Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience
Persons with diabetes are generally advised to take good care of their feet. Your doctor has probably warned you time and again about how even a minor wound can lead to serious ulcers, if not treated. He isn’t being finicky; the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society says that the feet of anyone diagnosed with diabetes, are at a risk of developing diabetic complications. (1)
With increasing focus on foot care, there are several brands of diabetes socks that are now available. But do you really need them?
What are diabetic socks?
Diabetic socks are simply socks that have a special design to help protect your feet. Most such products are meant to protect your feet by helping to
- Prevent the skin of the feet from blistering
- Lower the pressure on the foot and/or lower leg
- Reduce the buildup of moisture
How are diabetes socks different from regular socks?
Regular socks have seams and are made of elastic fibre. Most diabetic socks are designed to be seamless and non-elastic. The lack of seam helps to reduce friction and prevents discomfort. The non-elastic design makes sure your feet don’t get constricted like they do in regular socks. Most diabetes socks also have slight padding or cushioning to ensure your feet don’t get injured. Some varieties are made of fabrics that have better moisture absorbing properties so that sweat doesn’t stay trapped on your feet. This is significant because dry feet are less likely to develop fungal infection or blisters.
What the research shows
There haven’t been any well-designed comprehensive studies on whether diabetes socks are really better than regular socks. A systematic review of research on the benefits of padded socks found limited evidence to support their use.(2)
So, should you go for diabetic socks or not?
As there is still not enough relevant medical information on this, it can be difficult to make the choice. So, stick to the basics, as advised by the American Diabetes Association in an article titled Sockwear Recommendations for People with Diabetes.(3)
- If you have normal feet, without any wounds or deformation, stick to socks you find comfortable. But make sure you avoid those with uncomfortable seams or lumps to reduce friction.
- Choose socks made of fabric that suit your skin.
- If you have less sensation in your feet, make sure you wear thickly padded socks that are lighter in colour. Reduced ability to sense pain means a greater chance of an injury that goes unnoticed. So, padded socks will give extra protection to your feet. The lighter colour will help you notice if there’s an injury that’s caused a draining wound.
- Go for acrylic socks with padding if you do a lot of exercise (like running or brisk walking) that causes increased sweating in your feet. This combination of the acrylic fibre and padding will ensure your feet stay dry, and do not easily blister.
The main thing to remember is to look for what suits your feet best, rather than going by the label of diabetic socks. Make sure you check your feet regularly for signs of any damage and wear well-fitting socks and shoes. This, and keeping your blood sugar level under control can help you keep foot complications at bay. Make sure you consult your care provider and discuss the need of diabetic socks, before you buy them.
- FootCare MD. The Diabetic Foot and Risk: How to Prevent Losing Your Leg. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Available online at http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/diabetic-foot/Pages/The-Diabetic-Foot-and-Risk-How-to-Prevent-Losing-Your-Leg.aspx
- S.J. Otter, K. Rome, B. Ihaka, A. South, M. Smith, A. Gupta 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. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4431172/
- C.B. Feldman, E.D. Davis. Sockwear Recommendations for People With Diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum 2001 Apr; 14(2): 59-61. https://doi.org/10.2337/diaspect.14.2.59 Available online at: http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/2/59