Soaking vs. Lotion for your FEET!
I like to ask my diabetic patients an open-ended question when I see them for check-ups or nail care visits: "As a diabetic, what do you do to care for your feet?" One of the answers I get most often is, "I soak them."
Unfortunately, this is the wrong answer! It's a common misconception, and isn't the end of the world if you've been doing this, so don't panic. But I'd like to explain why this isn't helpful, and what you can do instead to ensure healthy diabetic feet.
Have you ever chapped your lips by licking them too much? Same concept: too much water over a skin surface will pull the natural oils and moisture out and leave the skin dry, irritated, and cracked. If you're using epsom salts or something similar added to the water, it'll pull even MORE moisture out. There is no real difference between hot and cold water in terms of moisture-loss, but if your feet are swollen, hot water can increase the swelling.
I know soaking your feet in warm water after a long day can feel fantastic, but here's a great alternative: grab a really hydrating lotion like Kerasal or Urea (you may need a prescription from your doctor for this one), and apply it liberally to your feet, massaging it into your heels and areas of dry skin or cracking. Put a pair of clean white cotton socks on over top, and elevate your feet on a pillow in front of you. The elevation will help decrease swelling, and the socks will trap the moisture of the lotion on your feet. You don't need to put lotion between your toes--this area tends to stay moist enough, and adding to it can promote skin breakdown or athlete's foot. Wipe out excess lotion that gets in there with a tissue before putting on your socks.
Soaking isn't ALL bad, though; it has its uses. For example, if you have an ingrown toenail with drainage and swelling in the area, soaking your toe in warm water and epsom salts will cause increased blood flow to the area (promoting healing), and will draw any pus or other fluid from the infection out of your toe.
Bottom line: soaking on a regular basis is not going to be helpful for diabetic feet, which tend to be dry to begin with due to the disease itself. Use a good lotion on a regular basis, and see your podiatrist or other health care professional if you have questions about your foot care routines.