters is doing what it can to inform the public with the National Shoe Fitting Week (always the week before Easter), supported by Diabetes UK, and can supply posters and PR material freely to anyone wanting to promote the message. But without any financial support, or advertising department to badger the media to run a story, it’s not easy. 

If you’d like to take part in National Shoe Fitting Week, or know someone who could help raise the profile of the importance of shoe fitting, particularly for diabetics, then please get in touch with the SSF, they’d love to hear from you.

If you know someone with diabetes, suggest they have their feet measured and shoes fitted by a qualified shoe fitter, for the health of their feet. Here at Ellie Dickins Shoes, we’re all qualified shoe fitters, trained in fitting feet with issues such as diabetes, bunions, arthritis and more. Why not call in and let us measure and fit your feet properly, and keep you walking in comfort for longer.