What are diabetic socks?

According to Diabetes UK, nearly 5 million people in the UK have diabetes, with a further 13.6 million people now at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years. Diabetes is a lifelong condition for sufferers that causes the blood sugar level to become abnormally high. It’s treated using tablets or injections, but if it’s not properly catered for, it could lead to serious implications.   

People who are diagnosed with diabetes are typically advised to exercise regularly, eat healthily and take frequent blood tests to monitor the balance of their glucose levels. They will also require annual eye screenings and, depending on whether they have type 1 or 2 diabetes, insulin injections or tablets. However, as diabetes plays a role in blocking, slowing and reducing the flow of blood, it can also be beneficial to consider other solutions that could help tackle the symptoms of this condition, such as the use of diabetic socks. 

In this blog, we explain what diabetic socks are used for, how they compare to similar products such as compression socks and whether they are an effective product for diabetes sufferers.

What are diabetic socks used for?

Intended for people that suffer from diabetes and other similar conditions, diabetic socks are worn like normal socks, but with benefits that directly counteract the symptoms of the condition. Due to the circulatory problems that diabetes causes, appropriate footcare is an important factor.

Diabetic socks remedy problems relating to diabetes such as nervous and circulatory cell damage caused by high blood pressure. Without this level of care, the flow of blood to feet will be more limited, leading to serious issues with circulation and an increased risk of injury.

It’s important that sufferers of diabetes and related conditions improve the flow of blood to their feet. For example, if an injury to the feet does occur, treatment may be delayed as the person will be less likely to feel it. Not only that, but a wound requires continuous blood flow for it to heal properly. By disregarding the importance of blood flow to feet, complications could include amputation or even death. 

An older man wearing a pair of diabetic socks.

How do diabetic socks work?

As we will look at in more detail later in this guide, diabetic socks have a range of beneficial features. However, when it comes to how exactly they work to help those with diabetes, there are three main areas to consider. These are: 

   -        Seamless compression 

Diabetic socks are designed to fit feet comfortably, but snugly, without the use of any seams or elasticated ankle bands. This seamless design reduces the risk of rubbing which can lead to issues such as blisters and ulcers, while they also gently compress your feet to improve circulation. This slight compression (which is less aggressive than that provided by compression socks) helps to pump blood back up to your veins, preventing the formation of blood clots and swelling in the feet and legs.   

  -        Moisture management 

Aside from the gentle compression they provide, diabetic socks are also designed from material that can pull moisture, such as sweat, away from your feet, allowing it to evaporate and not sit on your skin. This lowers the risk of fungal infections from developing and allows blisters, sores and other wounds to heal quicker.  

  -        Temperature management 

As diabetic socks help keep your feet dry and sweat-free, they keep your feet feeling cool and fresh in warmer temperatures. However, they are also designed to keep your feet warm during the colder months. Many people who suffer from diabetes experience limited or totally removed feeling in their feet, meaning they can’t tell if their feet are too cold. By keeping feet warm, these socks can protect against further numbness, tingling or nerve damage in the feet.  

What are diabetic socks good for?

Many people that suffer from diabetes struggle to get a sufficient flow of blood to their feet, and if this problem goes untreated, the situation can become so critical that their feet may need to be amputated. Unfortunately, for many sufferers, normal socks simply aren’t suitable and they need a replacement item of clothing that will better suit their needs.   

Designed to prevent and reduce the negative effects diabetes has on feet, diabetic socks are an important part of managing the condition for many sufferers. If you have diabetes and struggle with the circulation of blood reaching your feet as it should, diabetic socks are an item of clothing that will actively remedy these issues. However, if you haven’t tried them before or have a similar condition, you may be wondering what exactly they do and whether they work for people who don’t have diabetes.

Do diabetic socks work?

