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What Are Diabetic Shoes? Diabetic Footwear Explained

Updated on March 19, 2014

Diabetic Shoes and Fashion

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Diabetic Shoes

I’m sure that you have heard of the term “diabetic shoes” or “diabetic footwear” sometime in your life. The reason for that is because more than 25.8 million children and adults within the United States are diagnosed with diabetes - that’s 8.3% of the entire US population (American Diabetes Association)! Diabetic shoes do in fact exist and they are designed to accommodate the diabetic foot. They are specially designed shoes that feature extra and double depth, come equipped with a removable footbed and removable insole spacers and are finished with a smooth interior lining to reduce the risk of skin abrasions or blisters. Because a common side effect of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy which causes loss of sensation in the extremities, diabetic shoes are an essential part of diabetic foot care as they offer protection for the diabetic foot, as well as walking and standing support.

Diabetic Shoes for Men and Women

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Diabetic Shoes: What Are They?

Diabetic Shoes: Essential Features

There are some standard features in diabetic shoes that are essential to maintaining a healthy foot environment. Here is a list below of essential features that proper diabetic shoes should have:

  1. Available in multiple widths
  2. Able to accommodate prescription and/or custom orthotics
  3. Removable orthotic footbed
  4. Multiple layers of removable insoles (at least one extra removable insole layer)
  5. Wide, roomy toe box to prevent the toes from being cramped
  6. Seamless lining that is soft and smooth
  7. Meets the minimum HCPCS A5500 requirements

Diabetic shoes need to be available in multiple widths because the diabetic foot may swell due to edema. Another reason for multiple width shoes is that some people may have wider feet than others, and the foot tends to flatten as a person ages.

A removable orthotic footbed is an essential feature because this allows for custom orthotics to be used instead of the standard footbed, providing a truly custom fit for each person. Multiple layers of removable insole spacers offer added (extra) depth or double depth for extra room. This creates a deeper and wider fit in the shoe and also allows for the fitment of thicker orthotics.

A soft and smooth, seamless lining is an essential requirement for diabetic shoes for two reasons: neuropathy is a side-effect of diabetes that causes nerve damage most often in legs and feet; diabetics have poor circulation which prevents wounds from healing properly. A diabetic with neuropathy is unable to feel foot pain that can be caused by blisters, calluses or abrasions. Without the diabetic patient knowing due to loss of sensation in the foot, a blister can easily lead to an open sore or ulcer. Because diabetics often times have poor circulation, the ulcer does not heal properly which can lead to serious infection and possible amputation. A smooth shoe interior that is seamless prevents the diabetic foot from rubbing against anything, reducing the likelihood of blisters.

The last requirement of a diabetic shoe is that it must meet the medical billing code HCPCS A5500 which states:

“For diabetics only, fitting (including follow-up), custom preparation and supply of off-the-shelf depth-inlay shoe manufactured to accommodate multi- density insert(s), per shoe”

Now this requirement is only needed if a person is purchasing diabetic shoes using medical insurance. Not all shoes are labeled with this medical code, but they may still meet all the previous requirements of a diabetic shoe. Just because a shoe is not medically coded does not necessarily mean that it does not have all the essential features of a diabetic shoes.

Diabetic Shoes: Popular Manufacturers

Drew Shoes
Dr. Comfort
Dr. Zen
Oasis Shoes
P.W. Minor

Diabetic Shoes: Do I Need Them?

Now before you go out and spend your hard earned money on a pair of diabetic shoes, you should find out if you really do need them. Not all diabetics need these specialty shoes. But at some point in their life, they may require these them because their condition may worsen or they may have a foot injury that is not healing properly. First and foremost, you should consult your primary care physician. They will be able to consult you on whether or not you have common side effects caused by diabetes that may require you to wear diabetic shoes. Here are some common reasons that people wear diabetic shoes:

  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Wider foot
  • Hammer Toes
  • Bunions

If you really do need a pair of diabetic shoes, it is highly recommended that you find out what shoe size and shoe width your foot is. This can be done by visiting your local podiatrist or pedorthist, which you primary care physician can refer you to. Podiatrists and pedorthists are specialized in foot care health and they can accurately measure and determine what shoe size and shoe width you should be wearing.

Buy Diabetic Shoes


Diabetic shoes do in fact exist and there are plenty of reasons why diabetics need to wear them. Diabetic shoes are made with multiple layers of removable footbeds and insoles to provide added and double depth to a shoe. This allows the shoe to accommodate prescribed orthotics as well as wider feet and swollen feet. Diabetic shoes are designed with a soft, seamless interior lining to reduce the chance of blisters while also protecting sensitive feet from getting ulcers.

There are many different styles of diabetic shoes just as there are many different foot types. Recently, manufacturers have been striving to not only create comfortable shoes but also fashionable ones. Diabetic shoes are no longer bulky, clunky and ugly - there are many diabetic shoes that are very stylish. Be sure to take a look at various websites for diabetic shoe reviews.

If you are a diabetic and you meet certain requirements, you are entitled to one free pair of diabetic shoes a year. Most medical insurance plans cover one pair of diabetic shoes a year. Speak to your insurance provider to find out if your plan has this coverage.

Remember, healthy and happy feet are the beginning to a long and healthy life!


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    • bigfeet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Hi Marlene,

      There are some great shoes from different manufacturers designed for bunions. Are you looking for fashionable ones? I recently just bought some from and used their 15% off promotcion code "5YEAR". Expires today!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      6 years ago from USA

      I have trouble finding shoes to fit my feet because I have bunions. Now that I know to look for diabetic shoes I just might find a very comfortable pair of shoes.

    • bigfeet profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Hey Ted,

      Diabetic Shoes aren't just for diabetics! I have a wider foot so I actually wear some. They are extremely comfortable and very stylish too!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I never even knew they made shoes just for diabetics. This is very helpful! Thank you!


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