Diabetic Foot Problems

RFS - feetYour feet are vulnerable to a variety of problems if you have diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease and even amputation.

People take their feet for granted and they shouldn’t, because they hold our body weight and allow us to walk, run, jump and dance. Without properly functioning feet we lose our mobility and a measure of our freedom.

The human foot and ankle is a strong and complex structure which contains more than 26 bones (or 28 if you include the sesamoid bones at the base of the big toe), 33 joints, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The bones and joints of the foot allow us to absorb the pressure of the body’s weight and provide the connections for the muscles, tendons and ligaments, which allow the foot to move freely. The skin and fat of the feet provide additional cushioning for the body’s weight and is the first barrier to prevent infections from reaching the inner part of the foot.

Risks for Foot Problems

Poorly controlled diabetes. Good diabetes control reduces the risk for most complications of the disease. The reverse is also true.

Poor circulation. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, as well as damage to the small capillaries in the feet. When blood flow to tissues is poor, damage can occur and also inhibits proper healing.

Nerve damage. Almost 60% of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, which is nerve damage that usually begins in the extremities (hands and feet). Because of the nerve damage, people with diabetes may not have normal feeling in their feet. They may be unable to sense the position of their feet and toes while walking and balancing. Diabetics may not feel minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, blisters, or signs of wear and tear that can become calluses and corns. For example, most people can feel if there is a stone in their shoe, a person who has diabetes may not be able to feel it, which can rub and create a sore, cut or otherwise injure the foot.

Infections. Including Athlete’s foot, a fungal infection of the skin or toenails, can lead to more serious bacterial infections and should be treated promptly.

Common foot abnormalities. such as flat feet, bunions or hammertoes, may impact foot health. Prescription shoes or shoe inserts could help avoid further problems or injuries.

Trauma to the foot. Any foot injury can increase the risk for a more serious problem to develop.

Footwear. Poorly fitting shoes are a common cause of diabetic foot problems. Red spots, sore spots, blisters, corns, calluses, or consistent pain associated with wearing shoes, may indicate a problem with the fit of footwear. New shoes should be obtained as soon as possible. How to choose the right shoes.

What Shape Are Your Feet In?


National Institutes of Health

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases

Mayo Clinic


American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society