According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), diabetic foot ulcers lead to more hospital admissions than any other diabetes-related complication. About 60% of diabetics will develop conditions that lead to a foot ulcer, which can progress to the chronic disease of diabetic foot osteomyelitis (DFO), while about 1% of people with diabetes need amputations of their lower extremities due to such ulcers. These ulcers most often develop in areas of the foot that meet repetitive pressure sensations and trauma, and the NCBI cites ill-fitting footwear as one of the underlying causes of diabetic foot ulcers.

To meet this need for better foot protection, a podiatrist and a former shoe designer joined forces to create the aptly named Foot Defender. With athletic-shoe-like aesthetics, the protective boot is designed to relieve pressure on the foot while the wearer is walking or standing, reducing the contact force that impacts the bottom of the foot by transmitting force up the leg through the boot’s front and back braces. The boot’s multi-layer footbed has shock-absorbing foam and the proprietary material absorbium, which the creators say absorbs up to 94.7% of shock while offering significant overall pressure relief and cushioning for the wearer’s heel. 

According to the company behind Foot Defender, Defender Operations LLC, a clinical study shows that the Foot Defender alleviates average contact pressure on feet up to 50% better than similar protective boots. A diverse team — which includes ankle and foot surgeons, human locomotion experts, biomedical engineers, and material scientists — came together to work for about five years to create the boot, guided by patient input along the way. Their research includes interviews with more than 5,000 patients who cited their inability to put on and take off protective boots with ease as the top reason they don’t use them. The Foot Defender’s easy-to-use Velcro straps address that issue.

The Foot Defender has objectively more style than other protective boots on the market. And no, you’re not mistaken if you see some design similarities between the boot and classic Air Jordans; collaborating with star athletes, the boot’s co-designer Michael DiTullo previously worked on Jordans, as well as other shoes for Nike, Converse, and Brooks. DiTullo’s associate, Dr. Jason R. Hanft, came to co-found Defender Op after more than three decades of working in lower extremity surgery, wound care, and limb salvage. Plus a personal experience: Dr. Haft fell from his roof and the resulting injury left him with eight screws and a plate in one of his feet. The incident set him on a path to create better foot care products and led to the Foot Defender.