BACKGROUND: Although chronic kidney disease (CKD) has been associated with foot ulceration, the pathological pathway involved remains unclear. This pilot study was designed to investigate the risk factors for foot ulceration in individuals with CKD who do not have diabetes. The aims of this study were to establish the risk status for foot ulceration in individuals with CKD and to identify the particular foot ulcer risk factors most prevalent in this group. METHODS: One hundred outpatients were recruited from a metropolitan hospital and allocated into one of four groups: (i) control: neither diabetes nor CKD, (ii) diabetes alone, (iii) coexisting CKD and diabetes and (iv) CKD alone. All participants were assessed for past/current foot ulcers, peripheral neuropathy, vascular insufficiency, structural deformity and skin pathology. Comparisons were made between the groups regarding the prevalence of these factors. RESULTS: Participants with CKD who did not have diabetes displayed no significant differences in risk factor presentation from those with diabetes alone. Of the participants with CKD and no diabetes, 36% had peripheral neuropathy, 20% had vascular insufficiency and 24% had the copresentation of peripheral neuropathy and structural deformity. Overall, participants with both CKD and diabetes had the highest presentation of past/current foot ulcers, peripheral neuropathy and vascular insufficiency, all significantly more frequent in this group than in controls (P < 0.05). Eight of the total 10 participants found to have a past/current foot ulcer were in end-stage kidney failure. CONCLUSION: Individuals with CKD frequently display risk factors for foot ulceration. Risk factors are more prevalent in individuals who also have diabetes and foot ulcers become more frequent with progression to end-stage kidney failure. Risk assessment and patient awareness strategies should therefore be extended to include all patients with CKD so as to reduce future foot ulcer development.