If you have diabetes your feet can often be your Achilles’ heel. This is because high sugar levels can wreak havoc on your nerves and blood vessels. About 60–70 percent of diabetics are estimated to have some kind of nerve damage or neuropathy.1 The nerves to your feet, the longest nerves in your body, are most commonly affected by nerve damage. This can cause loss of feeling in the feet and, as a result, a blister, sore, or cut may go unnoticed.
To make matters worse, damaged blood vessels can impact circulation, resulting in poor supply of blood and oxygen to your feet. This makes it tougher for your feet to heal when they get injured. Ulcers and infections in your feet could even lead to an amputation if not tended to carefully. In fact, in the United States, people with diabetes account for more than 60 percent of all nontraumatic lower-limb amputations.2
All in all, if you are diabetic, you need to pay extra attention
Here’s how diabetic socks can help take better care of your feet.
1. Take The Pressure Off
If you have nerve damage due to diabetes, you may not even realize it when you’re putting pressure on your feet. High pressure areas under the feet especially tend to develop blisters or ulcers. But diabetic socks can come to your rescue here. Studies confirm that socks with cushioning can reduce pressure on your feet. Take it one step further and prevent ulcers by using padded socks alongside conventional orthotic techniques such as custom-made shoes.4
2. Offer Seamless Comfort
Most diabetic socks are seamless, which results in less chafing and friction against the skin. This in turn can help prevent blisters.5 They also generally feature non-elasticated cuffs so blood circulation is not restricted.
3. Keep Your Feet Dry
Nasty germs love warm, damp spots and that’s why moisture can increase your risk of getting a foot infection. Most diabetic socks focus on keeping your feet dry. They come in a variety of fabrics and you can choose one that’s best suited to your needs. Natural fibers like cotton and wool can absorb moisture from the skin, but they eventually tend to feel damp as they retain that moisture. Acrylic fibers, on the other hand, don’t retain moisture and wick it away from your skin. So if your feet are exposed to increased moisture (say, when you exercise), opt for densely padded acrylic socks. Studies show these result in less moisture on the surface of the skin as well as less blistering.6 7
4. Keep Your Feet Warm
Diabetics often complain of cold feet because of poor circulation.8 Some diabetic socks can help with that. While woolen socks are a good idea, you could also try socks made with fiber that has silver in it.This will help reflect body heat back to the skin and minimize heat loss.9
5. Help With Pain
Some diabetic socks use innovative fabrics that can reduce the chronic pain from nerve damage. A synthetic fabric known as Celliant has been found to increase blood flow and oxygen to the skin and thereby reduce pain. It is thought to do so by impacting the amount of light that falls on skin, which in turn affects internal processes like the activation of enzymes.10
6. Give You Antimicrobial Protection
The combination of an injured foot and bacteria or fungi can result in dangerous infections for people with diabetes. Some diabetic socks have antimicrobial properties that can be helpful. For instance, fibers with silver, which is well known for its ability to fight bacteria, is used to create diabetic socks with disinfectant properties. These not only prevent infections but also reduce foot odor. 11
Compression Socks Versus Diabetic Socks
Like diabetic socks, compression socks also help with foot problems. But they are usually used to treat edema (swelling). By applying pressure on your lower legs, compression socks help maintain blood flow and reduce swelling.
Compression socks are not usually recommended for people with diabetes because they can restrict blood circulation. However, some research does point to socks with mild compression helping diabetics who have edema in their legs.12 Your safest bet is to wear them only if they’ve been recommended by your doctor. Using them without your doctor’s go-ahead may bring on complications you’d want to steer clear of!
Foot Care Guidelines For Diabetics
Besides protecting your feet with diabetic socks, try these simple tips to keep your feet healthy:
- Keep your sugar levels under control and monitor them regularly. This can limit damage due to diabetes and will go a long way in keeping your feet healthy.
- Check your feet regularly for blisters, sores, or swelling as you may have foot problems even if you feel no pain. Keep your toenails trimmed.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Make sure you wash your feet in warm rather than hot water. Opt for temperatures between 90 and 95°F.
- Moisturize your feet but avoid the area between the toes.
- Always wear shoes and socks. Don’t go barefoot even if you are indoors. By keeping them protected, you minimize the chances of injuring your feet.
- You need a thorough foot exam at least once a year – and more often if you tend to have foot problems. Your doctor can check if you have problems with circulation or loss of feeling in your feet. Better still, every time you go for a check-up, remove your shoes and socks so your feet can be examined, too.
- Keep your blood circulation going. Simple things like wriggling your toes once in a while and engaging in physical activities like walking that are easy on the feet can be helpful.13 14
|↑1, ↑2||Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathies). National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Diabetic Foot. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Veves, Aristidis, Ewan A. Masson, Devaka JS Fernando, and Andrew JM Boulton. “Use of experimental padded hosiery to reduce abnormal foot pressures in diabetic
|↑5, ↑9||Diabetic Socks. Diabetes.co.uk.|
|↑6||Herring, Kirk M., and Douglas H.
|↑7||Feldman, Carol B., and Ellen D. Davis. “Sockwear recommendations for people with diabetes.” Diabetes Spectrum 14, no. 2 (2001): 59-61.|
|↑8||Foot care. Diabetes Australia.|
|↑10||York, Robyn MB, and Ian L. Gordon. “Effect of optically
|↑11||Büttner, Reiner, Hardy Markwitz, and Carmen Knobelsdorf. “ALCERU® silver–A new ALCERU® Fibre with versatile application potential.” Lenzinger Berichte 85 (2006): 131-136.|
|↑13||Foot Care. American Diabetes association.|
|↑14||Diabetes & Foot Problems. National Institutes of Health.|