Diabetic Athletes: How to Take Care of Your Skin While Training and Competing

Diabetic Athletes: How to Take Care of Your Skin While Training and Competing

Individuals with diabetes frequently participate in athletics, from youth sports to Olympic-level competitions. Diabetes complicates any type of athletic injury, including small wounds to the skin. Chafing, scrapes, and cuts that are an everyday part of athletic participation can lead to serious complications for someone with diabetes. Regular skin care works alongside your training to keep you on the field, court, or in the race without injury.  


Athletics and diabetic skin

Many sports involve repetitive motions, from arm swings in volleyball to running in soccer, lacrosse, basketball, and track. Those repetitive motions can cause chafing or blisters at high-pressure points.

The effects of diabetes make it more difficult for those seemingly small injuries to heal.  Diabetes causes a narrowing of capillaries and blood vessels that limit circulation. The feet and hands have some of the smallest capillaries in the body, making them more problematic than other areas of the body. The immune system uses blood to transport the cells needed to repair and heal. Poor circulation can limit the ability to heal.

The feet are a problematic area for athletes with diabetes, but they aren’t the only place where athletics can put stress on the skin. There’s always a risk of cuts and scrapes from falls or physical contact with other participants. Chafing is a big issue under the arms, in the groin, and under the chest, causing discomfort but also creating areas where bacteria can enter the skin.  


How to take care of your skin while training and competing

Frequent skin and foot checks 

Close up of doctor examining feet.

Skin checks are one of the best ways to protect yourself from skin-related injuries. Sometimes hotspots, calluses, or chafing can develop without you noticing. That’s in part because diabetes can cause nerve damage that leads to numbness. You might not feel the injury until it’s had time to grow. Frequent skin checks let you start treating the injury before it’s had time to become serious. 

The feet are a high-risk area when it comes to skin. Make sure to check between the toes and around the back of the heel. If you’re not flexible, use a mirror to check the sole of your foot and under the heel. You’re looking for red spots that don’t return to their normal color within a few minutes, as well as blisters, cuts, scrapes, and, of course, chafing.

Call your doctor if your skin doesn’t heal after a couple of days of home treatment. You should also call your doctor if you’ve developed calluses. Do not try to remove them yourself. You could do more damage to the foot, creating an even bigger injury.


Get supportive, well-fitting shoes

Close up shot of running shoes.

Well-fitting, supportive shoes can help avoid many skin problems. It might take extra effort to find shoes that don’t rub or cause calluses or blisters. Slowly break in your athletic shoes rather than using them for the first time at practice or on game/competition day. 

Leave plenty of room in the shoe to avoid blisters. Some individuals with diabetes wear wide-width shoes to prevent rubbing. That might not work as well for athletics because your feet may slide around in the shoe, causing more harm than good. You’re looking for a snug fit where your toes can still wiggle but not so much room that your feet slide or you become unstable. 


Choose your socks carefully

Socks that fold over or have seams that dig into the skin can cause chafing or irritation. Wear snug, moisture-wicking socks. Steer clear of cotton. It absorbs and holds moisture, contributing to chafing. 

For sports where blisters are common like basketball and volleyball, try wearing two pairs of socks. The socks help reduce the friction against the skin, sliding against each other rather than the skin against the shoe. However, you’ll need a good fit with the shoe and socks so that the shoes don’t become too tight.  

Change out of sweaty socks as soon as possible. The longer your feet are in a warm, humid environment, the more likely you are to chafe. 


Keep your skin clean and moisturized

Shower as soon as you can after training or competition. Use a gentle cleanser like Vitalfit’s Daily Cleanser. This formula has natural antibacterial and antifungal ingredients to remove potential sources of infection. 

After washing, moisturize from head to toe. Healthy, hydrated skin resists chafing and irritation better than dry skin. Hydrated skin is also flexible and supple, so it can withstand the stress and pressure of athletics. Try VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer to lock in moisture and get another dose of antibacterial, antifungal ingredients. You can even use it between your toes to help prevent and combat fungal infection 

We suggest using VitalFit’s Night Moisturizer to moisturize and aid the natural healing process. It contains antioxidants and other ingredients that nourish and promote healing. 

As an added barrier to irritation and chafing, try VitalFit’s Liquid-to-Powder Plus. A dime-size amount can apply like a lotion and dry to a powder-like finish to create another friction barrier. You can use it anywhere on the body, including the feet. 


Man playing tennis.

Stay in the competition

Keep an eye on your skin, especially on the feet. Make hygiene and moisturizing a part of your daily routine to keep you on track for your athletic goals. From there, go hard and enjoy the challenges of your favorite sport.

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