Diabetes is officially the 7th-leading cause of death in the United States. One of the most commons problems caused by diabetes is limited blood flow to the legs and toes, which can lead to nerve damage — and worse.
“The No. 1 leading cause of lower-limb amputations in the United States is diabetes,” says Brian Lane, director of education at Dr. Comfort, a leading provider of diabetic footwear. “Diabetic footwear helps to reduce those complications.”
In diabetics, high blood sugar leads to poor circulation, which in turn can lead to neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet. This numbness can mask cuts and other wounds, leading to infections and slower healing.
Diabetics have higher incidences of open sores on their toes or the bottom of their feet, as well as hammertoe (a deformation of the toe joints), calluses, bunions, corns, fungal infections, and even gangrene.
The right shoes can make a difference. “If someone with diabetes develops a wound from going barefoot or due to some horrible shoes they’re wearing, we can help,” says Lane. Dr. Comfort offers a wide range of shoes specifically designed for people living with diabetes. “The shoes come with extra depth in the toe box and elsewhere to allow for deformities and swelling to occur,” he explains, “and a seamless interior lining to help prevent rubbing and sores, as well as a protective insert. It protects the bottom, top, and sides of the foot.”
When choosing a diabetic shoe, Lane suggests looking for Lycra or another stretchable fabric that can accommodate swelling. He also encourages everyone to have athletic shoes. “Especially talking about Type 2 diabetes and the elderly diabetic population — they tend to be overweight,” he says. “So, getting an athletic shoe will hopefully increase their activity level.” In addition to their range of shoes, Dr. Comfort also creates custom orthotic inserts specifically designed to prevent and manage the health issues associated with diabetes.
Finding the right fit
Finding the right diabetic shoe starts with a footwear professional — typically a podiatrist or other doctor who gives the customer a prescription. “The shoes aren’t magic,” Lane notes. “It’s about the practitioner — the podiatrist, orthotist, prosthetist — helping us select the most appropriate shoes in the correct size. It’s about proper fitting, proper footwear, and a little bit of education.” Dr. Comfort has a tool that helps customers locate a qualified footwear professional near them based on their zip code
Diabetic footwear is typically covered by most insurance. “Medicare covers 80 percent of the cost because it’s durable medical equipment,” Lane explains. “So, the patient would be responsible for 20 percent of that cost. A lot of people have secondary insurance, Medicaid and so forth, so that typically covers 100 percent if they have diabetes and one of six qualifying conditions — a previous amputation, history of an ulcer, history of a callus, diabetic neuropathy with evidence of callus formation, a foot deformity, or poor circulation.”
For Lane, matching diabetics with the right shoe and orthotic is more than good business — it’s lifesaving. “Patients with one of those six risk factors are the highest risk. If they’ve had an ulcer, if they’ve had an amputation, they present the greatest risk to re-ulcerate, to get more callus formation. With people who have had one amputation, many will have a second imputation or die within five years. So, it’s not just about quality of life. Getting a pair of shoes and properly fitting some of these patients could potentially save their life.”
To learn more about diabetic footwear options, visit Dr. Comfort.