Diabetes is a chronic illness that can require lifelong treatment and care. Many complications can occur, some of which affect the feet. If you have diabetes, you’re at risk of developing serious complications like foot infections. Not attending to diabetic foot care carefully and consistently can lead to amputation of the toes, feet, or even the entire leg below the knee. Practicing good foot care, such as choosing appropriate socks, is essential for preventing possible complications.
People with diabetes are at risk for complications associated with having high blood sugar levels. One such complication is nerve damage (neuropathy). The most common type of neuropathy affects the nerves in the feet.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include:
- numbness in the feet and toes
- sharp pains in the feet that are worse at night
- tingling or burning sensations in the feet
- muscle weakness
- foot deformities and ulcers
If you have diabetic neuropathy and have lost feeling in your feet, it’s possible to get injured and never feel it. A pebble stuck in your shoe, for instance, may rub against your foot and cause a small ulcer. If you don’t check your feet for these injuries, they can get worse and become infected. Good diabetic foot care means checking your feet every day for injuries, blisters, and infections. It also means wearing footwear that helps prevent injuries.
There are many different types of socks for people with diabetes. Generally, they’re designed to minimize foot injuries and keep feet dry and warm. Finding the right pair means selecting socks that best meet your needs.
Here are some characteristics of diabetic socks:
- seamless: Socks with seams can rub against your skin and cause blisters or ulcers. Most diabetic socks are made without them
- moisture-wicking: Keeping feet dry is important for preventing skin infections.
- breathable: Breathable fabrics help keep feet dry.
- warm: Diabetes can cause blood vessels to restrict, decreasing circulation to the feet. Fabrics that keep your feet warm help to improve blood circulation.
- square toe box: Socks that are too narrow can squeeze the toes, causing discomfort and allowing for moisture buildup between toes.
- fitted: Many diabetic socks conform to the foot and leg. This prevents loose fabric from rubbing against the skin and causing injuries.
- padded: Padding in the sock cushions the foot and protects it from injury.
Selecting your socks means choosing a pair that meets your particular needs as a person with diabetes. If you haven’t developed any type of neuropathy, just wear the socks that feel most comfortable. If you have new or worsening symptoms of neuropathy, you should see your doctor right away to discuss proper foot care.
If you do have neuropathy and are looking for a good pair of socks, consider your current condition. Some people with diabetic neuropathy experience dry and cracked skin on the feet. Socks with a soft material may be more comfortable.
If your neuropathy is advanced to the point that you have no feeling in your feet, it’s important to wear socks that fit perfectly so they won’t bunch up and rub against your skin. Seamless socks are also important for preventing injuries.
Choosing the right socks sometimes also means balancing a good fit with a pair that will not restrict your circulation. If you have poor circulation because of your diabetes, avoid socks that are too tight or that have elastic at the top that may dig into your leg.
You have many options when it comes to diabetic socks. If you understand your condition, you should be able to select a pair that meets your needs. Be especially careful about fit if you have poor circulation. Limited blood flow to your feet can make diabetic foot injuries worse and can slow the healing of wounds. Compression socks should be avoided for this reason.
Some people with diabetes experience both poor circulation and edema, or swelling, in the lower legs and feet. A study in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology found that socks with slight compression can improve the edema without worsening poor circulation. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about circulation and the fit of your socks.
Remember to also consider your shoes. Good socks won’t help if your shoes are pinching your feet or causing injuries and ulcers. Diabetic neuropathy can be a serious condition, but you can avoid many of the possible complications if you care for your feet and wear the right socks and shoes.