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Dry Diabetic Feet

People who are diabetic can develop dry feet and a number of other foot problems mainly due to poor circulation and nerve damage also known as neuropathy.


Nerve damage can cause pain, a burning sensation, tingling, loss of feeling in the foot, poor blood flow, muscle weakness, and changes to the feet. Nerve damage can also cause numbness in your feet. When your feet are numb, you can’t feel sores, cracks, cuts, and blisters so you’re more likely to get infections. 

Additionally, neuropathy can lead to dry skin, calluses, and corns, and cracked heels.

Blood Circulation

Poor blood flow can deprive your feet of oxygen and nutrients which then makes it difficult for calluses, cracks, and ulcers to heal. 

Our skin (including the skin on the bottom of our feet) is the first layer of defense against pollutants, environmental toxins, harmful bacteria, and natural elements such as the sun and the wind. So it’s important to keep the skin healthy. 

What are the causes of dry feet?

  • Absence of oil glands
  • Aging
  • Socks and shoes
  • Poor foot care regimen 
  • Weather 
  • Harsh soaps and moisturizers
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain disorders such as diabetes 

For a complete list of the causes visit our post on What Causes Dry Feet. 

Dry Skin

Diabetes can cause nerves in the foot that control oil and moisture to stop working. This can cause the skin on the feet to dry, peel, and even crack for people who are diabetic which can be very painful. 

Calluses & Corns

Almost all of us have had calluses and corns at different times in our lives. Calluses are hard and thickened areas of the skin that generally form as a result of rubbing or excessive pressure on the skin. If left untreated, calluses can become very think, break down and turn into open sores (ulcers). 

Cracked Heels

Dry skin can become scaly and flaky, and which will eventually tear. The tears can then turn into deeper cracks (heel fissures) that can be very painful. They can also bleed and get infected. 

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to prevent your feet from getting dry, callused, and cracked. 

A little bit of care can go a long way. The below steps can be done two to three times a week or more depending on the condition of your feet. 

  1. Check your feet regularly or ask a family member, a caretaker or your doctor to check them for you. Be sure to check the heels, and underneath and between the toes. You may not feel them until they’ve become painful and/or infected. 
  2. Soak your feet in warm (not hot) water for 10-15 minutes. Water helps soften the rough skin. Test the water with your hands or a thermometer as you may not be able to feel the heat with your feet. Avoid soaking your feet for too long if you have tears and cracks as it will delay their healing. 
  3. Scrub your feet with a natural pumice stone while they’re still damp. Be extra gentle if you have tears and cracks. 
  4. Moisturize your skin with a hydrating foot product. Massage the product onto your toes, the bottom of your feet, your heels, and your ankles. *Do not fully dry your feet after the soak and scrub. You want some moisture to remain on your feet so that it gets locked in by the product. *Consult your doctor before using a foot product to make sure that there are no ingredients in the product that can be harmful to your health. 
  5. Massage your feet for a few minutes to stimulate the blood circulation. You can do this while you apply the product. You can also do simple foot exercises such as moving your feet in circles for a few minutes to increase the blood flow.
  6. Elevate your feet for a few minutes. This helps take the pressure off and also re-circulate fresh blood to your feet. 
  7. Repeat this process every week to ensure that your feet remain healthy, soft, and free of cracks and infections. 

Note on Foot Peels: Almost all foot peels contain AHA’s in high concentrations to be able to peel the skin off your feet. By removing the protective layer of your skin off your feet, they can become exposed to pollutants and environmental toxins that can further dry your feet, cause infections and even be harmful to your health.   

Diabetics and people with other health conditions such as compromised immune systems, allergies, eczema, pregnant women, athletes, and smokers, should avoid foot peels. You should also avoid foot peels if you have tears, cuts, and cracked heels. 

Note on Razor or Scraper: Only allow a professional such as your doctor or other trained medical professionals to remove dead skin and corns and calluses from your feet. Using razors or scrapers at home could cause infections and even damage your feet. 

Additional Tips to Care for Your Feet:

  • Keep your blood sugar under control. The best way to prevent foot problems is to manage your diabetes. Diet, exercise, and medications (if needed) can be very helpful in keeping your blood glucose levels in check and prevent blood sugar spikes. 
  • Avoid wearing poor-fitting shoes. Rubbing and excessive pressure can lead to calluses and cracks. Also, check your socks and shoes for rough seams and sharp edges. Avoid keeping your feet in socks and shoes all day as it will cause dead skin built up due to lack of moisture. 
  • Avoid wearing sandals and open shoes outside and avoid walking barefoot so that your feet are protected from injury and they are not exposed to environmental toxins that can make them dry. 
  • Always wear socks with your shoes to keep the material from irritating your skin and causing blisters. Also, wear thicker socks so that your feet have some padding. 
  • Avoid harsh soaps and foot products that have harsh chemicals in them as they can damage the natural skin barrier which can lead to loss of moisture as well as infections. 
  • Avoid standing on your feet for prolonged amounts of time. Also, avoid walking long distances especially if you’re not used to it. Pressure from standing and walking can lead to dry skin, and corns and calluses. 
  • Keep your toenails trimmed so that they are not pushing against your shoe which can lead to calluses. 
  • Muscle weakness from nerve damage can cause bunions, corns, and hammertoes. Ask your podiatrist to help you fix these problems before they get worse. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to have soft and smooth feet even if you have diabetes. It just takes a little bit of TLC. Investing just a few minutes every few days can prevent your feet from becoming dry, callused, and cracked. A regular foot care regimen should be part of your skincare routine.  

See our Ultimate Guide to Baby Smooth Feet for more tips on how to care for your feet. 

It is extremely important to know the underlying causes of dry feet. Be sure to discuss changes in sensations in your feet with your doctor. Let your doctor know if you have soreness, pain, tingling, numbness, pins, and needles or any other unusual sensations in your legs and feet. 

Also, always consult your doctor if you have excessively dry skin, corns, calluses, and cracks that won’t go away with home remedies and over the counter products as they can be a sign of more serious health problems. 

Our feet are all we have to stand on and they deserve some love and care. Be KIND to your feet and they’ll be KIND to you. 

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