Ever seen an advertisement for something called “diabetic socks,” and wondered what in the world that was about? Can socks get diabetes? Can other items of clothing be diabetic? What does diabetes have to do with feet anyway?
Footcare certainly isn't the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about diabetes, but the fact is that diabetics are at a high risk of foot injuries and infections due to the potential damage high blood sugar levels can do to the nervous and circulatory systems.
Diabetes and Feet
Diabetes can lead to foot issues over time by causing diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage. This can cause tingling, pain, or numbness. When you can’t feel your feet, you may be unaware of cuts or sores there. Left untreated, these small injuries can grow and become infected. Reduced blood flow to the feet can also slow the healing process of wounds or infections, potentially leading to gangrene.
A variety of other factors can also pose a risk to diabetics and their feet.
Feet must be washed and thoroughly dried regularly to prevent fungal infections like athletes' feet from excess moisture. Washing your feet with warm, soapy water each day will help prevent bacteria buildup and infection. Applying talcum powder between toes afterward can dry out those areas and reduce the chance of athletes foot and other fungal infections.
Extreme temperatures are also a hazard. As tempting as it may be, don’t put your feet up in front of your campfire. You should also wear closed shoes when walking on hot sand or pavement and always apply sunscreen to your feet when they’re exposed to the sun. If you have nerve damage in your feet, you may not notice a burn until it’s severe, so it’s best to prevent it altogether.
Cold feet can also be related to restricted blood flow, so keep them warm by sleeping with socks on in the winter and wearing warm, waterproof shoes in bad weather.
While diligent daily care is the best way to keep feet healthy, diabetic socks are a great tool to help you out.
What are Diabetic Socks?
“Diabetic socks,” are socks specially designed to prevent the development of foot problems among those living with diabetes. Their features are engineered to address all the aforementioned issues to help you keep your feet healthy.
These socks are usually made of a material that wicks away moisture, like that found in exercise clothing, so that the feet stay dry. Some brands even have antimicrobial features in their fabric to help prevent bacteria and fungal growth. In colder temperatures, these socks will keep your feet warm, ensuring good circulation.
Diabetic socks are also non-elastic to avoid any slowing or prevention of circulation that regular socks may cause. This may seem excessive but think of all the times you’ve removed your socks at the end of the day only to see a ring of indentation around your ankle. For non-diabetics, this is not a problem and will likely disappear within a few minutes. But for those living with diabetes, anything that reduces circulation to the feet has the potential to cause long term damage.
These socks are also seamless, so you don’t have to worry about pesky rubbing producing blisters. In someone with neuropathy or chronic high blood sugar, something as small as a blister can ultimately turn into an ulcer. Special padding in sensitive areas also helps to prevent injuries like this.
In many cases, diabetic socks have white soles. This can alert the wearer if they have any sort of foot wound because the drainage of blood or other fluid will be visible from outside the sock.
Types of Diabetic Socks
There are a variety of diabetic socks available, with different features and advantages to suit each individual’s needs. Consider which are best for you or get a variety for different times of the year and different activity levels.
In general, diabetic socks serve one or more of three purposes: they keep your feet dry, they keep temperature steady, and they prevent abrasions. All will do each of these to some degree, but you can choose which to prioritize in your choices.
While most diabetic socks have some sort of moisture-wicking technology, be sure to look for this specifically if you are very active or have a physically demanding job. These materials pull moisture away from the feet to help to evaporate the sweat, reducing the risk of fungus and infections. They also help to cut down on odor.
Copper-infused socks are made with copper-infused yarn and also have antifungal properties and anti-odor protection.
Padded acrylic socks are ideal for those who exercise often because they keep feet dry and help cushion them to reduce the risk of any foot injury.
You can also find heavily padded or gel-padded socks if you are in need of this additional cushioning.
The yarns that make up your socks can also make a huge difference in the health of your feet. While most diabetic socks are made from soft yarns like wool and bamboo, you can also find those specially made to reduce friction that causes blisters.
If you’re really looking to maximize the benefits of your socks, consider new smart socks, which have embedded sensors that alert you of foot temperature changes that might be signs of friction that causes blisters to form. These socks need to be replaced regularly but are a great option for those without much feeling in their feet.
Whatever type of sock you choose, be sure to change and wash them regularly and replace them at the first sign of wear and tear, as holes or pilling can themselves cause injury.
It’s important to remember that while diabetic socks are a great tool for the prevention of foot problems, you should always see your doctor if you’ve already developed an issue.
Slow-healing wounds, unusual odor, and continuous pain in legs are all signs that something is wrong and you should check in with your doctor. Also, keep an eye out for changes in the color or shape of your feet, and ask your doctor to do a foot check-up at your next visit to make sure they’re healthy. Diligent care is the best way to prevent foot problems from developing.