It’s a sad fact that one of the many issues that diabetic people need to be concerned about is the risk of developing a wide range of foot-related problems. Those problems stem from high blood sugar levels which can damage a diabetics’ nervous systems and affect circulation.

This type of nerve damage is referred to as diabetic neuropathy and can lead to decreased sensation in the feet which has two major negative consequences. First, it can make a diabetic person more prone to pain and weakness. Second, it can make them more likely to develop injuries and less likely to be aware that they have an injury. That means the problem might become increasingly serious if the diabetic person is not seeking appropriate treatment at the right time.

Studies have estimated that up to 1 in 2 people with diabetes will develop peripheral neuropathy, which can lead to very serious complications that could require amputation.

However, there are some simple ways to avoid or alleviate the foot conditions associated with diabetes. One such way is by wearing diabetic socks. A study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research examined diabetic people wearing specialized socks over a period of six months and found that 85% of them greatly benefited from that simple lifestyle change.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at diabetic socks, explaining why they are needed and who needs them. We then look at the key features that you should look out for when selecting diabetic socks, explaining the benefits that each of those features brings. We also examine how you can best care for your diabetic socks so that they can play the optimal role in promoting your foot health.

Who needs to wear diabetic socks?

Not every person with diabetes needs to wear specialist diabetic socks. If you don’t have foot problems, then regular socks might be fine. Having said that, it’s important that you still regularly check your feet to make sure that you are not developing any problems, and you should also follow the standard guidelines of good foot care for diabetics in order to prevent any issues.

Diabetics who do need to wear diabetic socks are those who have:

  • A pedal pulse that is below the normal range (pedal pulse is measured on the top of one’s foot or at the back of the ankle, a low rate indicates impaired blood flow to the feet)
  • Feet that are often moist or sweaty
  • Experienced nerve damage, fungal infections, blisters, or changes in foot temperature or color.

Diabetic socks can also play a key role in reducing the chances of developing deep-vein thrombosis. Therefore, anyone who is at risk of this potentially life-threatening condition should look into purchasing diabetic socks. People who are not diabetic may choose to get diabetic socks simply because their high levels of comfort and many features designed to promote foot health are beneficial for the general public too.

What are the main features of diabetic socks?

Diabetic socks help address and alleviate various foot problems that people with diabetes may experience. The list below contains 8 of the main features that  should be considered when buying diabetic socks and explains how each feature helps prevent different foot conditions and reduce the chances of problems escalating:

  1. Made from moisture-wicking material – such material draws moisture away from the feet, meaning that sweat will evaporate more quickly, which decreases the chance of fungal infections developing. Essentially, a drier foot has less chance of getting blisters, wounds and infections. Acrylic fibres are typically preferable to cotton when it comes to moisture-wicking.
  2. Use materials that have antimicrobial properties – because fungal growth can be a more common, and potentially serious, complication for diabetic people, some diabetic socks are made from yarn infused with silver or copper, which has anti-fungal effects and also serves to reduce odour.
  3. Seamless – unlike regular socks, diabetic socks normally do not have seams along the toes. The idea is that being seamless reduces the risk of rubbing which can lead to blisters or even ulcers. The highest quality socks for diabetics use inverse linking knitting, which keeps the threads that link the toes on the outside so they cannot rub on the feet.
  4. Use non-elastic binding – regular socks can have binding at the top which is designed to help them stay up but can also restrict blood flow. Therefore, diabetic socks do not have this feature to avoid the complications associated with further reducing blood flow to a diabetic person’s feet. The best diabetic socks, therefore, are made from soft yarns and are very loose and stretchy so they don’t feel tight at all.
  5. Contain extra padding – using thicker fabrics or sewing in silicone pads can reduce the likelihood of suffering foot injuries and increase comfort. People buying diabetic socks should search for extra padding in places that correspond to the sort of activities that they typically undertake. So, padding under the ball of the foot is good for people who run a lot; toe padding can help if you play sports such as soccer or tennis; additional heel padding is good for people who are on their feet for a long time each day.
  6. Provide additional arch support – the sole of the foot is a particularly vulnerable area for diabetics. Without additional arch support, diabetic people are particularly at risk of a loss of sensation in the foot as a consequence of neuropathy. Extra arch support can also reduce pressure on the foot and the pain associated with swelling.
  7. Have white soles – diabetic socks often have white soles which make it easier to spot discharge (such as blood or pus) from wounds that might not be felt because of the reduced sensation in a diabetic person’s feet.
  8. Provide extra warmth – to counteract the danger of poor circulation, diabetic socks use fabrics that help keep the feet warmer.

Are there any other features you should look out for in diabetic socks?

Diabetic socks come in a wide variety of lengths from over the knee to no-shows that fit within a shoe. The former style, i.e. over the knee, might be the best option for people who have circulation problems.

In addition to the main features described above, some modern diabetic socks include additional features designed to help diabetics maintain good foot health. For example, the incorporation of smart technology can help diabetics to monitor the temperature of their feet and be informed in the event of an ulcer forming.

Taking care of your diabetic socks

As with regular socks, you should wear a clean and fresh pair of diabetic socks each day. In fact, this basic consideration is even more important when it comes to diabetic socks as the freshness helps to maintain the cleanliness and dryness of your feet, which are crucial in terms of preventing infection.

Although diabetic socks can typically be washed alongside the rest of your laundry, you should avoid using either fabric softeners or chlorine beach. The reason is that such harsh chemicals will increase wear and tear, meaning that your socks will need to be replaced more frequently.

It is particularly crucial to check diabetic socks regularly for any rips or holes which would prevent them from functioning properly and providing you with the protection that you need. Even a thread coming loose can be a potentially major issue as anything sticking out that rubs against a diabetic’s foot can cause a problem that might potentially escalate into something serious.

Summary

Diabetic people’s high levels of blood sugar can contribute to a variety of circulation and nervous system problems that are particularly likely to manifest in their feet. Foot-related problems can lead to serious complications, even including amputation.

However, there are many ways in which people with diabetes can practice good foot care and greatly reduce their chances of suffering from such issues. One simple way to address foot problems is to purchase high-quality diabetic socks.

Such socks are characterized by features including moisture-wicking material, extra padding, additional arch support, and seamless toes. The best quality diabetic socks also increase the warmth of the feet and contain materials that have antimicrobial properties. All these features help to promote dryness and reduce rubbing and restrictions on the foot. That’s why they decrease the chances of infections and injuries and help to improve circulation.

Taking account of the features listed above when searching for a pair of diabetic socks can play a crucial role in helping to ensure the long-term health of your feet. Following the care recommendations given above can help to make sure that your diabetic socks last for a long time and provide you with the optimal additional foot care that you require.