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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Diabetes & holiday feet

Some of the foot problems that come with diabetes happen because the nerves and blood vessels supplying your feet are damaged. This can affect the feeling in your feet (peripheral neuropathy) and the circulation in your feet (ischaemia).

These changes can be very gradual and you may not notice them. This is why it's very important that you check your feet regularly, especially when you're on holiday, as you may be more active than usual.

Diabetes affects your feet because higher blood sugar damages your nerves and blood vessels. Your smallest nerves and blood vessels are the first to be damaged. Your smallest nerves are the ones furthest away from your brain – in your toes. Some of your smallest blood vessels are also in your toes.

The first sign your nerves and blood vessels are being damaged is usually pins and needles, burning, or numbness in your toes. This is why it's important to have good control of your blood sugar level. Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure is also important for your feet.

Happy feet will help you to enjoy your holiday.

How to keep your feet healthy on holiday

On the journey

Long journeys can make your feet swell. Try to walk about every half hour if possible – even a short distance will help. This will keep the circulation moving and keep swelling down. Remember, your feet may swell in heat, so make sure your shoes are not too tight.

Check your feet every day

You should check your feet at least once a day for any blisters, breaks in the skin, pain or any signs of infection such as swelling, heat or redness, just as you would at home.

Wash your feet every day

Wash your feet every day in warm water and mild soap. Rinse them thoroughly and dry them carefully, especially between your toes.

Moisturise your feet every day

If your skin is dry apply a moisturising cream every day, avoiding the areas between your toes. You may need to apply extra moisturising cream if your skin gets very dry in hot or cold weather.


Carry on cutting your toenails as your podiatrist has advised you to.

Avoid walking barefoot

Always wear footwear, even on the beach. The sand can become very warm and you may burn your feet without realising. If you go into the sea, wear some sort of footwear, such as plastic shoes, to protect your feet.

Avoid wearing flip-flop-type footwear (jandals) as they may cause blisters between your toes.

Prescription shoes

If you have been supplied with shoes, do not wear any other shoes during your holiday (except when you are in the sea).

Minor cuts and blisters

Take a small first-aid kit containing sterile gauze dressings and tape. If you get a small blister, cut or graze, use diluted antiseptic on a gauze swab to clean the wound and tape on a dry sterile gauze dressing. Don't use cotton wool.

Avoid high or low temperatures

Protect your feet from sunburn with a high-factor sun protection cream (factor 30 or above) or keep them covered. Don't use dark-coloured materials to protect your feet as they absorb heat and you could burn your feet.


If you discover any problems with your feet, contact your podiatry service or GP immediately. If they aren't available, go to your nearest after-hours GP clinic. Remember, any delay in getting advice or treatment when you have a problem can lead to serious problems

Written by Podiatrist Special Interest Group. Endorsed by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2015.


See also

Diabetes and high-risk feet

Diabetes and low-risk feet

Diabetes and medium-risk feet

Diabetic neuropathy

More information on diabetes and feet

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net. Travel bags by ping phuket; no bare feet by Viado

Page reference: 648831

Review key: HIDIF-84656