There are some things that stand the test of time: classic novels. Fine art. The TV show Survivor (for some reason).
Other things, unfortunately, eventually wear out no matter how much we love them. Your favorite pair of shoes, with enough time and wear, will eventually become a pair of doorstops. That’s just part of life.
Continuing to wear a pair of overly worn out shoes can be bad news for your feet in any circumstance. However, the stakes are even higher when you have a pair of diabetic shoes that are starting to lose their constitution.
Why Diabetic Shoes Must Be Up to Snuff
While shoes can come in all sorts of shapes and styles, diabetic shoes all share a similar mission: to protect the feet against forces that can cause breakdown in the skin and develop into dangerous sores and ulcers.
The risks of wounds to the foot in a diabetic patient are particularly high due to the complications diabetes can cause. Poor circulation can reduce the body’s own healing speed or effectiveness. Neuropathy can reduce the nerves’ ability to sense damage to the feet at all, so problems are not felt and addressed.
Combined, both neuropathy and poor circulation can lead to sores being able to grow into wounds and ulcers without someone even realizing it. These wounds can grow infected and lead to dangerous, life-threatening conditions that sometimes requires amputation.
With these risks in mind, a proper diabetic shoe has many factors in its design to provide as much comfort and protection as possible. The interior is not only made from soft material, it contains no seams or stitching that could rub up against the foot and potentially cause irritation.
Additionally, a good diabetic shoe provides a spacious toe-box to offer extra room for the toes—especially important when deformities such as bunions or hammertoes must be considered. They also often have extra depth to accommodate custom orthotic inserts, providing even greater support and distribution of weight away from pressure points.
These are just a few general ways in which diabetic shoes go the extra mile to guard against problems. There are many more ways in which a diabetic shoe can be adjusted to take the unique needs of a patient into account.
There’s one thing to keep in mind, however: while a diabetic shoe is designed to protect a foot against wear and breakdown, that doesn’t mean it’s invincible from the same—including against the foot itself!
Different Wear, Different Tear
A diabetic shoe is built to support a foot against excess pressure and friction, but it is still experiencing those forces itself. Eventually, the protective elements are going to break down, leaving the foot more vulnerable toward receiving irritation and injury.
Of course, if all the factors were the same with every individual, it would be easy to schedule an exact time when someone should have their diabetic shoes checked for refurbishment or potential replacement. It would be like replacing a toothbrush every few months—just something we know (or should know) to do!
However, while there is a general guideline that diabetic shoes should be replaced every year (and Medicare lends itself to providing a free pair per calendar year), some people may need their footwear inspected sooner than that! It can depend on a variety of factors—some controllable, some not:
- Overall Use. Many patients receive the suggestion to wear their shoes in almost every circumstance for protection. This includes inside the home. If you walk a lot, or wear the same pair of shoes every day, you can expect them to wear out faster than someone who switches between shoes or has a more sedentary lifestyle.
- Abnormalities in Foot Shape. Deformities such as bunions, as well as abnormalities in gait such as overpronation, can lead to additional pressure being placed on specific areas of a shoe or insert. While protection is being provided, the foot is essentially fighting back.
- Changes Over Time. Our feet (like the rest of us) can change shape as we age. When conditions such as Charcot foot come into play for a diabetic patient, however, these shifts may happen faster than on average.
Ultimately, you should not think of diabetic shoes and inserts as static devices. They are going to change over time, and so are your feet, so it is important that both stay in sync!
So, When Should I Have My Diabetic Shoes Examined?
Some patients may be fine going a year between diabetic shoe replacements or refurbishments. Others, not so much. How do you know where you fall?
One’s condition, lifestyle, and external factors can help determine a general guideline for follow-up. This is something we can discuss during your first fitting.
Of course, things can change, however. When you perform a daily foot check (as you should!), inspect your shoes as well. Not only should you look for anything that might have fallen into them, but also see if there are any spots that are looking particularly run down or bare. If so, let us know!
Another factor to consider is the effects of neuropathy. If the sensation in your feet is particularly low, we may recommend seeing us every few months to check the state of your feet and shoes, as you might not feel if a problem has come to light!
One of the benefits of a more frequent approach to checking diabetic shoes is that, if an adjustment needs to be made, we can typically tell through seeing the wear patters inside and outside the footwear. Adjustments can be made sooner than later, increasing your overall comfort and reducing the risks of a problem spot developing!
No matter the timetable for checking out your diabetic shoes, having a good, steady plan for diabetic foot care is essential toward maintaining mobility and addressing problems before they come serious. Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. places high focus on our diabetic patients, and we’re happy to work with you to keep you one step ahead in your foot health!
Our offices in Edison and Warren are ready to hear from you. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.