BACKGROUND: Incidental observations led to the question whether ESWT could alleviate the still difficult-to-improve symptoms of DSPNP. METHODS: In a pilot study, out of an original 24 patients with DSPNP, 10 patients with diabetes mellitus were excluded because of their inhomogeneous performances. Of the 14 patients remaining, 6 received one sham treatment at the beginning. All 14 patients were then treated with ESWT to the soles of the feet using the Duolith® shock wave generator (Storz Medical) 3 times weekly for 2 weeks. The assessments were carried out before and after the sham treatment, the first ESWT (question: before and after the first ESWT or only after?) and after 2, 4 and 8 weeks. RESULTS: The placebo treatment did not influence pain or paraesthesia. After the 2 weeks of ESWT, intensity decreased from 100% to 23.6%, rising again after 8 weeks to 45.7% of the original state (p < 0.01). The placebo treatment did however have a great effect on walking abilities. The results of ESWT did not become significant until the 8th week. Step length improved by 14.6% (p < 0.001), walking speed by 24.8% (p < 0.001) and time of dual support during the stance phase of the gait declined by 12.2% (p < 0.009). CONCLUSIONS: Despite the small number of cases, it appears that ESWT can alleviate some of the symptoms of DSPNP.