Over the years, I have found that unfortunately, one of the best kept secrets among patients with diabetes is the Medicare Therapeutic Shoe Program. People with diabetes are instructed that they need to make sure they wear proper shoes. This is a program that makes this possible! Per Medicare guidelines, patients who qualify can receive one pair of shoes per calendar year, and three pair of accomodative inserts. Three pair of inserts are allowed because over time, they lose their ability to cushion the feet. By dispensing three pair, patients can change the inserts every 4 months, thus insuring that they always have proper cushioning and support in their shoes. While not every diabetic patients on Medicare qualify for this program, the truth is that many do qualify, and there are many who qualify who are not taking advantage of this program.
For a shoe to qualify for the Medicare Therapeutic Shoe Program, it needs to meet certain criteria. These include:
Have more interior depth than a normal shoe, which allows for at 3/16" accomodative insert.
Must be made from leather or a material of equal quality
Must have some form of closure (usually laces or a Velcro closure)
Must be available in full and half sizes
Must be available in at least 3 widths.
Many diabetic patients are concerned that the shoes will be big, heavy or unattractive to wear. This is simply not the case. The variety of shoes styles available means that it is extremely rare not to be able to find a pair of shoes that meets your need, both medically and aesthetically. On top of that, the shoes are designed to be comfortable!
To qualify for shoes, you need to be examined by your doctor to see if you meet Medicare's guidelines for receiving the shoes. Once it's determined that you qualify, a letter will need to be received from your primary care physician who will certify that you are diabetic and would benefit from receiving the shoes. This is one of the few programs that Medicare offers that is intended to be preventative. Studies have shown that by wearing proper shoes, the risk of developing an ulceration in the foot can be greatly reduced. In other words, you don't have to already have had a foot ulcer to qualify, you just need to be at risk of developing an ulcer. You also do not have to be on insulin to qualify.
Most offices will do a fitting, then order the shoes for you. Once the shoes are shipped to the office, you will be contacted for shoe dispensing. In our office, we recommend that you wear the shoes indoors until you are certain that they are right for you. If for any reason they are not, they can be returned for a more appropriate size or style.
If you have not taken advantage of this program, talk to your podiatrist & see if it is something that you would benefit from. And if you have received a pair of shoes in the past, perhaps it's time for a new pair. Your feet will thank you!