We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (2024)

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We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (1)

Foot care isn't the first thing that comes to mind when we think about diabetes, which affects more than 37 million people in the United States alone. But keeping your feet healthy is crucial in managing the condition and preventing serious complications. Even minor footwear discomforts can become major medical problems, so understanding your risks and the features of proper footwear is essential.

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and small vessels in your feet, leading to reduced sensation and the inability to recognize ulcerations until they worsen. Diabetes also impairs circulation and healing, which compounds these risks. Doctors recommend daily foot inspections, proper footwear selection, and regular podiatry visits to prevent potential complications.

When shopping for diabetic footwear, there are some key features to look for. Shoes should have a large toe box for ample room and comfort. They should also be made of soft materials to minimize irritation and provide good cushioning and arch support. You should also consider your budget and whether you'd like the option of removing and replacing the insole with a custom orthotic.

To find the best shoes for people with diabetes, our editors put 16 styles to the test in the Verywell Testing Lab and throughout their busy days. We tested during casual walks, vigorous workouts, and long workdays for factors like fit, comfort, responsiveness, and stability.

In This Article

  • Our Picks

  • We Also Tested

  • How We Tested

  • What to Look For

  • FAQ

  • Why Trust Verywell Health

Pros

  • Machine washable insoles

  • Hands-free for easy on and off

  • Roomy toe box

Cons

  • Stiff soles

  • Not responsive enough for high-performance activities

For an everyday shoe that's both comfortable and stylish, the Kizik Roamer offers more features than most. Unlike many slip-on tennis shoes, the Roamer is designed with an innovative heel that prevents slipping and lets you slide your feet in and out of the shoe without bending over. The knit upper is breathable and flexes in response to every movement. Plus, the removable insoles can be machine washed for easy cleaning and improved hygiene.

In testing, we found the shoes convenient and comfy enough for all-day wear but not entirely up to par for high-performance activities such as running or hiking. The soles were a bit stiff and unresponsive compared to their athletic counterparts. Still, we wore them on various terrain, including pavement, grass, and dirt, without discomfort. It's worth mentioning that the outer sole lacks traction, so use caution when walking on wet surfaces.

The Roamer also has a roomy toe box that won't cramp or pinch your toes—so much that the manufacturer recommends sizing a half size down if you're between sizes. The insoles are removable and machine washable, while the outer should be spot-cleaned and air-dried. Overall, the hands-free design impressed us enough to make it onto the top of our list.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 6–13 / men’s 4.5–13 | Materials: Knit upper, leather outsole | Cushioning: Moderate | Width: Standard

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (3)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (4)

Best Men's Overall

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V12

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (5)

Pros

  • Superior arch support

  • Responsive cushioning

  • Snug fit bootie prevents slippage

Cons

  • Too much arch support for some

  • Ankle collar may be too tight

New Balance is known for its superior cushioning and support, and the Fresh Foam 1080 v12 offers just that. With an innovative foam midsole (hence the name), the shoe conforms to your foot to offer the perfect amount of support based on your foot shape and arch height. Not to mention, the sole is quite responsive and provides ample energy return with each step.

In testing, the Fresh Foam 1080 v12 felt great on all terrains—from city streets to grass and dirt. The cushioning was soft enough for long-distance walks but still supportive enough for working out without causing fatigue. We appreciate the compression-like construction that gives us a snug fit, but getting the right size and width is crucial to avoid circulation issues.

Other noteworthy features include an ergonomic tongue that helps reduce irritation, a breathable knit upper, and superior arch support for those with high arches. That said, if you don't need the extra cushioning or have low arches, this isn't the best option for you. You may also want to find an alternative if you don't like the idea of the internal sock.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Men’s 7–16 / women’s 5–13| Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Maximum | Width: Standard, narrow, wide, x-wide

Best for Neuropathy

Asics Gel-Nimbus 25

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (6)

Pros

  • Breathable

  • Flexible upper

  • Supports smooth transitions

Cons

  • Run narrow

  • Not suitable for low arches

Unfortunately, people living with diabetes are at increased risk of developing foot complications that require special consideration when selecting footwear. Neuropathy, which causes numbness and tingling in the feet and legs, can lead to potentially dangerous foot ulcers and wounds.

Individuals with diabetes should look for cushioning that will help take pressure off sensitive areas of the feet, according to Chirag Patel, a board-certified podiatrist, surgeon, and CEO of New Horizons Foot & Ankle Associates, PLLC Foot & Ankle Medicine and Surgery.

The Asics GEL-NIMBUS 25 features a full-length GEL cushioning system that absorbs shock and minimizes pressure on areas such as the heel and forefoot—reducing the risk of developing neuropathy-related wounds. We found the cushioning extra soft and responsive, making it ideal for high and low-impact activities. We also love that we could pull these on without untying, thanks to the fabric heal tabs.

