Diabetic Walking Socks
Diabetic? Like walking/hiking and have an active lifestyle? Then why should your specialised socks look like something from a hospital.....well they don't have to.
What are Diabetic Socks?
Diabetic socks are specifically designed to reduce pressure in the lower leg and foot, prevent blistering on the skin surface, limit pressure and minimise moisture accumulation.
Ultimately, they protect the feet and provide maximum comfort. These socks have extremely low or even no elasticated content and are always seamless whereas conventional socks often have far higher elasticity particularly around the ankle cuff.
The reduced elasticated design is to prevent constriction due to the common foot swelling tendencies in diabetics. The seamless design minimises friction to the nerves and minimises neurological discomfort and pain.
It is however, a balance to create minimal grip without the socks slipping down the ankle. So something like a walking sock needs to be cleverly designed to meet the needs of the discipline whilst not being too tight that blood flow is restricted.
These socks simply fit well to prevent restrictions in the calf and ankles that can limit circulation. When circulation is decreased, it becomes harder for the body to heal and with diabetics this can be a critical factor. High blood sugar which is associated with diabetes causes the immune system to slow down. Specialised socks are one way to combat this issue to prevent potential major problems occurring.
Diabetic socks offer various cushion levels as well, to help prevent injury. They are also moisture-wicking using synthetic fibres so that moisture is not trapped between the sock and foot. In effect good diabetic socks for sport and activity, "pull" moisture upwards from the foot up the cuff where it can easily evaporate. By keeping the feet dry, there is less risk of developing blisters and fungal infections.
Who Should Use Diabetic Socks?
Not all people with diabetes need to wear diabetic socks. Diabetics with decreased "pedal pulses" (measured at the top of the foot and behind the inner ankle), can have changes in skin colour and temperature of the feet with resulting nerve damage or other changes in sensation.
A simple foot injury such as friction rubs could easily result in an infected blistered area that takes ages to heal so if that is the case, a diabetic should consider making the switch to solely diabetic socks for better protection.
If your feet are sensitive to temperature changes, and they are prone to redness, irritation spots, and/or swelling, it is also highly recommended that you should wear them. If none of these symptoms are present, you can generally wear most types of socks. Diabetics should still avoid wearing constricting, loose and lumpy socks or those with raised seams.
During pregnancy a woman may suffer from gestation diabetes. Diabetic socks would be beneficial to swollen feet in such circumstances. Lightweight and highly breathable, they will keep your feet warm and lessen your chance of developing blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Although you may not need diabetic socks on a regular basis, you may think about getting a pair when you travel. With long hours of sitting, your feet are prone to swelling. To keep your feet warm without the elastic bands binding against your skin, diabetic socks are a perfect travel companion.
Diabetic socks are often made from a combination of materials such as Acrylic, Merino Wool or even Bamboo mixed with some sort of stretch fibre like Spandex or Lycra. These materials offer more moisture wicking ability than cotton while Spandex and Lycra are less constricting than Elastic. In addition, these materials are wrinkle-resistant to minimize the chances of material abrasion on skin.
When injury combines with bacteria and moisture, this complication can turn into a huge danger for individuals with diabetes. Therefore, being anti-microbial is an important feature for diabetic socks to prevent bacterial and fungal growth on humid and moisture prone skin. What is also amazing about these socks is that the non-cotton materials such as wool and bamboo have natural anti-microbial properties. In addition, some higher-end diabetic socks even contain silver or copper threading to actively fight against bacteria and fungi and help prevent foot odour and infection.
Depending on your specific activity needs, you can purchase specialised diabetic socks with extra foot-bed padding. If you need to remain on your feet for an extended amount of time, you may want socks that have padding on the heels for extra support. If you run or exercise often, you may require socks with more padding at the ball of the foot to avoid friction-induced blisters. Impact sports such as tennis and or football may require toe padding to avoid possible toe-related injuries.
Available Styles and Lengths
Over the calf are usually the most beneficial to individuals with circulation issues particularly if passive. If you have an active lifestyle, sport diabetic socks are available in both ankle and crew heights and continue to offer all of the benefits of a classic diabetic sock. Since the invention of the original diabetic sock, various brands have introduced different designs to their collections. For those individuals who do not like their socks to show, low-cut style socks are also available.
How Do Diabetic Socks Differ From Compression Socks and Regular Socks?
Diabetic socks should be around the price of a pair of good quality wool socks. So what makes them different from a pair of regular socks?
