Diabetic ulcers are the most common foot injuries leading to lower extremity amputation. Family physicians have a pivotal role in the prevention or early diagnosis of diabetic foot complications. Management of the diabetic foot requires a thorough knowledge of the major risk factors for amputation, frequent routine evaluation and meticulous preventive maintenance. The most common risk factors for ulcer formation include diabetic neuropathy, structural foot deformity and peripheral arterial occlusive disease. A careful physical examination, buttressed by monofilament testing for neuropathy and noninvasive testing for arterial insufficiency, can identify patients at risk for foot ulcers and appropriately classify patients who already have ulcers or other diabetic foot complications. Patient education regarding foot hygiene, nail care and proper footwear is crucial to reducing the risk of an injury that can lead to ulcer formation. Adherence to a systematic regimen of diagnosis and classification can improve communication between family physicians and diabetes subspecialists and facilitate appropriate treatment of complications. This team approach may ultimately lead to a reduction in lower extremity amputations related to diabetes.