Help manage foot problems caused by the disease by wearing proper footwear.
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Credit: New Balance / Skechers / Kane Footwear

If you have diabetes and struggle to find comfortable shoes, you're not alone. Diabetes can cause many different conditions, including foot problems that make wearing shoes painful.

"People with diabetes must take extra caution and care with their feet," says Pamela Mehta, M.D., owner of Resilience Orthopedics in San Jose, California. She adds that it's important to inspect your feet daily and check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling or nail problems, even using a magnifying hand mirror when necessary to examine the bottoms of your feet. It may sound obvious, but keeping your feet clean by washing them daily is imperative, and you should always use moisturizer to avoid dry skin and cracking of the feet, which can be more prevalent among those with diabetes.

More serious foot conditions can also be part of diabetes. For instance, nerve damage—or neuropathy—is a loss of sensation that can occur due to uncontrolled diabetes, says Irene Evuleocha, D.P.M., a double board-certified podiatrist practicing at Ochsner Health Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "[Neuropathy] can then result in calluses, which can lead to diabetic ulcers," she explains. In severe cases, this can also cause foot infections that may even lead to amputations if not managed in a timely manner.

Other foot problems caused by diabetes can include hammertoe deformities due to an imbalance with tendon and nerve muscle, poor circulation that may cause irreversible damage such as gangrene, and skin disorders like cracked skin or fungal infections due to an immunocompromised state, says Evuleocha.

It sounds scary, indeed, and can make shoe shopping feel a lot less fun. It doesn't have to be impossible, though. Properly managing your diabetes can reduce your risk of these foot problems. Here's what to keep in mind when choosing new footwear.

What to Look for in a Shoe if You Have Diabetes

First, look for a soft arch support system that will increase comfort and alleviate pain. Avoid shoes with flat soles, flip-flops and high heels because they don't allow for even distribution of foot pressure, says Dr. Mehta. If you have diabetes, it may be worth visiting a shop such as The Good Feet Store to get more information on your shoe's fit and to ensure that nothing is rubbing your foot in an uncomfortable way that may cause a blister or ulcer, she adds.

Shoes with wide and deep toe boxes are good choices for people with diabetes because they can help prevent friction and rubbing, says Daniel Geller, D.P.M., a foot and ankle surgeon in Los Angeles. Watch out for how your foot is positioned in a shoe when trying on pairs, as you don't want misshapen hammertoes or bunions to cause excess friction.

You also want to choose a shoe style with soft insoles for maximum comfort, says Dr. Mehta. The material is important, too. Choosing shoes made with leather, canvas or suede will allow for adequate air circulation, she adds. If you have trouble getting shoes off or on, look for a pair with Velcro straps that can be easily adjusted.

Finally, if you can't find a perfect fit, custom insoles can be a key way to manage foot pain due to diabetes. "These help prevent shifting of bones and soft tissues and offset many of the orthopedic problems we see, as well as provide stability and balance," says Geller. Always discuss shoes with your doctor if you're experiencing any of the aforementioned issues due to diabetes, he adds.

The Best Shoes If You Have Diabetes

Podiatrists recommend the following shoes for people with diabetes. In addition to wearing the right footwear, you may also consider wearing socks with extra cushioning, without elastic tops, that are higher than the ankle and are made from moisture-wicking fibers, says Dr. Mehta. Don't go barefoot around the house, either (try supportive house shoes instead).

New Balance 990

Some people with diabetes may benefit from a stability shoe such as this classic style, available for both men and women and ideal for everyday wear, says Geller. They're secure and supportive to accommodate a variety of foot shapes while protecting your arch.

New Balance 990
$185.00
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New Balance

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080

A soft, light shoe, these have a wide toe box and supportive midsole for easy transfer of pressure, says Geller. They provide better shock absorption than other pairs from New Balance and are a good option for those with less severe diabetes.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080
$150.00
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New Balance

Skechers Go Walk

These easy walking shoes come in a variety of styles, including both slip-on and laced pairs available in many different colors. Geller says they're comfortable, provide room for sensitive feet, and allow for an easy heel-to-toe gait that can help with balance.

Skechers Go Walk
$85.00
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Sketchers

Kane Revive

Described as "active recovery" shoes, these incorporate a special foam made from sugarcane, making them as sustainable as they are breathable. A versatile choice for anyone with diabetes, says Geller, these machine-washable kicks are well cushioned and perforated to prevent moisture buildup.

Kane Revive
$70.00
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Kane

Brooks Ghost

The support offered by a neutral, cushioning shoe, such as this pair, can help overall joint alignment of the body from the feet up, maximizing comfort while you're on your feet — especially for extended periods of time, says Dr. Mehta. (Plus, they come in two dozen colors to suit your style.)

Brooks Ghost
$140.00
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Brooks

Revere Sandal

Skipping flip-flops doesn't mean you have to give up breathable footwear for warmer weather. Instead, Dr. Mehta recommends these well-crafted sandals, which offer much better support than typical flip-flops. They also cushion and protect your feet, helping to prevent bruising and cuts that would be detrimental especially to those with diabetes, she adds.

Revere Sandal
$170.00
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Revere

Revere Backstrap Wedge

Similar to the sandals from the same brand, these wedges are supportive and cushioned, yet offer a little lift and style for days when you want to dress up your outfit. Easy to walk in while still adding height, with a 1.75-inch heel, these shoes (a top pick of Dr. Mehta) also have adjustable straps to accommodate a wider fit if needed. You can choose from go-with-anything black or a statement pattern, like fun leopard or peacock python.

Revere Backstrap Wedge
$80.00
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Revere

Orthofeet Proven

This pair selected by Evuleocha has lightweight, ergonomic soles for maximum comfort, as well as extra foam padding tucked inside a seam-free fabric interior. They're ideal for people with diabetes as the wide toe box enables extra room for movement without rubbing, and alleviates any pressure on bunions and hammertoes.

Orthofeet Proven
$139.95
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Amazon

Orthofeet Alamo

While they may not be the most stylish pair of diabetes-friendly shoes, these kicks are described as "immediately comfortable" by reviewers and come recommended by Evuleocha thanks to their removable orthotic insoles with arch support. They also have a wide toe box and cushioning sole, plus soft fabric inside and adjustable Velcro straps for easy removal.

Orthofeet Alamo
$140.00
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Amazon