The upper of the GEL-NIMBUS 25 is constructed with a lightweight knit material that promotes airflow so your foot won't hold onto excess moisture that can lead to blisters. Plus, the outsole is water-resistant and slip-resistant. Unfortunately, the shoe isn't suited for those with low arches or overpronation, a condition where the foot rolls inward when it hits the ground. You may also want to size up if you have wide feet as the shoe runs narrow.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 5–13 / men’s 6–16 | Materials: Knit upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Maximum | Width: Standard

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (7)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (8)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (9)

Best for Walking

Nike Motiva Walking Shoes

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (10)

Pros

  • Wide toe box and arch

  • Rocker outsole to enhance your stride

  • Thick cushioning

Nike Motiva Women's Walking Shoes cater to walkers who want to level up their stride. Equipped with a rocker outsole that transitions from heel to toe, the Motiva encourages a natural walking motion and provides extra cushioning for maximum shock absorption. What makes it ideal for those with diabetes is the naturally roomy toe box and arch that leaves enough room for flexing and wiggling the toes without compromising circulation or comfort.

In testing, the Nike Motiva Women's Walking Shoes proved itself as an active performance shoe, as it propelled us through each step with ease. The collar was snug, and the cushioning thick. However, it does have a sock-like construction that could retain moisture, though we didn't experience it during testing.

The rocker design and cushioning make this style heavier than the average athletic shoe, so if you're looking for a lightweight option—this isn't it. But if you like the idea of a walking shoe with extra cushioning and a curved sole, the Motiva is worth considering.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 5–12 | Materials: Synthetic blend | Cushioning: Maximum | Width: Standard

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (11)

Best Budget

Skechers GO WALK Joy Sensational Day Sneaker

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (12)

Pros

  • Slip-on design

  • Lightweight

  • Stretchy upper

Cons

  • Not suitable for exercise

  • Require a break-in period

For nearly half the price of most of our top contenders, the Skechers GO WALK Joy Sensational Day is an excellent wallet-friendly option. This slip-on design is lightweight and breathable, with a stretchy knit upper that gently wraps around the foot to reduce pressure.

We were most impressed by the comfort of such a lightweight and affordable shoe. The Joy has high-rebound cushioning and cooling insoles that make walking more enjoyable. That said, the construction is best suited for leisurely strolls and errands as opposed to rigorous workouts or exercise. It's very much a casual shoe with the added benefits of traction, arch support, and superior cushioning.

The only downside we experienced was the initial break-in period which is somewhat expected. But after a few wears, we felt like the Joy conformed to our feet and offered all the stability we could ask for. This style is machine washable and vegan-friendly.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 5–12 | Materials: Knit upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Moderate | Width: Medium and wide

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (13)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (14)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (15)

Best for Running

Adidas Women's Ultraboost Shoes

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (16)

Pros

  • Breathable

  • Boosted heel

  • Prevents ankle roll

Cons

  • Limited arch support

  • Material traps dirt

Running and diabetes don't always go hand-in-hand, as the impact and repetitive motion is hard on your feet. But for those who want to hit the pavement without worrying about foot ulcers and subsequent wounds, the Adidas Ultraboost Light offers a shocking amount of stability for its lightweight construction.

The Ultraboost Light fits like a sock to hug your foot without adding extra bulk. The upper is extremely breathable and allows the foot to move naturally, while the outer sole is exceptionally durable. We can't get over the cloud-like comfort and aesthetics—our editor receives compliments almost every time she wears these.

Although the cushioning is impressive for sneakers weighing just 9.2 ounces (based on a size 7), the arch support could be slightly improved. This style has an average midsole drop, meaning the heel is slightly higher than the ball of the foot. While this helps to promote a natural stride where the heel hits first, it may feel uncomfortable to some. Everyone's stride is different and therefore requires a different drop measurement.

Key Specs:
Sizes: Women’s
5–12| Materials: High-performance yarn upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Moderate | Width: Standard

Best for Orthopedic

Orthofeet Kita Hands-Free Sneakers

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (17)

Pros

  • Removable arch booster and insoles

  • Supports healthy posture

  • Wide toe box

Cons

  • Retains heat

  • Initial adjustment is time-consuming

For those who need an orthopedic with a wider-than-usual toe box and arch support, the Orthofeet Kita Hands-Free sneakers have most of the features you could ask for. The removable posture-enhancing insoles make it easy to customizable the fit based on your foot shape, swelling, and general needs. There’s also a removable arch booster for those needing extra support to alleviate foot pain.

Like the Nike Motiva Walking Shoes, the Kita has a rocker-like sole that helps you roll through your steps and encourages a natural gait. While the adjustment period may take longer with this style, the Kita provided ample support after some fine-tuning. They slip on without having to bend over, which we also appreciate.

