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 diabetesto 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, when uncontrolled, can create a situation that could lead to amputation or even death.
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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 can increase 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.
Diabetic socks are designed with a number of features to directly address foot issues associated with the condition.
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.
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.
Some diabetic socks are made from fine-textured fabrics such as bamboo and wool, both of which have natural antimicrobial properties andalso 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.
Diabetic socks are designed to stay up without squeezing the calves, which can restrict blood flow.
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.
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.
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 outSiren.
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.
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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 healthcare provider: Some diabetic socks provide a lighter degree of compression that may ease swelling without inhibiting blood flow.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does diabetes affect circulation?
Diabetes affects circulation by causing damage to the body's blood vessels. Blood vessels feed the body's various organs and other important structures, such as the nerves. When diabetes injures the blood vessels that supply nerves in the feet or legs, a foot ulcer can develop as a result.(Video) Are Compression Socks Good For Diabetics?
How can you increase blood flow to feet for diabetics?
There are a few different ways for people with diabetes to increase blood flow to their feet.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes each day for five days a week. Frequency is what you're aiming for, so if needed, exercise in shorter lengths throughout the day so that it adds up to 30 minutes total.
- Wear diabetic socks that offer plenty of warmth, aren't too tight, and do not have a seam.
- Stay as close as possible to your targeted level of blood sugar.
- Avoid smoking.
- Include omega-3 fatty acids and high-fiber foods in your diet.
- When you sit or lay down, wiggle your toes for several minutes. This helps blood continue to flow despite being still.
Where can you buy diabetic socks?
Diabetic socks are sold at many popular online retailers and in stores. Keep an eye out for comfortably-padded socks with no seams and a loose fit. You want to avoid compression socks since they can restrict blood circulation.
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.
American Diabetes Association. Foot complications.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes and foot problems.
Mohammedi K, Woodward M, Zoungas S, et al. Absence of peripheral pulses and risk of major vascular outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(12):2270-2277. doi:10.2337/dc16-1594
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
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. doi:10.1186/s13047-015-0068-7
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
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. doi:10.1177/193229681200600319
Diabetes.co.uk. Circulatory System and Diabetes.
UCLA Health. How to Improve Blood Circulation if You Have Type 2 Diabetes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Diabetes and Your Feet.
American Diabetes Association. Cutting edge socks for healthy feet: help or hype?
By Elizabeth Woolley
Elizabeth Woolley is a patient advocate and writer who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
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Do diabetics need to wear special socks? ›
Diabetic socks are not necessary for everyone with diabetes but can provide benefits for those who need them. Those who can benefit from wearing diabetic socks instead of regular socks have: Sweaty or moist feet. Change in color of feet or are experiencing blisters or a fungal infection.What type of socks should diabetics wear? ›
Government sources recommend cotton and wool socks for diabetic patients to help keep feet dry. 4,5 They also reinforce the need to wear socks at all times. Many do not make specific fabric recommendations, but they do suggest that people avoid tight socks.Should type 2 diabetics wear socks to bed? ›
Consider socks made specifically for patients living with diabetes. These socks have extra cushioning, do not have elastic tops, are higher than the ankle and are made from fibers that wick moisture away from the skin. Wear socks to bed. If your feet get cold at night, wear socks.Why are diabetics only supposed to wear white socks? ›
If you notice a wound or feel a tingling sensation or numbness in your foot, it definitely needs attention,” says Dr. Gremillion. “Diabetics should wear white socks so that if you have an infection, you will see the drainage on your socks.”Why should diabetics not wear black socks? ›
Diabetic socks will keep your feet warm and dry to avoid blisters, ulcers, and fungal infection. You should also avoid wearing dark-colored socks because you may not notice blood or discharge from a wound on your foot.What are 3 things you should never do to the feet of someone with diabetes? ›
Avoid soaking your feet, as this can lead to dry skin. Dry your feet gently, especially between the toes. Moisturize your feet and ankles with lotion or petroleum jelly. Do not put oils or creams between your toes — the extra moisture can lead to infection.