That last one isn’t talked about enough. Yet foot damage affects an estimated 15 to 25 percent of people with diabetes in their lifetime, per a March 2018 study in the International Journal of Endocrinology.
High blood sugar can lead to diabetic neuropathy, a lack of sensory perception or feeling in the feet, says podiatrist, owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, Patrick McEneaney, DPM. “In this case, a person can develop wounds on the feet since they cannot feel rubbing or irritation,” he says.
Low blood sugar can also prevent wounds from healing, creating a breeding ground for bacteria, Dr. McEneaney says. This can lead to infections and even potentially amputation if it’s not taken care of properly.
For these reasons and more, it’s vital that people with diabetes choose the right footwear. Here are the best options, according to podiatrists.
The Best Shoes for People With Diabetes
We tapped five podiatrists, who offered product recommendations and broke down what to look for in shoes that can help alleviate diabetes symptoms. We selected these products based on their criteria, including:
- Toe box width
“The right shoe should have a thick, supportive sole and a wide and high toe box to provide sufficient room for your toes and prevent your feet from injury,” says William Spielfogel, DPM, podiatrist and medical advisor to The Good Feet Store. “A good shoe should also be deep enough to accommodate an arch support if needed.”
Why Are Certain Shoes Marketed to Men or Women?
We make deliberate choices about the language we use regarding sex and gender, but shoe manufacturers market their products to men and women. We’ve included that language here, but we encourage everyone to choose the shoe that works best for them regardless of marketing lingo.
1. New Balance Made in USA 990v5
- Room toe box
- True to size
- Can accommodate orthotic inserts
These shoes are specifically designed to protect and support the ankle area, which can be problematic for people with diabetes.
They feature a dual-density collar foam and a midsole made from lightweight foam to deliver all-day support, no matter your level of activity.
They also come in a variety of sizes, including wide and extra-wide, to accommodate those who need more room.
Suzanne Levine, DPM, New York-based aesthetic podiatrist and board-certified podiatric foot surgeon, recommends them because they’re secure, supportive and accommodate a variety of foot shapes while protecting the arch of the foot.
2. Brooks Addiction Walker 2
- Certified for people with diabetes
- 4 width options (including extra-wide)
When it comes to support, these walking shoes go above and beyond. Thanks to their extended Progressive Diagonal Rollbar technology, they provide support not only for your foot, but also for your entire body, making this a certified medical-grade shoe for diabetes.
The outsole is slip-resistant and the inside is lined with a soft cushioning that adapts to your weight, stride and speed, which takes pressure off your joints.
- Can accommodate orthotics
- Wide toe box
- Somewhat limited inventory
This shoe is functional, cost-effective, comfortable, can work with orthotics and is a great neutral runner, particularly if you have orthotics for support, says Zahava Robinson, DPM at Bondi Podiatry in Sydney, Australia.
“This shoe is comfortable for orthotics and I recommend it across the board, not only for my diabetes patients,” she says. “It has an insert which can be removed so you have room for your orthotics for further support and stability.”
It features that same Brooks cushioning that adapts to your weight, stride and speed, and it comes in more than 18 colors and patterns.
4. OrthoFeet Stretch Knit
- Available in 4 widths (including extra-wide)
- Removable orthotic insoles
- Adjustable arch support
- Stretchy upper fabric
- 60-day money-back guarantee
- Limited color options in men’s sizes
These shoes feature premium (removable, if needed) orthotic insoles that provide anatomical arch support, an arch booster and a wide toe box to alleviate foot pain associated with diabetic neuropathy.
The shoe’s inside is soft and padded, with a stretchable knit fabric that forms to the contours of your feet.
To help prevent slips and falls, the rubber outsoles have strong grip control for optimal stability.
5. Orthofeet Verona and Clearwater Sandals
- Include orthotic insoles
- Multiple width options, including extra-wide
- On the pricey side for a sandal
- Limited color options
Most sandals are not designed to accommodate foot-related issues, but these are.
They feature Orthofeet’s Ortho-Cushion system that incorporates orthotic insoles with adjustable arch support and layers upon layers of pillow-like cushioning to ease pressure on the foot and ankle joints.
They’re lightweight and come in a wide range of widths to accommodate the perfect fit and comfort level.
- Can accommodate custom orthotics
- 4 width options
With a rubber sole and weather-resistant leather exterior, these boots are designed for any weather, all while providing you with optimal comfort, thanks to their EVA (a type of shock-absorbing foam) midsole.
They are also Medicare-approved, so you can get reimbursed for them through the Therapeutic Shoe Bill if you have diabetes.
What to Look for in Shoes for Diabetes
Here are a few features to keep in mind when shopping for the best shoes to help relieve the symptoms of diabetes.
Comfort is always an important factor when shopping for a shoe, but especially so if you have diabetes.
“Softness, or the ability for the shoe to lie on top of your foot and not cause damage, is important in the prevention of ulcerations on the top of your foot,” says Dr. Robinson.
“Having extra depth in the toe box and upper space of the shoe can keep feet healthier,” Dr. Hanft says.
Many people with diabetes have structural issues, such as calluses, in addition to peripheral neuropathy, so it’s important to have appropriate support in the shoe.
“You need support to prevent injuries related to instability, particularly as you may not feel injuries in your feet if you have diabetes,” says Dr. Robinson.
Dr. Robinson warns against any shoes that are rigid or tight, as they can cause injury to the top of the foot and even lead to ulcerations. For this reason, it’s a good idea to buy shoes that have a wide and high toe box to provide sufficient room for your toes.