If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you must have a lot of questions. What are diabetic socks? is likely one of the many questions you have about diabetes management.
Diabetic socks are a crucial part of foot care for people with diabetes. Therefore, it’s important to understand how they work. Also, why they should be used. In this guide, we will break down everything you need to know about these medical socks. Prior to trying a pair, talk to your doctor to find out how they fit into your diabetes care.
What are diabetic socks?
As the name would suggest, women’s and men’s diabetes socks are made for people with diabetes. They prevent diabetic foot and protect the toes, feet, and legs from injury. Furthermore, these socks support healthy blood circulation, keep the feet dry, and avoid rubbing and blisters. These simple socks can reduce the risk of ulcers and infections that can lead to amputation.
Constant high blood sugar levels can lead to lasting damage to the nervous system, circulatory system and blood vessels. Consequently, this leads to decreased feeling in the feet. Nerve damage is a common problem of this disease. This loss of feeling is especially common around the soles of the feet and toes. As a result, diabetics can easily injure themselves. For example, even a small cut or blister can lead to a bad foot ulcer. This is a common complication of poorly controlled diabetes.
Foot ulcers are wounds or open sores that refuse to heal and keep returning. If not cared for correctly, they can quickly become infected and lead to other foot problems as well. According to the CDC, foot ulcers are among the most frequent causes of preventable foot amputation among patients with diabetes.
Thankfully, diabetic socks can help maintain proper foot health and avoid serious health problems. Along with daily feet checks, good shoes, and actively managing your blood sugar levels, you can prevent foot infections that lead to amputation and even death.
Benefits of diabetic socks
Wearing diabetic socks can benefit people with severe diabetes. This simple diabetes management tool and diabetic foot care can reduce your risk of injury and keep your feet healthy and happy by:
- Improving blood flow to your feet
- Keeping your feet dry and preventing foot infections
- Providing comfort and cushion
- Preventing blisters and rubbing
- Encouraging proper wound healing
- Increasing awareness of any injuries
What is different about diabetic socks?
They are made to address common issues for people with diabetic feet. While there’s no set standard for what makes up a diabetic sock, here are a few important qualities a good pair should have:
As well as providing cushion, padded soles offer an another layer of protection against injuries. Many also have a white sole to help wearers quickly identify a blister or wound they may not necessarily have felt. Also, this brings up the question of whether diabetics should avoid black socks from hiding foot injuries.
The sock provides further comfort and protection with an additional layer of thick fabric on the bottom or silicone pads sewn into common places for blisters and ulcers. Moreover, socks with heavily padded soles are particularly useful if you are very active or spend a lot of time on your feet throughout the day.
Diabetic socks made with a soft, fine-textured knit will be more comfortable and reduce abrasion. In fact, many are made from fibers, such as bamboo or wool materials, that offer natural antimicrobial properties. These days, you can also find ones that are made with blister guard yarn to reduce friction and rubbing.
The toe seam of a regular socks is a common spot to develop rubs and blisters. Most diabetic socks are made without a seam along the toe, though some pairs will use flat seams that are less likely to rub. Certainly, your socks should conform to your feet without any bunching or wrinkles.
Diabetic socks must be made with moisture-wicking materials that keep feet dry. Bacteria and fungi thrive in damp conditions, meaning dry feet are better protected from blisters, wounds, and athlete’s foot. Not only do wicking socks prevent odor, but they also reduce the risk of fungal infection. Above all, avoid 100% cotton socks in favor of wicking fibers like acrylic that fend off moisture.
Controlling infections and foot ulcers is an absolute must for individuals with diabetes. The World Health Organization and International Diabetes Federation believe that up to 85% of lower extremity amputations are preventable— most of which began with a simple foot ulcer.
Diabetic socks with antimicrobial properties hinder the growth of potentially infection-causing bacteria and fungi, as well as reduce odor. Bamboo and wool have naturally-occurring antimicrobial properties and are common fibers used. Newer socks on the market use yarns infused with copper, silver, or charcoal, all of which have been shown to have anti-fungal properties.
Diabetic socks come in a variety of lengths, ranging from no-show anklets to crew socks to over-the-knee. Regardless of what style you’re wearing, your socks must support healthy blood flow to the feet. They should not use tight elastic that can restrict blood circulation. Your socks should fit well and stay up on your leg without feeling constrictive. Avoid the ones that squeeze your lower legs tightly and leave visible impressions after you take them off.
These days, there’s an app for everything, including diabetes management. Newer styles of diabetes socks have sensors connected to an app that continuously monitors your feet in real-time. They track the temperature and alert the wearer of signs of inflammation or temperature changes along the key pressure points.
These socks include a small battery at the ankle. Just replace the socks every six months to ensure they work properly. However, they are not the cheapest option, but these special socks may prevent ulcers and infections.
Who should wear diabetic socks?
While any diabetics could benefit from wearing a pair, not all diabetics need to wear them all the time. You should talk to your doctor to determine how they fit into your diabetes management plan.
