What Are Diabetic Socks?

Man wearing socks and sandals
Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images
In This Article

Diabetic socks are specially designed to keep feet dry, decrease the risk of foot injury, and enhance blood circulation. They are a key part of foot care which is an important aspect of diabetes management due to potential damage to the nervous and circulatory systems caused by high blood sugar levels. Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), decreases sensation in the feet, particularly the soles, and increases the risk of injury. It can also cause a person with diabetes to be unaware of an injury and delay treatment.

Circulatory problems interfere with wound healing because continuous blood flow is required. Elevated blood sugar levels also can hinder the immune system. These problems can create a situation that could lead to amputation or even death.

Not everyone with diabetes needs diabetic socks. For those who don't have foot problems, regular socks that are comfortable, non-binding, and fit well are sufficient, although it may be advisable to wear them during lengthy travel, as sitting for long periods of time presents the risk of swelling or blood clots

People with diabetes who would benefit from always wearing solely diabetic socks are those who:

  • Have experienced changes in foot color or temperature, irritation, nerve damage, blisters, or fungal infections
  • Have frequently sweaty or moist feet
  • Have decreased pedal pulse (a measurement taken at the top of the foot and behind the inner ankle) associated with an increased risk of peripheral arterial disease or another form of atherosclerosis

Women with gestational diabetes, who are at an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), may lower the risk of blood clots by wearing diabetic socks.

Features

Diabetic socks are designed with a number of features to directly address foot issues associated with the condition. 

Moisture-Wicking Material

Wicking socks pull moisture away from the foot to allow sweat to evaporate, thereby lowering the risk of fungal infections and also preventing odor. The drier the foot, the more protection from developing blisters and other wounds as well. Acrylic fibers are better than cotton for moisture-wicking.

Seamless

Diabetic socks typically are made without seams along the toe to reduce the risk of rubbing and blisters that could lead to ulcers, especially for someone with neuropathy or chronic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Diabetic socks also sometimes have white soles to reveal draining of a wound that may not be felt.

Soft Yarns

Some diabetic socks are made from fine-textured fabrics such as bamboo and wool, both of which have natural antimicrobial properties and also aren't likely to be abrasive against the skin. Certain brands, such as Dr. Scholl's, offer diabetic socks made of a specific type of blister-guard yarn meant to reduce blister-causing friction.

Non-Elastic Binding

Diabetic socks are designed to stay up without not squeeze the calves, which can restrict blood flow.

Antimicrobial Properties

To prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, some socks are made with copper- or silver-infused yarn, shown to have anti-fungal properties. Copper-infused socks may also prevent reinfection of athlete's foot on subsequent wears. These socks also offer odor protection.

Padded Soles

Extra padding can help prevent foot injuries and may be made from extra-thick fabric or gel or silicone pads sewn in. Look for padded diabetic socks that match the type of activity you do: extra padding in the heel if you stand for long periods of time, for example, or under the ball of the foot if you run or exercise often. Toe padding may be helpful for people who play sports such as tennis or soccer.

Smart Technology

Some diabetic socks have embedded sensors that track foot temperature in order to alert the wearer via an app if, say, an ulcer is forming. They have a coin-size battery located on the exterior of the sock near the ankle. These socks usually last around six months. For more information, check out Siren.

Lengths

Diabetic socks come in all lengths, from no-show styles to anklets to crew-length to calf-length and over-the-knee. The latter may be the best choice for people with circulation issues,.

Where to Buy

Diabetic socks can be purchased at chain stores, pharmacies, and Amazon and other online shopping sites, including sites that specialize in diabetic socks such as Renfro Socks. They can range in price from $2 a pair to $140 a pair depending on materials and functionality.

Diabetic socks are not covered by Medicare or other insurance plans, although some may be eligible for reimbursement under a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). Call your plan provider for details, keeping in mind you may need to your treatment plan.

Care and Maintenance

Diabetic socks can be worn daily (and most people who need them should wear them everyday) and washed frequently. Most will last around six months with regular wear and proper care. To increase their longevity, wash socks in a mesh undergarment bag in the washing machine and dry them on low heat. Use a sweater comb or shaver to remove fabric pills.

Socks should be thrown away at the first sign of wear and tear, such as holes or rips.

Diabetic Socks vs. Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are not the same as diabetic socks, as they're meant to increase constriction so that blood can return more easily to the heart. Medical-grade compression socks are not appropriate for people with diabetes because they can decrease blood flow to the feet and accelerate damage.

However, if you have swollen feet, talk to your doctor: Some diabetic socks provide a lighter degree of compression that may ease swelling without inhibiting blood flow.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Foot complications.

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes and foot problems. Published January, 2017.

  3. Mohler III ER. Peripheral arterial disease: Identification and implicationsArch Intern Med. 2003;163(19):2306–2314. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.19.2306

  4. Gorar S, Alioglu B, Ademoglu E, et al. Is there a tendency for thrombosis in gestational diabetes mellitus?. J Lab Physicians. 2016;8(2):101‐105. doi:10.4103/0974-2727.180790

  5. Otter SJ, Rome K, Ihaka B, et al. Protective socks for people with diabetes: a systematic review and narrative analysis. J Foot Ankle Res. 2015;8:9. Published 2015 Mar 27. doi:10.1186/s13047-015-0068-7

  6. Wu SC, Crews RT, Skratsky M, et al. Control of lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes: Double blind randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of mild compression diabetic socks. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017;127:35–43. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2017.02.025

  7. Wu SC, Crews RT, Najafi B, Slone-Rivera N, Minder JL, Andersen CA. Safety and efficacy of mild compression (18-25 mm Hg) therapy in patients with diabetes and lower extremity edema. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2012;6(3):641–647. Published 2012 May 1. doi:10.1177/193229681200600319

Additional Reading