People aren’t usually thinking about their feet. Other than having one’s partner or one’s children tell them that their feet smell bad, we don’t give them much thought, other than to ensure their properly covered when going outdoors or giving them a cursory wash while showering or bathing. But for a Type-1 Diabetic, the care and attention of one’s feet is critically important; all the more so when one is a martial artist.
Over the course of my life, I’ve trained on a variety of different surface including but not limited to, polished hardwood, concrete, tile, sand and rocks. And let me tell you that not all surfaces are created equal. What even funnier, is that your feet will tend to callous in a very specific way that accommodates the surface you’re training on, so that training on a different floor that’s still made of wood will affect your feet.
So why do Diabetics have such a difficult time with their feet? The short answer is that Diabetes causes a bunch of secondary conditions that relate to the limbs, including arterial disease and neuropathy. This will decrease circulation and make one more susceptible to sores and infections. Left unchecked, it can lead to serious complications that often result in amputation. This is why you hear of so many people with Diabetes losing a foot.
Besides being one’s main method of moving around, the feet are what support us. We use them to walk, run, maintain balance and, oh yeah… KICK! Pretty much every martial art I’ve come across uses kicks in some given way, shape or form, so maintaining the health of my legs and feet is definitely important to me in several ways. But there’s no denying that training in karate normally involves training bare-footed, which can present its own set of challenges, depending on the floor’s cleanliness and soundness.
There’s plenty you can do from the Diabetes standpoint to ensure the proper health of your feet. This includes the usual laundry list of things I mention in almost every second post, like consistently working out, monitoring your blood sugars and blood pressure and eating a healthy diet. Reducing your stress can be a big one too, since increased stress will affect al the other things I just mentioned as well as cause other issues.
The reason Diabetic feet are prone to easier injury and infection is mainly because the decreased blood flow and neuropathy will cause a loss of sensation. This means that if you get a cut, bruise or sore on your foot, you’ll be less likely to feel it and you’ll keep walking on it, ignoring it and putting pressure on it, which can cause certain injuries to aggravate. And THAT’s exactly what you want to prevent.
We discussed what can be done from the medical side. What about the practical side? First and foremost, wash your feet daily. That should probably be obvious. But also CHECK your feet. Visually look at the soles, between the toes, at your heels… Watch for injuries, cuts, scrapes and sores to ensure an injury doesn’t go unnoticed and gets infected. Perform self-checks on your feet to ensure you still feel light sensations, pressures and different temperatures.
One good thing to remember is something that seems minor or menial to the average person can pose some serious risk to someone with Diabetes. If you DO have any injuries on your feet, make sure you aren’t picking at them or removing scabs. Keep your toenails trimmed and avoid going barefoot unless absolutely necessary (like during karate class). ☯️