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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Diabetes & low-risk feet

If you have been told by your diabetes health professional that you're at low risk of diabetes foot damage, this information will help you to avoid complications with your feet. If you have diabetes and don't know whether you have high-, medium-, or low-risk feet, ask your health professional.

Some of the foot problems that can 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 essential you have your feet screened every year.

Your foot screening has shown that you do not have nerve or blood vessel damage at present. So you are currently at low risk of developing foot complications because of your diabetes.

Diabetes affects your feet because higher blood sugar damages your nerves and blood vessels.

Longer nerves are more likely to be damaged by high glucose levels, and the nerves to your feet have the longest way to travel from your spine. The arteries in your legs are also prone to become narrow, which restricts blood flow to your feet.

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.

If you smoke, it's really important to stop. Smoking affects your circulation and can lead to amputation.

As your feet are in good condition, you may not need regular podiatry treatment. However, ask your nurse if you are eligible to be referred to the West Coast PHO Low-Risk Foot Scheme.

If you follow the simple advice on this page you should be able to carry out your own foot care, unless you develop a specific problem.

How to keep your feet healthy

Check your feet every day

You should check your feet every day for any blisters, breaks in the skin, pain or any signs of infection such as swelling, heat or redness.

Wash your feet every day

You should wash your feet every day in warm water with a mild soap. Rinse them thoroughly and dry them carefully, especially between your toes. Don't soak your feet, as this can damage your skin.

Moisturise your feet every day

If your skin is dry, apply a moisturising cream every day, but avoiding the areas between your toes.


Cut or file your toenails regularly, following the curve of the end of your toe. Use a nail file to make sure that there are no sharp edges that could press into the next toe. Don't cut down the sides of your nails as you may create a spike of nail which could result in an ingrown toenail.

Socks, stockings and tights

You should change your socks, stocking or tights every day. They should not have bulky seams and the tops should not be elasticised.

Avoid walking barefoot

If you walk barefoot you risk injuring your feet by stubbing your toes and standing on sharp objects that can damage the skin.

Check your shoes

Check the bottom of your shoes before putting them on to make sure that nothing sharp such as a pin, nail or glass has pierced the outer sole. Also, run your hand inside each shoe to check that no small objects such as small stones have fallen in.

Badly fitting shoes

Badly fitting shoes are a common cause of irritation or damage to feet. The professional who screened your feet may give you advice about the shoes you are wearing or about buying new shoes.

Minor cuts and blisters

If you check your feet and discover any breaks in the skin, minor cuts or blisters, you should cover them with a sterile dressing and check them every day. Don't burst blisters. If the problems don't heal within a few days, or if you notice any signs of infection (swelling, heat, redness or pain), contact your GP.

Over-the-counter corn remedies

Don't use over-the-counter corn remedies. They aren't recommended for anyone with diabetes as they can cause damage to your skin, which can create problems.

Advice when buying new shoes


If you discover any problems with your feet, contact your podiatry service or GP immediately. If they are not 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.

Information provided by the Canterbury DHB. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Page created May 2016


See also:

Diabetes and holiday feet

Diabetic neuropathy

More information on diabetes and feet

Images courtesy of Foot massage by Praisaeng; sports shoes by FrameAngel

Page reference: 269796

Review key: HIDIF-84656