Objectives Chronic wounds such as diabetic foot and venous leg ulcers are a major burden for health services. Our programme was developed to explore the psychological and behavioural factors that may influence both the incidence of chronic wounds and their progression. The present article focuses on two particular aspects of the programme: patient knowledge of diabetic foot ulceration and factors influencing foot-related behaviour in patients with and without foot ulcers; and patient and podiatrist perspectives of consultations for diabetic foot ulcers. Methods Two independent qualitative studies were undertaken: one with diabetic patients without a history of ulceration; and the other with diabetic patients with active ulceration and podiatrists treating these patients. Results We found that patients may find it difficult understanding the rationale underlying prevention and treatment of foot ulcers; ulcerated patients may find it difficult to engage in the management of their foot ulcer outside consultations; and some podiatrists feel frustrated and unsupported in their attempts at empowering and building partnerships with patients. Conclusion Patient and practitioner factors may contribute to the effective implementation of clinical guidelines regarding education, partnership building and shared decision-making. These findings are discussed in relation to patient education, partnership building and shared decision-making as recommended in NICE guidelines.