The hands-free design is excellent for those with limited mobility, back pain, and balance issues. We rated them highly for their quality and responsiveness; they have a nice bounce when walking. However, it's important to mention that they retain heat during wear. There may be a better footwear option if you have naturally sweaty feet, as the excess moisture can make you more susceptible to foot sores.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 5–12 | Materials: Knit upper, rubber outsole| Cushioning: Moderate | Width: Standard, wide, x-wide

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (18)

  • We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (19)

Best Breathable

Allbirds Women's Tree Dasher Relay Walking Shoes

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (20)

Pros

  • Odor-resistant

  • Seamless design prevents blisters

  • Retains shape after washing

Cons

  • Lacks adjustability

  • Not water-resistant

When moisture and heat become trapped in the material of your shoes, it creates an environment ripe for bacteria growth. That's why breathability is a crucial component of diabetic-friendly footwear. The circulating air keeps the skin dry and cool, improving the skin's integrity and overall health—all of which is true for the Allbird Tree Dasher Relay.

These shoes are constructed with ultra-breathable yarn, which allows maximum air circulation for shoes with a closed design. The upper is incredibly soft, lightweight, and flexible—you can move your feet freely without feeling constrained. Our arches felt supported, the middle-ground cushioning felt just right, and the seamless design eliminated friction.

The downside? The Tree Dasher Relay isn't adjustable, so you'll want to ensure you get the correct size upon purchase. While they have a nice amount of stretch, there's no lacing system to secure the fit. Maximum breathability also means rain and water can pass through the material, so we wouldn't recommend wearing these shoes in wet conditions.

Key Specs:
Sizes:
Women’s 5–11 / men’s 8–14 | Materials: Yarn upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Moderate | Width: Standard

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (21)

How We Rated the Best Shoes for People with Diabetes

4.8 to 5 stars: These are the best shoes for people with diabetes we tested. We recommend them without reservation.

4.5 to 4.7 stars: These shoes for people with diabetes are excellent—they might have minor flaws, but we still recommend them.

4.0 to 4.5 stars: We think these are great shoes for people with diabetes, but others are better.

3.5 to 3.9 stars: These shoes for people with diabetes are just average.

3.4 and below: We don't recommend shoes with this rating; you won't find any on our list.

We Also Tested

These shoes weren’t our favorites, but you may find them appealing:

  • Altra Lone Peak 7: We can’t deny the comfort and style of the Lone Peak 7, but they could stand to have a bit more bounce and cushioning.
  • Kizik Athens: While the hands-free design and spacious toe box are impressive, the arch design is best suited for those who need minimal support.

How We Tested the Best Shoes for People with Diabetes

To find the best shoes for people with diabetes, we tested each shoe based on seven critical factors: fit, stability, responsiveness, cushioning, comfort, quality, and value. Each testing attribute was ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest score. We then averaged the attribute scores together to get an overall rating for each.

We carefully documented every vital detail, from the materials and responsiveness of the cushioning to how tightly a shoe fits and whether it provides the stability needed for a natural gait. We also paid attention to the arch support and toe box, as well as how comfortable the shoes were on our feet after long periods of wear. Finally, we assessed each shoe's overall quality and value compared to its price point. Ultimately, these factors informed our ratings and recommendations.

In addition to our thorough testing process, we spoke with the following experts to learn more about what makes the best shoes for people with diabetes:

  • Diana Levin Valencia, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist and surgeon at NYC Health + Hospitals in New York, New York
  • Chirag Patel, a board-certified podiatrist, surgeon, and CEO of New Horizons Foot & Ankle Associates, PLLC Foot & Ankle Medicine and Surgery
  • Bruce Pinker, DPM, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon at Progressive Foot Care in New York and founder of Dr. D-LuCS, a luxury doctor-designed foot care line

What to Look for in Shoes If You Have Diabetes

Cushioning

The amount of cushioning determines how much shock absorption the shoes can provide. It's essential to look for responsive cushioning to help reduce foot fatigue during extended periods of wear.

People with diabetes should also look for shoes that mold to the footbed for a custom fit, according to Bruce Pinker, DPM, a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon at Progressive Foot Care in New York.

Dr. Pinker, who has extensive experience in the field, says preventing wounds and ulcerations is a top priority. Proper cushioning prevents the friction that can lead to wounds, minimizing the risk of infections that lead to amputation.

The best way to determine cushioning is to try the shoes on and walk around. If the shoes feel too stiff or rub against any part of the foot or ankle, it's not a good fit. It's normal for shoes to feel slightly stiff initially, as some require a break-in period. However, if the shoes remain stiff after a few wears, they are likely not a good choice.

