What are Diabetic Socks?
People with diabetes wear diabetic socks because they offer extra support, comfort, and protection over traditional socks. This special support is often required because diabetics tend to have impaired foot circulation, which results in a loss of feeling. Minor injuries can go unnoticed by diabetics simply because their is no sensation in the feet. As a result, small injuries often turn into serious foot infections. Wearing socks for diabetics can be beneficial to diabetics in numerous ways.
Who else are they for?
Diabetic socks has the same look as normal socks, but provide more cushion and does not constrict the legs. Besides diabetics, they work well for people with swollen sore feet, peripheral edema, neuropathy, and arthritis. Socks for diabetics are also suitable for anyone that just wants better leg circulation and more comfort.
Special Features and Benefits
- Extra sole cushioning: One of the primary factors for wearing socks is to protect the feet. These socks are designed with more padding for this purpose. The proper amount of padding provides extra cushioning without including unnecessary bulk. Since we use our feet everyday to walk or run, wearing socks that provide proper cushioning can keep our feet protected and feeling more comfortable. When worn together with good shoes, it can help the feet withstand more impact from various routine activities.
- Loose top socks: Diabetic socks feature tops that are loose as well as non-binding. A special design is used to provide support to stay on the legs without feeling tight. This feature not only helps boost blood circulation in the legs and feet, but also makes wearing socks feel more comfortable.
- Non-binding weave: Apart from the loose tops, a non-binding mesh is used to help keep socks up your legs and allow proper ventilation. The thin netting present between the ankle and the cuffs helps give a close fit to the skin without bunching up or feeling tight. Additionally, the tiny holes found on the surface allows air to pass through easily, helping the feet stay cool and dry.
- Low profile toe seam: One of the most common complaints experienced by people who wear socks is foot irritation. The problem is primarily caused due to the protruding toe seams which most socks manufacturers use around the toe area. Socks that feature large seams do not cause problem when worn for a short period of time. However, wearing such socks for extended periods causes the seams to rub against the toes. As a result, a person develops calluses and blisters, leading to painful feet. Smooth seams greatly reduces friction between your socks and skin.
- Wicking fiber blend: Using quality materials is important not only for durability but also for a better fit and comfort. Socks that use a mix of fibers can take advantage of the benefits that each present. Using fibers such as cotton or wool help socks soak up moisture. Additionally, since these fibers are natural, they are not only light but also encourages proper ventilation. However, since cotton and wool are not suitable for wicking moisture, use of synthetic materials becomes imperative. Synthetic fibers help bring sweat to the surface for faster drying. In addition, combining the two fibers together also helps to increase the durability and prevents wrinkles that can cause blisters.
Materials Used to Make Diabetic Socks
Each socks manufacturer has their own unique blend of materials for creating socks. The best diabetic socks are often constructed with at least three different fibers. Each serving a different purpose. They include hydrophilic, hydrophobic, and elastic fibers. Hydrophilic fibers are used to absorb moisture, but does not dry quickly. Hydrophobic fibers brings moisture to the surface, but does not take in moisture. When hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibers are blended together, moisture is absorbed and wicked to the surface of the sock for fast drying. Lastly, elastic fibers are used to give socks a snug fit, help retain shape, and provides resistance against shrinking.
Common Types of Hydrophilic Fibers
- Wool is a natural fiber that can come from a variety of animals, not just sheep. This material acts as a good insulator even though it is lightweight. It resists wear and tear, dirt and wrinkles, and is flame retardant. The fiber is washable with the ability to keep the wearer comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. Every wool fiber is composed of millions of flexible coiled springs that bounce back to its original location after being stretched to capacity during use. In addition to its inherent qualities of shape recovery and wrinkle resistance, wool is also breathable and absorbs much of its weight in moisture without feeling wet.
- Cotton is a strong fabric made of 100% natural fiber. It is smooth to the touch and holds its shape after multiple trips through the laundry. The fibers of cotton are biodegradable, breathable, hold color, and provide some wrinkle resistance. Even when boiled for sterilization and other purposes, cotton withstands disintegration. It wears well and resists abrasion while absorbing several times its weight in moisture. It is stronger wet than when it is dry. The problem is that when it gets wet it stays wet and holds moisture close to the skin.
Common Types of Hydrophobic Fibers
- Acrylic offers amazing moisture wicking capabilities. It is machine washable and dries quickly. It retains its shape, resists shrinkage, chemicals oils and wrinkles. Although it has trouble with pilling and static electricity, using a fabric softener reduces the static.
- Nylon weighs less, yet is stronger than most fibers while still resilient, versatile, and elastic. It stands up well to washing and dries fast and resists wrinkles and shrinkage. Perspiration and chemicals do not weaken the fiber. Nylon is smooth while not allowing dirt to cling.
- Polyester is quick drying, washable, mildew and wrinkle resistant, and more resistant to chemicals and shrinkage than other synthetic fiber. However, its low absorbency makes stain removal more problematic and it is less breathable. It is also prone to pilling and static cling.
Common Types of Elastic Fibers
- Companies use spandex, which is a synthetic fiber, to provide extra support around the ankles and arches. Spandex helps hold the upper sock in place, maintains a close fit, and recovery. Although it is lightweight, the material stretches repeatedly as much as 500% without breaking. It will retain its original shape and length. Spandex is supple, smooth, and durable beyond that of rubber. It resists perspiration, detergents, lotions, body oils, and presents no problems with pilling or static.
- Manufacturers often combine Lycra with other natural and man made fibers, but never by itself. This material stretches as much as seven times its original length and springs back for a comfortable fit, durability, freedom of movement, and shape retention.
Styles and Colors
Women’s and men’s diabetic socks come in different styles including over the calf, crew, quarter, and low cut lengths. Over the calf is the longest and comes up to the knee. The crew style sits half way between the ankles and knees. Diabetic ankle socks covers the ankles. Lastly, people usually wear the low cut style below the ankles. Diabetic socks are available in a variety of colors. However, for diabetics that suffer from a loss of foot sensation, doctors suggest wearing light color socks to quickly detect foot injuries.
Sock Sizes and Fit
While sizes will vary with each sock manufacturer, sock sizes generally represents the length of the feet in inches. The standard sizes for diabetes socks for men are 10-13 and 13-15. Men’s size 10-13 corresponds to shoe sizes 8 to 12. Men’s size 13-15 is for shoe sizes 13 to 15. Men that have larger feet will require custom socks to accommodate them. Diabetic socks for women size 9-11 are for those with shoe size 5 to 10. Wearing the right sock size is important to avoid discomfort. Socks that are too large bunches up and rubs against the skin and causes blisters. Socks that are too small will feel tight and will ultimately slip off the foot as well.
How to Care for your Socks
Even with good diabetic socks, you will eventually need to replace them. However, taking care of them properly will help to extend its useful life. Here are some general tips to get the most from your socks:
- Flip socks inside out before washing
- Wash socks in cold water
- Use a mild detergent to avoid damaging the sock fibers
- Low tumble dry or hang dry is the best way to preserve the stretch of the socks
- Trim your toenails to avoid putting holes in socks
- Avoid using bleach on white socks and wash darker socks with like colors
- Do not use an iron or put excess heat on the socks
Other Topics of Interest:
Chandler, David L. “Explained: Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic” MIT News. MIT, 16 July 2013. Web. 8 August 2015. <http://news.mit.edu/2013/hydrophobic-and-hydrophilic-explained-0716>.