Diabetic socks refer to looser-fitting socks that prevent skin irritation and protect the feet. They are different than compression socks, which are generally tight-fitting and aim to prevent swelling and fluid retention.

People living with diabetes may experience complications from the condition, which can include problems with their feet. These individuals have an increased risk of blisters, ulcers, and infections, so they may wish to wear diabetic socks to help protect their feet.

These socks differ from compression socks, which people use purely for the purposes of reducing swelling and boosting circulation.

This article explains the uses and features of diabetic and compression socks. It also provides foot care tips for people with diabetes.

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There are several differences between these types of socks.

Socks for people with diabetes

Diabetic socks are a form of protective footwear that aims to protect the feet and reduce foot injuries, including wounds and blisters. Choosing appropriate footwear can help a person with diabetes keep their feet clean, dry, and healthy. As diabetes can impair wound healing, it is important to protect the feet and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

Socks for people with diabetes may vary slightly in their characteristics, but the features typically include:

  • Fewer or no prominent seams: This reduces the risk of blisters and ulcers.
  • Padding: This feature provides extra protection.
  • Moisture-wicking and breathable: The socks should keep the feet dry to reduce the risk of infections.
  • Suitable fit: It is important that these socks are not too loose, as this can encourage friction, which may damage the feet. Conversely, they should not be tight enough to impair blood circulation.
  • Ability to keep the feet at an appropriate temperature: The socks need to keep the feet warm to encourage circulation.
  • Available in lighter colors: This can make it easier for people to identify wounds and injuries.

Compression socks

Compression socks are a tighter-fitting form of footwear that applies gentle pressure to the legs and feet to encourage blood flow and alleviate swelling and discomfort. These socks may be useful for people with conditions such as varicose veins, lymphedema, and plantar fasciitis. They may also be useful during sports recovery, travel, and pregnancy.

Although people living with diabetes may experience circulation problems, many compression socks carry warnings that they are not suitable for people with diabetes. As these socks may restrict blood flow, they could further impede the healing process. Therefore, it is advisable for a person with diabetes to consult a doctor before wearing compression socks.

Both diabetic and compression socks are widely available at many stores and from a range of online retailers. A person may wish to ask a doctor for their recommendations regarding particular features and brands.

A person can also explore whether diabetic and compression socks are available through their health insurance. However, in most cases, Medicare and other medical insurance plans do not cover either type of sock.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that diabetic and compression socks usually last for about 6 months. To care for diabetic and compression socks, it is advisable to wash them after each use. People can also consider using a mesh laundry bag to protect the socks during the wash and allow them to air dry.

People with diabetes must regularly check their socks for tears and holes, replacing them if necessary. They can also look out for and remove pilling. Any damage to the sock can increase the risk of a foot injury.

Similarly, people may wish to replace compression socks if they are too thin or show signs of wear. Socks in this condition may not provide adequate pressure.

People with diabetes may experience foot-related issues due to nerve damage and poor circulation. As such, it is vital to take good care of the feet to prevent potential complications, including infections and gangrene. Severe complications can make amputation necessary. Foot care tips for people with diabetes include:

  • wearing suitable socks
  • keeping the feet covered and avoiding being barefoot, even when indoors
  • regularly washing the feet and thoroughly drying them
  • moisturizing the feet
  • maintaining the health of the nails by keeping them clean and trim
  • exercising regularly to stimulate blood flow
  • checking for sharp objects, such as small stones or thorns, before putting the shoes on
  • choosing well-fitting footwear that does not rub the feet
  • checking the feet regularly for any damage and attending podiatrist appointments
  • keeping blood sugar levels within the target range
  • refraining from smoking

Some questions that people often ask about diabetes and foot health include:

How do diabetic socks and compression socks differ?

Diabetic socks aim to protect the feet and reduce the risk of injury or irritation. Features that help achieve this include being seamless, moisture-wicking, and padded. Compressions socks are tighter-fitting socks that apply gentle pressure to the legs and feet to help reduce swelling and discomfort.

How does diabetes affect circulation?

Diabetes may result in high blood sugar levels, which can lead to blood vessel damage. This damage can reduce blood flow to the legs and feet, which can lessen the body’s ability to prevent infection and heal wounds.

How can people living with diabetes improve blood flow to the feet?

People with diabetes can do this by exercising regularly, keeping their feet warm, and managing their cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It is also advisable to avoid smoking.

Socks for people with diabetes are designed to protect the feet and reduce foot problems, such as blisters, ulcers, and infections. They have a seamless design with extra padding and moisture-wicking features.

These socks differ from compression socks, which are tight-fitting and apply gentle pressure to boost circulation and alleviate fluid retention.

It may be advisable for people living with diabetes to avoid using compression socks unless a doctor recommends them as part of the treatment plan.