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 risk for 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 non-binding, and do not have seams.

Why Do 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 risk of injury, especially on the bottom of the feet. It can also cause a patient 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. With this in mind, do people with diabetes need socks that are labeled "diabetic socks," and what should they look for in socks?

What if I Don't Have Any Foot Issues? 

People with diabetes who have "normal" feet can wear whatever comfortable socks they like. They should not be tight, constricting, lumpy, or have seams that are uncomfortable.

Do not use socks that can lead to injuries, such as friction blisters. Fitted socks are a better choice than tube socks.

What if I Have Decreased Sensation? 

In people with diabetes who are at higher risk for developing ulcers because they cannot sense pressure, a good choice may be a densely padded sock that is made of acrylic fiber.

Acrylic fibers seem to have better moisture-wicking abilities. Light or white colored socks can help a person who has decreased foot sensation discover injuries that might be draining or bleeding.

Talk to your physician about whether you should purchase diabetic socks, and what to look for.

What if I Exercise Often? 

People exercise vigorously should consider padded acrylic socks because they keep feet dryer and cause less blistering than cotton socks.

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. 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 are have extreme foot moisture or sweat may find these socks have a superior ability to keep feet dry.

Talk to your health care professional for their advice and recommendations.

Are Diabetic Socks the Same Thing as Compression Stockings? 

No. People with diabetes who also have peripheral arterial disease may need compression stockings or hoisery to help with circulation and reduce swelling. Discuss with your podiatrist or physician the difference between diabetes socks vs. compression stockings. 

Sources:

Feldman MSN RN CDE, Carol B; Davis MSN RN CDE, Ellen D. Sockwear Recommendations for People with Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum 2001 14(2):59-61

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