An elderly woman wears her diabetic shoes, supporting foot health

What Are Diabetic Shoes?

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Diabetes is very common among Americans. In fact, the CDC estimates that about 1 in every 10 Americans has diabetes. Of those, around 90–95% have Type 2 diabetes. While most people with diabetes can live happy, healthy, and full lives, diabetes does come with its share of challenges.

One of those challenges is managing foot-related conditions that are common in people with diabetes. Locomotion is extremely important to our everyday lives. After all, we all need to be able to move around. If our feet aren’t healthy, then doing even basic activities can become a painful and uncomfortable hassle.

Fortunately, there are shoes specifically designed for people living with diabetes to mitigate these problems and promote comfort and foot health. If you’ve been asking yourself “what are diabetic shoes?”, this article will help answer that question.

What Are Diabetic Shoes?

Diabetic shoes (also referred to as therapeutic shoes or sugar shoes) are shoes with features designed to address and mitigate specific foot conditions that people with diabetes may struggle with.

Diabetes-related Foot Problems

Many people with diabetes have peripheral artery disease (PAD) or neuropathy.

  • PAD occurs when buildup on blood vessel walls causes them to narrow, reducing blood flow to the feet.
  • Neuropathy occurs when nerve damage causes burning, tingling, stinging, weakness, and/or numbness in the foot.

Poor blood flow can make your body less able to fight infections or heal from injuries. Neuropathy can make you unaware of injuries or health issues affecting your feet and those issues can cause changes to the shape of your feet.

These two things can be mutually reinforcing and create the conditions for several other foot-related complications, such as these:

  • Skin breakdown
  • Foot ulcers
  • Calluses
  • Charcot’s foot
  • Amputation (in rare cases)

For these reasons, diabetic shoes can play an important role in the health of those managing diabetes. For example, people living with diabetes are prone to foot ulcers, which are extremely painful open sores that mainly develop on the bottom of the foot. They typically stem from the pressure of shoes that don’t fit correctly.

While foot ulcers can be treated, in severe cases they cause enough damage to surrounding tissues that they necessitate amputation. Of course, having foot ulcers does not mean you’ll require an amputation. And there’s plenty you can do to prevent foot ulcers in the first place. Although diabetic shoes don’t treat foot ulcers, studies have shown that they may significantly reduce your risk of developing a foot ulcer, and amputation by extension.

What’s the Difference Between a Diabetic Shoe and a Regular Shoe?

Diabetic shoes incorporate a variety of features that regular shoes typically don’t have to reduce pressure and create an adequate, comfortable fit, such as the following:

  • Flexible and malleable uppers to reduce pressure
  • Deeper toe boxes that prevent pressure on the toes and provide a wider range of movement
  • Softer interiors that reduce skin irritation
  • Lightweight soles with extra cushioning to aid with mobility and stability while also softening impact on the bottom of the foot
  • Removable, custom-molded inserts that provide stability to the foot

While regular shoes do little to protect people with diabetes, diabetic shoes are designed with foot comfort and protection for people with diabetes as their primary purpose.

What Are the Potential Benefits of Diabetic Footwear?

On top of protecting people with diabetes from foot complications, diabetic shoes may alleviate pain and provide improved levels of comfort as well as the following benefits:

  • Better stability
  • Improved circulation
  • Callus prevention
  • Increased range of motion

Together, these benefits can result in a shoe that is extremely comfortable for people living with diabetes. While plenty of regular shoes provide things like arch support and larger toe boxes, they aren’t designed orthopedically for diabetes. Therefore, they often can’t provide the same levels of comfort and protection as diabetic shoes.

Where Can I Get Diabetic Shoes?

Because diabetic shoes require a prescription, you’ll have to go through a podiatrist or another qualified doctor on your healthcare team. Diabetic shoes aren’t too expensive, typically ranging in price from $50 to $200, and they’re covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Your private health insurance may cover them as well, but you’ll want to check for eligibility as each insurer has its own policies regarding diabetic footwear.

This means that diabetic shoes are relatively affordable, with little to no cost to you most of the time.

After getting a prescription, you can find excellent diabetic shoe options online from sources such as the following:

As with any new addition to your diabetes management, you’ll want to consult your healthcare team before purchasing diabetic shoes to ensure that you get the proper solution for your feet.


Supporting Foot Health With Diabetic Shoes

Now that we’ve answered the question “what are diabetic shoes?” you have the knowledge that can help you on your journey to long-term foot health. Diabetic shoes are designed to reduce complications from PAD and neuropathy to help prevent issues like ulcers, skin breakdown, and amputations. Moreover, diabetic shoes open the door to enjoying enhanced levels of daily comfort and improve the quality of life of people living with diabetes.

Finding new tools that improve your day-to-day or make managing your diabetes a bit easier can be extremely rewarding.

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 Jaclyn Owens, product director specializing in diabetes management tools

Jaclyn Owens

Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.

All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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