Fit and Comfort

Proper fit is essential for comfort and support. Shoes should not be too big or too small, as either could cause discomfort and blisters. It's also vital to ensure shoes provide adequate toe room—the toes shouldn't be cramped or squished in the shoe. The toe box should be wide enough for the toes to spread out naturally with each stride.

The footbed should also provide arch support, and the heel counter should be snug without feeling too tight. Shoes with adjustable lacing systems or stretchy upper materials are great for those with wider feet. If possible, try the shoes in-store to ensure they fit properly before purchasing. Be sure to check the return policy when ordering online in case you need to exchange the shoes for a different size.

Support

Dr. Patel recommends wearing insoles such as those composed of a multilayer Plastazote foam, which can be easily molded to the contours of your feet using heat. He also emphasizes the importance of working with a podiatrist to ensure feet have the proper support they need.

Orthotic specialists use advanced tools like 3D scans and pressure plates to digitally map out a person's feet, allowing them to create customized orthotics or make recommendations tailored to your arch, pressure points, and gait.

Shoes have built-in or removable insoles that provide extra support for those with diabetes. It's sometimes beneficial to opt for a style with removable insoles, as you can replace the insole with a custom orthotic if needed. The midsole, or the part of the shoe between the cushioning and the outsole, should also be supportive and flexible.

Wide Toe Boxes

Your toes should have plenty of room to move and spread out naturally as you walk. Shoes with wide toe boxes provide optimal freedom of movement without cramping or constricting the toes in any way. It also reduces friction on pressure points, which can be especially helpful for those with diabetes.

You can check the toe box for proper width by standing up and slowly curling your toes while wearing the shoes. In properly fitted shoes, you should be able to do this without feeling tightness in the toe box area. If you can’t fully stretch your toes before hitting the sides of the shoe, they’re likely too constricting.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

The cost of shoes for people with diabetes can be high, but some insurance plans—including Medicare and Medicaid—will cover the cost of specialized diabetic shoes. It's always wise to check your specific plan first, as each may have different coverage levels.

On average, you can expect to pay $75 to $200 for tennis shoes with high-quality cushioning and support. Therapeutic shoes designed explicitly for diabetes (such as those made from medical-grade materials and featuring wider toe boxes) may cost more.

If you can get coverage through insurance, however, this may reduce the overall cost of the shoes. It's important to note that medical insurance with shoe coverage usually only covers specific brands and styles. Most health plans require you to see a podiatrist for a prescription order to be eligible. Your provider can recommend safe, supportive shoes to help you stay active and comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do people with diabetes need special shoes?

    Therapeutic shoes aren't always necessary for diabetes. However, people with a history of foot ulcers, neuropathy, and other complications may benefit from shoes developed for the condition. Shoes with wide toe boxes, cushioning, and arch support can help reduce the risk of wounds, pressure points, blisters, and other potential problems.

    If your feet are in good health, wearing shoes with adequate cushioning and support is still beneficial—such as the styles on our list. The most crucial factor is finding shoes that fit correctly, support proper posture and gait, and provide the footbed with adequate cushioning and airflow.

  • Do diabetic shoes help with neuropathy?

    Yes, diabetic shoes can help reduce the pain associated with neuropathy. "The skin contains superficial nerves that are easily irritated in ill-fitting or tight shoes," explains Dr. Patel. He notes that diabetic shoes can aid in easing these irritations by offering increased depth, support, accommodation, and functionality.

  • What’s different about diabetic shoes?

    The most significant difference between diabetic shoes and regular athletic shoes is the design. Diabetic shoes may provide more protection and support than traditional athletic shoes, with maximum cushioning and a wider toe box.

    According to Dr. Patel, people with diabetes suffer from a phenomenon called “loss of protective sensation,” which is when the sensation at the bottom of the feet is reduced or absent. Diabetic shoes provide an extra layer of protection and cushioning to help reduce the risk of injuries in those with decreased sensation that may inhibit them from feeling pain.

  • What types of shoes should you avoid if you have diabetes?

    Our experts recommend avoiding tight-fitting or unstable shoes, as well as styles with minimal cushioning. Shoes that are too tight or have a narrow toe box can cause blisters and increase the risk of irritation. Additionally, shoes with poor stability (like flip flops or slides) lack the necessary support to protect feet from injuries and reduce the risk of falls.

Why Trust Verywell Health

Lindsay Modglin is a nurse who understands the importance of quality footwear for people living with diabetes. She has cared for countless patients with ulcerations (or worse) caused by improper shoes and supports. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Insider, Healthline, and many more. She holds a professional certificate in scientific writing from Stanford University, further helping her break down complex health concepts into easy-to-understand language. Her number-one priority is ensuring readers have access to accurate and actionable information to make the best health decisions.

We Tested These Top Shoes for People with Diabetes to Bring You Comfort in Each Step (2024)

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