Clinicians and patients face a dilemma in understanding how best to resume walking after a healed diabetic neuropathic ulcer. The objectives of this brief review are to: provide context for the patient's health and mobility status; propose 5 suggestions to safely and effectively progress mobility following a healed foot ulcer; and to consider topics for future research to improve care in this area. Rates of ulcer recurrence and mortality are high, and activity is low following a diabetic foot wound. Medical and rehabilitation approaches have emphasized protection of the insensitive, fragile foot with the hope to prevent subsequent harm to the foot and person. In particular, the 1–2 months following wound unloading and “healing” have the greatest risk for ulcer recurrence. While early protection should be emphasized, a growing body of evidence suggests that over-protection of the foot and limited walking can be harmful, presumably because of the negative effects of prolonged immobility and stress protection. Multiple recent studies report the ability of exercise and walking to have a positive effect on various diabetic foot outcomes without additional harm. Much less is known about how an ulcerated foot can resume walking after the wound is healed. This review integrates available guidelines, evidence, and precautions to suggest advice on how best to resume and progress walking in this population at high risk for ulcer recurrence.
- physical activity