- Regular socks
Traditional socks are often loose fitting and stretched out easily with lumps forming around your heels and beneath your toes. They often contain a main seam that runs across the toes that can irritate sensitive pressure points in the feet. They are also often made of cotton and elastic which not only traps moisture from escaping from between the sock and foot, but also impair circulation at the top of the sock which can grow tight around the ankles throughout the day.
- Diabetic Socks
Diabetic socks, on the other hand, fit your feet optimally. They conform to the wearer's feet rather than strangling them. They are neither the traditional sock, nor a compression sock. They contain no Elastic and have minimal or no seams. They do not form lumps even when they are worn or stretched out.
To better fit the wearer and to avoid excess fabric creating lumps, the manufactures have taken more effort to produce more accurate sizes for optimal fitting. To eliminate abrasion on the skin, diabetic socks are often made from finer texture fabrics out of materials such as Wool, Bamboo, Nylon and Spandex blends.
- Compression socks
Compression socks serve a main purpose of exerting enough pressure around the lower legs to increase the blood pressure and pump blood back up the veins back to the heart. This process allows more blood to be quickly returned to the heart and prevents swelling and blood clots forming. They are used by athletes to enhance their performance or for medical conditions like edema, venous insufficiency, varicose veins, lymphedema and deep vein thrombosis, as well as during pregnancy. Unlike regular socks and diabetic socks, these compression socks are tight and binding.
Compression for Diabetics
While some diabetics also suffer from peripheral arterial disease it is an important distinction to make that compression socks are not usually an appropriate option to consider. Roughly 1:3 people with diabetes over 50 years old also have Peripheral Arterial Disease. This additional condition increases the risk of heart attack or stroke occurrence. PAD is atherosclerosis in the legs that is partial or complete in the arteries. If you were to add compression from all sides to the lower leg as compression socks do, you would be likely further restrict the flow of oxygenated blood into this already deprived area which is far from desirable.
Diabetics can get diabetic socks with mild compression though which can be both helpful and safe. These typically raise the blood pressure by around 10-15 mmHg, whereas sports style compression socks raise the blood pressure by around 20 mmHg and some compression stocking can increase it by 25-40 mmHg. Some hospitals use diabetics and/or compression socks when a patient cannot move a great deal or has to remain in their beds. They also may be used after major surgery to encourage good circulation form the legs. But unless prescribed by a doctor, a diabetic patient should not attempt to wear compression socks.
What are the advantages of using diabetic socks?
The general advantage of wearing diabetic socks is protection and increased proprioceptive awareness.
- Protect from friction rubs, blisters and ulcers
- Cushion the feet from injury and rubbing
- Do not wrinkle and cause discomfort
- Conform to the feet without being constricting
- Do not contain tight Elastic fibres
- Show the presence of blood or other discharge from injuries
- Anti-microbial: fight odour and bacterial infection
- Can provide mild compression for better circulation
- Protects sensitive pressure points
- Minimise the risks of major injury
What are the disadvantages of using diabetic socks?
There really aren't any. Even people without diabetes can wear these socks if they want more comfortable feel.
What is Venous Insufficiency?
Venous insufficiency is when the veins do not function properly and blood does not readily flow back to the heart. This venous stasis causes pooling of blood in the lower legs, ankles and feet. The most obvious symptom is the swelling of the feet. Other symptoms of venous insufficiency include:
- Pain in the legs while standing that decreases when you elevate the legs due to improved venous return to the heart
- Leg cramps and a feeling of tightness
- Itching and thickening of the lower leg skin
- Colour change of the skin in the lower legs and/or feet
- Developing ulcers on the legs or feet
- Varicose veins
- Throbbing pain in your legs
- Your legs feel heavy and weak
In general, people that suffer from venous insufficiency are recommended to use compression socks to help increase their blood pressure in the lower leg by narrowing the diameter of the blood vessels. While diabetics should not wear sports style compression socks, those with venous insufficiency can choose to wear diabetic socks with mild compression if recommended by a doctor.
Are Diabetic Socks a Waste of Time?
The short answer is NO. Diabetic socks are designed with all of the specific requirements needed for comfortable and healthy feet for diabetics. Anyone can wear them just for the quality and the higher comfort features and some people with circulatory issues can benefit from the specific elasticated designs. But it is diabetics who truly benefits from ALL the design features and see the change in their lifestyle.