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Diabetes: Diabetic foot care for the moderate risk foot


Diabetic foot care for the moderate risk foot

When you have diabetes you should ask your healthcare provider to examine your feet at least once a year.

Your foot exam shows you are at moderate risk for having foot complications. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about any extra appointments you might need for your feet.

You are at moderate risk of having foot problems (complications) if you have any of these:

  • problems with your skin or nails (e.g., redness over a toe or other area, ingrown toe nail)
  • corns or calluses
  • problems with sensation (e.g., a feeling of numbness or tingling in your legs and feet, or pain in your legs when you are walking that goes away when you rest)

If you see any of these problems, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider within 1 month. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about any extra appointments you might need for your feet.

How to lower your chances of having serious foot problems

  1. If you smoke, try to quit or cut down. Smoking can cause less blood to flow to your foot making it harder for foot ulcers to heal. If you want help, call Alberta Quits at 1-866-710-QUIT (7848).
  2. Check your feet daily. Look between your toes and at the top and bottom of your feet for swelling, redness, sores, corns, or calluses. Use a mirror to check the bottoms of your feet or ask someone to help you if you can’t see your feet.
  3. Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap. Make sure you dry well between your toes.
  4. Have someone who is properly trained cut your toe nails.
  5. Apply a moisturizer (lotion) at the top and bottom of your feet every day. Do NOT put moisturizer between your toes. Use a moisturizer containing urea. Ask your healthcare provider for examples.
  6. Wear shoes that fit well. If you have lost feeling in your feet, have your shoes professionally fitted. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to pressure areas, corns, calluses, and blisters which can lead to sores on your feet or toes.

Warning signs:

  • pain in your calves on walking that doesn’t go away when you rest
  • burning sensation or new pain in your feet
  • red areas over a toe or toes
  • getting corns, calluses, or blisters

Report any of these changes to your healthcare provider (within a week). Ask if you need more testing or a referral to another specialist

Call your healthcare provider right away and request to be seen the same day, or go to the emergency department if you have any of these:

  • cold, painful, discoloured (pale, blue, or red) feet
  • red, hot, swollen feet that may or may not be painful
  • new or increasing pain in your lower legs or feet
  • any open sore on your foot that is draining

Steps toward good foot health

(Reproduced with permission from Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines)


  • Do wear shoes that fit well. Shoes should have good support, do not rub or pinch your feet, and have low heels (less than 5 cm or 2 in). Consider having your shoes “professionally fitted”.
  • Do buy your shoes late in the day. Your feet may swell slightly during the day.
  • Do wear socks at night if your feet get cold.
  • Do wiggle your toes and move your ankles for 5 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day, to help blood flow in your feet and legs.
  • Do put your feet up when you are sitting.
  • Do activity every day to improve blood flow through your body.


  • Do not use over-the-counter medicines to treat warts or corns. They are not safe for people with diabetes.
  • Do not wear anything tight around your legs such as tight socks or knee-highs. This is not good for your circulation.
  • Do not go barefoot. Always wear shoes inside and outside your home.
  • Do not use hot water bottles, heat bags, or heating pads on your feet.
  • Do not cross your legs or sit for long periods of time.
  • Do not use over-the-counter insoles unless recommended by your foot expert. They can cause blisters if they do not fit well.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking decreases blood flow and healing. It also increases the risk of amputation.

Your self-care management plan

As you take care of your feet, you need to closely watch your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Keep track of your results to make it easier to review and plan your care. Together you and your healthcare provider will decide on the best levels for you.


Present Level

Goal Level

Blood sugar or AIC

Blood Pressure


Adapted from the New Brunswick Diabetes Foot Care Clinical Pathway

To see this information online and learn more, visit

For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: April 15, 2020

Author: Diabetes, Obesity & Nutrition Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services

Care instructions may be adapted by your healthcare provider. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, talk with your doctor or appropriate healthcare provider.