8 Cold Weather and Winter Foot Care Tips For Diabetics

couple enjoying winter

Here in Toronto, diabetic nursing foot care clients of McDermott Footcare are beginning to feel the change in weather. With the cooler temperatures, many clients are wearing thicker clothing, including socks and closed-toe shoes instead of sandals. Cooler temperatures call for a change in foot care routines to ensure the continued health of people living with diabetes.

Here are 8 diabetic foot care tips for a safe, healthy autumn and winter:

  1. Socks:  Wear thick, breathable socks that wick away moisture. Feet continue to sweat in colder temperatures and it is important to wear socks that promote air circulation and wick away perspiration.
  2. Keep feet dry: This goes hand in hand with the advice above. It is important to keep feet dry. Feet that are allowed to remain damp may develop fungal and bacterial infections. Dry your feet thoroughly after bathing or after becoming wet from exposure. Pay particular attention to drying the area between the toes since this is where athlete’s foot infections most commonly develop.
  3. Proper footwear: Wear boots and shoes with a rounded toe box that allows the toes to wriggle comfortably. At the same time, foot wear should fit properly so that the foot is secure. Choose leather and suede over synthetic material since natural materials allow air circulation to the foot. Look for foot wear with adequate traction. Boots and shoes should provide sufficient warmth since diabetic neuropathy may prevent the person from realizing that their feet are becoming cold.
  4. Foot soaks:  Soaking the feet should only be done occasionally. Ten minutes is a safe amount of time to prevent over-drying or maceration of the skin. Maintain a lukewarm water temperature of 90 degrees fahrenheit (32 degrees celsius). Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature or have a non-diabetic person test the water first.
  5. Heated massagers, hot water bottles and heat pads: Because of neuropathy, diabetics have a decreased ability to feel hot temperatures on the feet. For this reason, it is advisable to avoid heated foot massagers, heat pads and hot water bottles.
  6. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize: During the winter months, it is advisable to use an extra emollient moisturizer on the feet. Keeping the feet moisturized prevents heel cracks and fissures that are painful and are prone to infection. Avoid moisturizing between toes since added moisture encourages bacterial and fungal skin infections.  Ask your certified foot care nurse or doctor to recommend a suitable moisturizer.
  7. Check your feet:  Inspect your feet daily for swelling, heel cracks, dryness, open sores, cuts, bruises, blisters, corns, calluses.  Check for peeling and dampness between the toes since this is a symptom of athlete’s foot.  Use a hand-held mirror to check the soles of the feet.
  8. Nail care: Have a certified foot care nurse clip and file your nails regularly. Nails should be clipped straight across. Thickened, fungal nails should be filed down.

Related articles:

The Importance of Nursing Foot Care for Diabetics

Why Athlete’s Foot is Dangerous in Diabetes

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author

8 Tips for Dry, Cracked Heels

With the colder weather, I have seen an increase in very dry feet when visiting McDermott Footcare clients.  Dry, cracked heels are the most frequent concern.  If these cracks, called fissures,  become severe, they may cause bleeding, infection and pain when standing or walking.

What causes dry, cracked heels?

  • cold weather and indoor heating
  • ill-fitting shoes and boots
  • improper daily care of the feet
  • standing on your feet all day

It’s not just my clients who are asking for help.  Their caregivers and family members want advice too.  Since this is such a common problem, here are some tips that may help:

8 tips for dry, cracked heels:

  1. Heels will move around in shoes and boots that are too big.  This causes friction which forms dry calluses around the ridges and surface of the heels.  Make sure your shoes and boots are properly sized so that heels don’t move but at the same time, toes have wiggle room.
  2. Wash feet daily with warm, soapy water.  Don’t use hot water because it dries out skin.  Hot water is also harmful to diabetics and anyone else with impaired circulation to the feet.
  3. Exfoliate the feet, especially the heels, while washing.  Use a wash cloth, pumice stone, or loofah and rub the skin gently to slough off dead skin.
  4. Dry the feet thoroughly.  Dry well  between the toes since fungus and bacteria like to grow in warm, moist, dark places.
  5. Moisturize daily with body lotion.  If you feel you need something more emollient, ask the pharmacist to recommend an over-the-counter body lotion that contains urea.  Urea is naturally present in skin cells, but in dry skin, urea levels are lower.  Using a lotion that has urea increases the skin’s ability to hold in moisture.  Avoid moisturizer between the toes.  Put on cotton  socks.
  6. Foot soaks are relaxing and helpful if done properly.  Limit foot soaks to 10 – 15 minutes, 3 times a week.  Soaking for long periods dries out the skin.  Use a solution of  1/4 cup white vinegar and enough warm, never hot, water to cover the feet up to the ankles.  Mild acetic acid in vinegar softens dry skin.  Exfoliate.  Dry thoroughly.  Moisturize.  Put on clean cotton socks.
  7. For an overnight treatment, try the following:  massage olive oil mixed with a bit of white vinegar or lemon juice over the feet, concentrating on the heels.  Honey is a natural moisturizer so if you want, put some in your mixture.  Put on cotton socks.   In the morning, wash it off.  Exfoliate.  Dry thoroughly.  Moisturize.
  8. Over-the-counter callus softeners often contain ingredients that irritate the skin.

If dryness and fissures are severe with no noticeable improvement in a couple of weeks, see your family doctor.

Some factors that affect the skin on our feet can’t be helped, like the climate or a job that requires standing for long periods.  However, the tips I’ve given you are all easy and don’t take much time.  Try them and start seeing an improvement in the health of your feet.

Related post: 9 Tips For Moisturizing Your Feet

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author