To put it simply, yes - diabetic socks are a proven solution for improving the flow of blood to your feet while providing cushioning and protection from moisture to prevent fungal infections. In some cases, diabetic socks may also have sections that are waterproof, a design that conforms to the shape of your feet, fewer seams to prevent rubbing and elasticated sections to avoid a feeling of tightness around the feet.   

While diabetes socks are often recommended for long periods of time spent sitting down or not moving, many sufferers of diabetes don’t need them and would be perfectly fine with normal socks. However, if they suffer from deep vein thrombosis, experience frequently moist or sweaty feet, see signs of atherosclerosis or have seen a change in foot temperature, colour, nerve damage, blisters or fungal infection, diabetic socks could be a suitable solution.   

If you are diagnosed with diabetes and need support with ensuring a sufficient blood flow to your feet, diabetic socks may be advisable. However, if you’re unsure whether they’d be right for you or have a similar but different condition and want further information, you should seek advice from your doctor.

Why use diabetic socks?

Whether you suffer from diabetes or simply want protection for your feet to help with another condition or injury that has impacted your feet, diabetic socks are a suitable solution. Normal socks are traditionally tightly fitted and thin. While this is ideal for many people, those with diabetes and similar conditions require more features from this type of clothing.   

For instance, features that are specific to diabetic socks include:   

  •       Added thickness and comfort for protecting feet
  •       Strength and durability for protecting damaged feet
  •       Water-resistance for preventing bacterial and fungal infections 
  •       Thickness for warmth 
  •       Light colours for indicating if feet are bleeding 
  •       Padded areas for additional comfort and protection 
  •       No seams to support fragile feet
  •       Reduced tightness to encourage blood flow.   

However, while diabetic socks can be useful for a wide range of people and treat a variety of different conditions, the primary difference between normal socks and diabetic socks is the features that help to improve the circulation of blood from legs to feet and prevent further blockages and damage from being caused.

Do diabetic socks help circulation?

As mentioned above, yes, diabetic socks do help circulation. Indeed, one of the many symptoms of diabetes is slow blood circulation and it often impacts the feet and, in more severe circumstances, can lead to amputation. Diabetic socks are effective in improving the circulation of blood and preventing further damage via a number of solutions. For instance, unlike traditional socks, diabetic socks don’t have a tight, elasticated opening to reduce the restriction of blood from the leg to the foot.   

Diabetic socks are also padded and thick throughout, protecting the feet of diabetes sufferers and speeding up the healing process if the feet have been damaged. People with diabetes can’t always feel their feet properly if they’re experiencing problems with circulation. As such, if the feet become damaged and begin to bleed, blood loss can happen without the person knowing.  

Are diabetic socks and compression socks the same?

Although diabetic socks and compression socks are similar, they are not the same. The primary difference between these two products is that, while compression socks help blood circulate to the heart by putting pressure on the legs, diabetic socks improve the flow of blood to the feet.   

People who suffer from diabetes are more susceptible to peripheral artery disease (PAD), and as this condition blocks and narrows arteries in the leg, compression socks could worsen this condition, whereas diabetic socks would encourage blood flow to the legs and feet. Both of these products are helpful but should only be used by people suffering from conditions they’re designed to treat. If you are in any doubt, always speak to your GP or another healthcare professional before wearing these types of socks.

Can you wear diabetic socks to bed?

As a rule, you should avoid wearing diabetic socks to bed, unless you have been advised to do so by your GP or another medical professional. While it’s true that these socks can improve circulation in your feet, when you are lying down, they can actually move blood flow away from your feet. This can exacerbate the problem of poor circulation rather than improve it overnight.

Can anyone wear diabetic socks?

Although intended to be worn by people suffering from diabetes, in theory anyone can wear diabetic socks. In some cases, you may choose to wear diabetic socks to help with another condition, ease the symptoms of a foot injured or damaged feet or to improve comfort, control moisture and prevent socks from slipping off your feet. However, if you’re considering wearing diabetic socks but don’t know whether they would be suitable, it would be advisable to seek medical advice before trying them.

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