Running with diabetes is a great exercise option. But you have to protect your feet--and your blood sugar. That's why, today, we'll focus on the dangers of running with diabetes. And offer tips for diabetics (and all runners) to stay safe while they train.

Learn the safe way for diabetics to mark National Running Day.

Running Injuries and Diabetic Feet

Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your foot health is very important. I hope you're already checking your feet every day. Because that's the best way to spot any changes to your feet.

And, when you notice a problem, you can quickly give our office a call. That way, a small issue like a blister won't get infected. In turn, you can avoid serious diabetic complications such as foot ulcers.

Now, when you train, running puts lots of pressure on your feet. (Especially if you're carrying extra weight.) So runners need to worry about plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and stress fracture.

On their own, none of these foot problems are worse for diabetics than anyone else. But when you have diabetes, you may have reduced sensation in your feet. Plus, blood flow to your extremities could be limited. For that reason, healing from foot injuries may take longer. So you may want to invest in special running orthotics to take pressure off your feet. And an in-office gait analysis could be a great way to prevent running injuries.

When you work with me, we can tackle all these issues before you start running. That way, we'll protect your feet. But, if you're running with diabetes, we also have to talk about how you fuel your runs. Because exercise can throw off your blood sugar levels. And poorly controlled diabetes can lead to further foot damage.

What Diabetics Runners Need to Eat Bump up those diabetic foot checks if you're running with diabetes

My diet tips today focus mainly on Type 1 Diabetics. These ideas offer safe ways to fuel up for a run (I scored some bonus meal tips on Runner's World.) But while they are meant for Type 1 diabetics, they're worth reviewing if you're Type 2 as well. Just be sure to discuss all new exercise and diet routines with your entire diabetic care team.

Remember, when you're running with Type 1 Diabetes, you have to watch your glucose levels. After all, so many factors influence blood sugar fluctuations during activity. But the two factors that can be most easily tweaked include insulin and diet.

For that reason, if you're starting a new training routine, there's a few things to discuss first. Consider your performance goals, and your current blood sugar levels. That way, your doctor can decide if you'll need to change your insulin regimen when you run.

Also, diabetic runners should regularly check blood glucose levels after running. Because that's the best way to understand your body's response to exercise and fueling.

Carb Loading for Long Runs

With that said, let's talk about fueling your runs. Most runners need to take in 30-60 grams of carbohydrate for every hour spent running. For that reason, many athletes turn to carb supplements. And they can be useful when when you get a free hour, and want to sneak in an unplanned run. (But you haven't had a solid meal in a while, and need energy.)

Still, these supplements aren't your best-case scenario option. Instead, I'd like to see you plan ahead for training. Make sure your meals are balanced on your running days. Then, when you head out to train, pack a gel, sports drink, or other form of fast-acting fuel. (I love a honey packet for quick sugar boosts.)

These supplies are important in case you start to feel low during a workout. Regardless of how long you run. But it's especially important if you're on the road for much longer than 60 minutes. (And that's true for any athlete. Since this extra carb boost can help maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue.)

Now, how can you refuel while you're running? Experts suggest a starting point of 15-30 grams of carbs every 30-60 minutes. But, remember: this is just a starting point. And the key to safe training is to always make note of your blood sugar levels. Because diabetes is very personal. So recording how you felt after a run, and noting your performance, is the best way to keep running with diabetes. It will allow you to tweak your intake for the next run! Meaning you'll feel better and stay in control of your disease.

Help for Houston Runners

Whether you're diabetic or not, running is awesome exercise. But it can also take a toll on your feet. And that's where I can come in and keep you safe.

Here in my Houston podiatry practice, I focus on every aspect of the running experience. First, I work to set you up for running success. That means talking about your shoe choice and helping you pick that perfect pair.

It also involves looking at your body's biomechanics. (That's a fancy way of describing the way your body moves.) Once we know what you're working with--whether it's low arches or leg-length discrepancies--I can fit you with protective equipment. Finally, I'll look at your gait (the way your stride looks. Including yourstrike model, or which part of your feet hit the ground first when you run.) Together, these focuses should help prevent running injuries.

Now, even with all these protections, running injuries will happen. And all runners, but especially diabetic runners, need to understand this next point. If you get hurt while running, stop training right away. Then, if the pain doesn't go away within a few hours, make an immediate appointment with our office. Because taking a short break from running will protect your foot health and allow you to enjoy the sport for years. And, if you have diabetes, treating a running injury could be the decision that saves you from an amputation down the road!

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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