Skip The Soak Are Foot Soaks Healthy For Diabetics? Doctors Say No

Medical experts warn that foot soaks could actually be more harmful than helpful for people with diabetes.

Are Foot Soaks Healthy For Diabetics? Doctors Say No

With doctor after doctor warning diabetic patients to take extra care of their feet, it might seem like common sense to indulge in soothing foot baths that cleanse, relax and soften the soles and toes. But contrary to popular belief, medical experts say that people with diabetes should actually avoid long foot soaks.

What Are The Risks Involved With Foot Soaks?

Pretty much every podiatrist will tell you that soaking the feet can do wonders when it comes to removing corns, calluses and ingrown toenails — the very things that diabetic patients are supposed to keep from wreaking havoc on their feet. But at the same time, nearly all podiatrists will also warn that people with diabetes should refrain from the very same foot baths they recommend to other patients and instead resort to simple foot cleansing and gentle pumice stone removal of rough, callused areas. The reasons?

  • Though many foot soaks can be ultra moisturizing, many actually zap the natural foot oils, which creates dry, cracked skin that leaves the feet vulnerable to sores and infections. Diabetics often have poor circulation, which makes the healing process of these wounds a very long or even impossible process.
  • Prolonged water exposure leads to the skin wrinkling and breaking down, which also leaves the feet vulnerable to infections. 
  • Foot basins can harbor bacteria, which can then infect diabetic feet.
  • Many diabetics also suffer from neuropathy, meaning they’re unable to feel temperature and pain in their feet. Mixing that with hot soaks could accidentally lead to serious burns.

When Foot Soaks Are Okay For Diabetics

Though foot soaks are generally not recommended for diabetics, there are a few exceptions when foot baths are accepted. Sometimes doctors will suggest Epsom salt and/or antibacterial vinegar foot soaks to help cure a foot wound, an ingrown toenail, a blister, warts and ulcers. However, because complications are common, diabetic patients should only engage in this type of foot soak if advised to do so by a doctor who specializes in podiatric medicine.  

For more diabetic foot care advice, check out our article Diabetic Foot Care 101: Simple Steps to Prevent Foot Problems.

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