Shoes Can Make or Break Your Outfit

But don't break the diabetes shoe rules for the holidays.

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

We're taking a break from our wound care series to help you get through the holidays. I can't really say this isn't part of wound care because if you're wearing the wrong shoes you can get wounds. Wearing the right shoes are one way to prevent foot problems that can ultimately end up in amputations. I don't mean to scare you here, but it's the truth.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Shoes can make or break an outfit." This has to do with fashion. I'm not so sure people take health into consideration with that statement. We should.

How many times have you worn shoes because of how they look only to have your feet killing you for days, weeks, even months afterwards? I did it one day last summer. It wasn't worth it. For those of us living with diabetes it's very dangerous.

Many of us think we just need to avoid high heels and all will be okay. I've been pretty excited to see flats with rounded toes become more fashionable and available this year. I went and bought my "ballerina" shoes this summer just to find out that flat and round is not always the answer. I broke too many rules trying to make these shoes work. Here's how it all worked to turn into a painful disaster with my cute little ballerina shoes.

As much as you may hate rules, there are rules to buying and wearing shoes; especially for people who have diabetes. At this time of the year, many of us want a pair of shoes that look great with our clothes. There are shoes out there, it just takes some knowledge, time, and following the rules. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes and avoid foot problems from "breaking the shoe rules."

True confessions from a shoe-buying rule breaker.

Rule #1 – Avoid high heels. High heels place undue pressure on areas of your feet that weren't made to carry this kind of load. Wearing them can lead to changes in the shape of your feet and breakdown or sores that may not heal.

I followed this one. My thoughts were, "Oh, flats are in style now. I can pick out a pair of flats and they will work. Good deal."

Rule #2 – Avoid pointed toes. Pointed-toe shoes cause your toes to be squashed, squeezed, and pinched into a shoe. There is usually not enough width in the toe box either. All of these can cause your toes and joints to rub against your shoe and cause sores, which may not heal.

I followed this one too. I was doing good so far. "The shoes are flat, they have rounded toes and they are the right color. I'm in business." The problems were starting to show. I started to cave. They really weren't wide enough and the toe box was pretty flat.

school pic

These look like they'll work, don't they? Not!

Rule #3 – Make sure the shoes feel good in the store before you buy them. Shoes don't always stretch. If they do, you may have problems if you wear them before they do. Don't accept the thought that they will stretch.

This is where I started going off the deep end. I felt it a bit on my right bunion. I haven't felt my bunion for a very long time. The very fact that I felt it should have told me something. But no. They were too good looking, flat, round toed, the right color and the right price. I justified buying them. "They're leather, they'll stretch." I knew better. I'm happy to say my wounds healed, but there was no guarantee.


Joy Pape

These are pictures of what happened only after wearing these shoes a few hours; just a few hours of wearing these shoes without stockings.

Rule #4 – Buy shoes later in the day. Feet swell as the day goes on so it's best to buy your shoes when your feet are at their largest.

I honestly can't tell you what time I bought these shoes. I was in a hurry to find the right shoes for the right occasion. Watch out for being in a hurry and giving in.

Rule #5 – Wear new shoes at home a few hours a day to see how they feel before wearing them outside. Doing this allows you to see if they are comfortable or cause any problems before you wear them outside. If you do this, you still have the hope of taking them back if you find out they don't work.

It was the last minute. I didn't know what to wear with my outfit to my important meeting. There were those new shoes staring at me that matched my suit perfectly. I didn't take the time to try them out. They didn't work and I couldn't take them back. Money down the drain.

Rule #6 – When wearing new shoes, always have a backup pair of comfortable shoes to wear. This helps your feet get used to another pair of shoes. If there is a problem, at least you're not in the shoes all day.

I admit I had the thought to take another pair of shoes with me that day. I didn't listen. I didn't want to carry a big tote bag with shoes in them. I told myself, "They'll be just fine."

Rule #7 – Always wear good-fitting socks or stockings under shoes. Wearing a good pair of socks or stockings under your shoes helps prevent the rubbing that causes sores.

Again, I didn't listen. I was more concerned about fashion. The summer look is now to go without socks or stockings. Not only did the shoes rub a sore on my bunion area, but also at the back of my shoe. See what good that did me?


For some great tips on socks see this American Podiatric Medical Association brochure.

There are more rules/tips to buying shoes. Please see last year’s holiday article for more on this important topic.

So, the rules haven't change. We just need to follow them to stay in fashion and in health. I learned my lesson. I hope you learned too. Make wise choices, have a good time. And remember, it’s not ALL about how you look.


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.

Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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