Diabetic socks protects your feet from injury and infection and ward off preventable amputations. If you have diabetes with any of the following, you should wear a pair regularly:
- Irritation, nerve damage or changes feeling in the feet
- Changes in foot color or temperature
- Suffer from recurring foot ulcers
- Have a blister, wound, or fungal infection
- Often have sweaty feet
- Have decreased pedal pulse (measured on the top of the foot or behind the ankle bone)
Women with gestational diabetes may also benefit from wearing them. Pregnant women with an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can minimize lower leg swelling and reduce their risk of blood clots with diabetes compression stockings.
People with diabetes that do not have foot problems or a foot injury can wear regular socks as long as they conduct regular foot checks and maintain proper foot health. Regardless of what socks and shoes you’re wearing, they must be comfortable and well-fitted. You may want to wear more compression socks during long periods of time where you won’t be moving around much (like a long plane) to reduce swelling and the risk of blood clots.
When should you wear diabetic socks?
Sleeping with diabetic socks
It’s perfectly okay to go to sleep with the socks on. If you have poor blood flow to your feet, you may find that your feet get cold at night. If your cold feet are keeping you awake, try thermal designed ones to keep them warm.
In fact, many people with diabetes find that wearing socks to bed leads to a better night’s sleep. Socks stabilize your core body temperature throughout the night, meaning you’ll sleep soundly through the night instead of waking up with cold feet. Plus, they help prevent injury if you sleepwalk or need to get up in the middle of the night.
Other methods of keeping your feet warm— like heating pads, hot water bottles, and heated blankets— can lead to sweaty, overheated feet and burns that may go unnoticed. Remember to change them first thing in the morning as part of your foot care, after completing a quick foot check.
Wear proper shoes to prevent rubbing and blisters
Individuals with diabetes should always wear high-quality shoes that provide comfort and support. While diabetic socks can help reduce the risk of blisters and ulcers, it’s equally important to wear proper shoes. Always wear socks with your shoes and ensure there’s no bunching or wrinkles.
Avoid going barefoot
If you suffer from nerve damage or loss of feeling in your feet or nerve issues, you should never go barefoot. Always wear socks and shoes or slippers— even indoors. Walking around barefoot increases your chances of getting splinters and cuts that you may not notice right away.
Change halfway through the day
For instance, if you get sweaty feet or have any kind of open wound, you must change your socks halfway through the day. It’s the perfect time to check your feet for redness, swelling, sores, blisters, cuts, or any other noticeable changes. Be sure to change your socks after exercising or getting your feet wet to prevent fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
Trim your toenails regularly
For an individual with diabetes, it’s essential to take good care of your toes and feet. Be sure to trim your toenails regularly and smooth any sharp edges with a nail file. Overgrown toenails can lead to small cuts and blisters, as well as ingrown toenails that can easily become infected.
If you can’t see or reach your feet, ask a loved one for help, have your doctor trim your toenails for you, or visit a nail salon for a monthly pedicure.
Diabetic socks vs. compression socks
Diabetes and compression socks are not the same. In fact, people with diabetes may want to avoid compression socks, as they can decrease blood flow to your feet and lead to further foot injury and damage.
Compression socks are designed to minimize swelling and reduce the risk of blood clots. They work by using increased pressure on your legs to increase your blood pressure, causing your blood to return to the heart faster.
If you have type 1 and type 2 diabetes, or suffer from swollen feet, talk to your doctor for medical advice and find the best solution to reduce swelling without compression socks. In the meantime, try a pair of diabetic socks or special socks that offer mild compression. Mild compression ones may help minimize swelling without cutting off any blood flow.
Can people without diabetes wear diabetic socks?
Anyone can wear non-binding diabetic socks— even individuals without diabetes. The increased blood flow, moisture control, and blister-prevention that it provides can improve your feet and legs’ health, even if you don’t have a serious medical condition.
Individuals with poor circulation
Medical conditions can cause poor circulation. This includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and peripheral artery disease in the legs. Also, the lack of exercise, sitting for long periods of time, and smoking are additional causes. If you suffer from poor circulation for any of these reasons, diabetic socks will help keep your feet healthy by supporting healthy blood flow.
Many athletes and distance runners wear diabetes socks. The wicking material helps prevent blisters and rubs, as well as reduce odor. Their anti-fungal properties can also help prevent athlete’s foot!
Those who participate in high-impact sports, like running or basketball, will also benefit from the added cushion. The padded soles on the bottoms of diabetic socks help absorb shock and keep your feet from getting tired.
Pregnant women often experience swollen feet and lower legs that can lead to them feeling achy, tired, or tingly. This is due to increased blood volume and added pressure to the lower limbs caused by weight gain. Wearing diabetic socks for women may offer additional padding that can alleviate discomfort and provide additional support to the pressure point on the ball and heel of the foot.
Because they do not have tight elastic bands, many pregnant women find them to be more comfortable than regular socks. They promote healthy circulation that reduces swelling and discomfort in the legs.
If you are unsure if diabetic, compression socks or compression stockings are right for you, talk to a doctor. Also, read our guide to diabetes socks for more details.