Summer Toes and Feet Woes Don't Gross Me Out: Part 2

Shoeless strolls outdoors can lead to major health hazards.

Joy Pape By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

Last month I talked about the importance of wearing shoes indoors. Now that it's summer, you may be tempted to walk barefoot outdoors. I hope you get grossed out, change your mind, and wear shoes wherever you are.

You may look forward to summer to show off your newly painted toes, wear sandals, or because you just like the feeling of going barefoot. You may know better, but you may like it so much, you still do it even though you have diabetes.

The fact is people with diabetes have increased risk for foot problems, including amputations. These amputations usually start with an infection that doesn't heal. Prevention of infections is your first step to preventing an amputation. You may be familiar with and follow at least some of the recommendations of The Do's and Don'ts of Footcare. You may not realize that this small list of do's and don'ts is designed to help you keep your feet for a lifetime.

Let's look at this recommendation again this month, but now it's geared to walking barefoot outdoors.

Never walk barefoot, either indoors or outdoors.

You may never walk barefoot outside unless, of course, it's summer. You may love the smell and feel of fresh moist grass under your feet or the feel of wet sand between your toes. Maybe Barefoot in the Park or Richard Gere walking barefoot in the grass in Pretty Woman sounds sexy to you so you want to try it. Don't! What you may not realize is there could be trouble lurking.

As for walking barefoot in the grass, a recent article published in the New York Times, Barefoot in the Park? Watch Your Step, tells us about people who think bare footed strolls bring them closer to nature. But healthcare experts will tell you that you can contract tetanus from stepping on a rusty nail, or that you can develop athlete's foot from walking in the wet grass. They also tell us of risks that are invisible to the naked eye, such as pseudomonas bacteria (a bacteria that causes an infection that is very difficult to treat and heal and can be deadly even if you don't have diabetes); a virus that causes plantar warts; and countless other infectious organisms, such as hookworms from cat or dog feces. If this is not enough, Dr. Mitchell Greenbaum, a podiatrist, says he sees sprained ankles and stubbed toes from people walking barefoot.

The article does report that people with diabetes are at increased risk for danger because of limited sensation, and may unknowingly step on hot and sharp surfaces. The hot surfaces can cause burns. A sharp object can seem benign, like the sharp grass you are not expecting, or a rose's thorn. If you get stuck by the thorn, you can get a fungal infection called sporotrichosis. And, if that's not enough to gross you out, don't forget about bromhidrosisin other words, stinky feetthat come from bacteria that thrives in moist places. That can happen when you put your wet feet in your shoes…and on it goes.

So, don't gross me out. Wear shoes that protect your feet when you are indoors or outdoors.

EnJOY! Healthy feet for a lifetime.

Read Joy's bio here.

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

PREVIOUS: Don't Gross Me Out: Part 1

Last Modified Date: July 08, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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