Diabetic Socks: Do You Need Them?

Foot care is an important part of managing your diabetes. It’s important to wear socks and shoes all the time, even if you’ve never had any problems with your feet. Well-fitting, quality shoes are necessary, but you also might want to think about wearing diabetic socks.

What They Do

Diabetic socks can:

  • Improve blood flow to your feet
  • Keep your feet dry
  • Keep fungal infections off your feet
  • Provide cushion

All of these things help keep your feet healthy and injury-free.

While there’s no one standard for what makes a diabetic sock, the best ones have things like:

  • Flat or no seams to prevent rubbing and blisters
  • Stretchy cuffs that don’t constrict blood flow
  • Moisture-wicking materials to keep your feet dry
  • Softness, with extra thickness in the heel and ball of your foot
  • A light color to spot blood or other fluids that might signal injury or infection
  • A foot-conforming fit with no wrinkles or bunches

Should You Get Them?

Not everyone with diabetes needs to wear special socks. But many people with diabetes are prone to foot injury due to poor circulation and something called peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes a loss of feeling in the feet. If you have peripheral neuropathy, you could walk around all day with a splinter in your foot and never feel a thing.

When you have diabetes, even small cuts, calluses, blisters, or cracks can lead to a foot ulcer. Diabetes can also bring poor circulation, which can make it harder for these wounds to heal. Keeping foot ulcers and infections under control can help save your toes, feet, and legs from amputation. Experts say that up to 80% of limb loss from diabetes is preventable.

Even if you don’t have a regular need for diabetic socks, you may want to consider getting a pair or two if you’re traveling, are physically active, or if you’re on your feet a lot for work.

What to Look For

Diabetic socks come in various styles, materials, and sizes. You can find them at online specialty retailers, pharmacies and most U.S. chain stores. An online search for “diabetic socks” brings up plenty of options.

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Socks made with acrylic, merino wool, and bamboo fibers work well at holding off moisture. What’s more, these fibers have natural bacteria-fighting properties. Certain brands add charcoal or silver and cooper threads to their socks to prevent fungal infections and foot odor.

Some socks are extra thick in vulnerable spots on your heels and rest of your foot. Others use gel or silicone for padding. The extra cushioning cuts friction and helps protect your feet from injury.

You can go as low-tech or high-tech as you want, but some recent developments include:

  • “Smart” socks that connect via Bluetooth to an app on your phone and measure:
    • Foot temperature
    • Moisture
    • Pressure
  • A thin, Swiss-designed sock that:
    • Fights bacteria
    • Supports your arches
    • Protects injured areas
    • Eliminates moisture
    • Helps regulate the temperature in your feet

How Are They Different From Compression Socks?

Compression socks put pressure on your legs to help blood circulate back to the heart better.

People with diabetes may have up to four times the risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that narrows or blocks arteries, particularly in the legs.

That’s why compression socks aren’t ideal for people with diabetes. That’s especially true for those with diabetes who have PAD -- because compression socks may further restrict blood flow in already narrow or blocked arteries.

But because diabetes can interfere with blood flow to the feet and cause swelling -- or worse, clots -- socks with mild compression have been found to be safe and helpful. Diabetic socks that fit over your knees work best to provide mild compression and improve circulation.

Are Diabetic Socks Right for You?

Since foot care is such an important part of managing your diabetes, it may not hurt to try diabetic socks. Talk with your doctor about whether they’re right for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 20, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: “About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

CDC: “Diabetes and You: Healthy Feet Matter!”

TheDiabetesCouncil.com: “Best Socks for Diabetes & Everything You Need to Know about Diabetic Socks.”

Diabetes.co.uk: the global diabetes community: “Diabetes Socks.”

Diabetes Forecast: “Anatomy of a Sock.”

Diabetes Self-Management: “The Right Sock for Diabetes.”

Diabetes Strong: Healthy Life with Diabetes: “Diabetic Socks: Everything You Need to Know.”

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research: “Protective socks for people with diabetes: a systematic review and narrative analysis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Q and A: Tips for using compression stockings.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Diabetes and Foot Problems.”

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