What Are Diabetic Socks?

Reasons You May Need to Wear Diabetic Socks

Man wearing socks and sandals
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Most diabetic socks on the market are socks that are made to keep the feet dry, decrease the risk of foot injury, and avoid preventing or slowing blood circulation. They usually are made of materials that have superior abilities to wick away moisture, are fitted, padded, and nonbinding, and do not have seams. They differ from regular socks in that they are non-elastic and seamless. By eliminating the elastic, you are reducing constriction, that often occurs in swelling, which can limit blood flow.

Why People With Diabetes Need Special Socks

People with diabetes are at higher risk of foot injuries and infection due to damage to their circulatory and nervous systems caused by high blood sugar levels. Nerve damage, or neuropathy, decreases sensation and increases the risk of injury, especially on the bottom of the feet. It can also cause a person with diabetes to be unaware of an injury and delay treatment. Circulatory problems make it harder for wounds to heal because it is difficult for them to benefit from the healing properties of the bloodstream. High blood sugar levels also can create a sluggish immune system. These problems can create a situation that could lead to amputation or even death.

Clearly, foot care is an extremely important consideration for someone with diabetes. 

Do I Need to Purchase Diabetic Socks?

For everyday use for people without foot problems, regular socks that are comfortable, non-binding, fitted, and without lumps or uncomfortable seams would be sufficient. They should not be tight, constricting, lumpy, or have seams that are uncomfortable. Make sure they will keep your feet dry. Practice good foot care and check your feet regularly for injury.

For people who have foot problems or are at risk due to neuropathy and decreased circulation, then "diabetic socks" might be helpful. Also, people who have extreme foot moisture or sweat may find these socks have a superior ability to keep feet dry and reduce the recurrence of fungal infections. Talk to your health care professional for their advice and recommendations.

What are the Benefits of Using Diabetic Socks?

Diabetic socks can help people with diabetes who are prone to infections, and foot injuries by: 

  • Moisture-wicking materials keep feet dry so that excess moisture doesn't form a breeding ground for fungal infections
  • Antimicrobial features prevent bacteria and fungal growth
  • Increasing comfort and decrease swelling
  • Keeping feet warm to improve circulation
  • Seamless socks can reduce the risk of rubbing and blisters, which can ultimately lead to a foot ulcer in someone who has neuropathy or chronic hyperglycemia
  • Extra padding for sensitive areas, such as the soles of the feet, can help to prevent foot injury 
  • White soled socks can help alert those with diabetes if they have a wound that is draining

What Type of Diabetes Socks are Available and How do I Know What to Choose? 

There are many different types of diabetes socks on the market, making it hard for someone with diabetes to know which types of socks to choose. Price may play a role in your decision making too, as some socks can be costly. Here is a breakdown of some features and price points: 

Copper-infused: Made with copper infused yarn, these socks are supposed to kill athletes foot fungus, having antifungal properties. For example, if you have athlete’s foot fungus that transfers to your sock or insole, the socks are supposed to prevent reinfection on subsequent wears. These socks are also anti-odor. They cost between $5 and $18 and can be purchased at renfrosocks.com.

Moisture wicking: These types of socks are meant to pull moisture away from the foot to evaporate sweat, which reduces the risk of fungus, infections, and prevents odor. The drier the foot, the more protection you have from developing blisters and other foot wounds. They typically cost between $5 and $20 and can be purchased online or in stores. Common brands include Dr. Scholl's CoolMax, Brooks, and Balega.  

Padded acrylic socks: People who exercise vigorously should consider padded acrylic socks because they keep feet dryer and cause less blistering than cotton socks. Acrylic fibers seem to have better moisture-wicking abilities and can also be good for people who have diminished sensation or neuropathy, as the extra padding can help to prevent foot injuries. Many types of diabetes socks are made with this type of fibers. 

Extra padding or gel padding: Heavily padded socks or socks with gel padding are also available and can aid in moisture-wicking, protecting the foot from injury, reducing sensitivity and irritations, as well as providing comfort. 

Soft yarns: Diabetic socks are often made from finer texture fabrics that contain bamboo and wool. These type of yarns have natural anti-microbial properties and reduce rough abrasion and shear forces on the skin.

Blister guard yarn: This type of yarn is meant to reduce blister-causing friction. Approved by the American Podiatric Association, Dr. Scholl's makes them for about $8-$12. 

Smart technology socks: Diabetic socks have embedded sensors that track foot temperature and alert you via app if there is a change, such as a sore or ulcer that is forming. The coined size battery is located outside the sock, near the ankle. These socks usually last around six months and can cost $19.95 per month. Because these are so new, the jury is out as to whether or not they are worth the price. For more info go to siren.care.

Diabetic Socks Are Not The Same Thing as Regular Socks and Compression Stockings?

Regular socks differ from diabetic socks in that they are typically made from cotton which can trap moisture. They can be loose-fitting, and contain seams which can increase friction and sensitivity in the foot. 

People with diabetes who also have peripheral arterial disease may need compression stockings or hosiery to help with circulation and reduce swelling. Compression stockings are not the same as diabetic socks as their purpose is meant to increase constriction so that blood can return to the heart. 

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