Having diabetes makes you susceptible to foot injuries, infections, slow healing time, and nerve damage that decreases the sensation you feel in your feet. Any of these problems alone or a combination of them could eventually cause serious issues that lead to amputation or death. Thus, if you can obtain diabetic socks that address the current issues you are facing with your feet, you are taking a huge step of self-care.
Types of Diabetic Socks
Diabetic socks are not all alike. There are many different types of diabetic socks, and what’s important to know is exactly what your needs are for socks.
Here’s a list that includes some of the different types of diabetic socks that are available:
• socks that keep feet dry
• socks that prevent the circulation from being slowed down
• socks that decrease the risk of injury to the foot
• socks that are padded or have no seams that rub against the feet
• socks that are nonbinding because they don’t have elastic
Reasons Why Diabetics May Choose Specialty Socks
Diabetic socks can help feet stay dry by using moisture-wicking fabrics. This prevents moisture from forming the perfect environment for infectious organisms to reproduce and infections to spread. Diabetic socks may also contain antimicrobial substances in the form of fabrics or copper threads that actually prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Rubbing/irritation and blisters on the feet are two things that every diabetic should avoid. These can end up creating a foot ulcer, which could become difficult to treat.
Keeping the circulation going in the feet is also important, and if the feet are cold, the circulation is impaired. Impaired circulation ends up causing issues with infections, cuts, or friction areas not healing.
The types of yarn used to make socks can also go a long way to help diabetics. For example, bamboo and wool are fabrics where the texture is fine and feel softer to the skin, plus these yarns are antimicrobial in nature. You may also find socks on the market that use blister guard yarn, which means it reduces the friction felt by the feet, thereby lowering the chance of developing blisters. The American Podiatric Association recommends these socks.
One additional type of sock that diabetics might choose to wear is smart technology socks. These socks have sensors embedded into them that monitor the temperature of your feet, letting you know if your feet are too cold or if there has been a change in the temperature. The sensors communicate via an app in your cell phone; the socks need a battery that is stored near the ankle.
These diabetic socks may seem “smart” but what has not been tested in the studies is the effect of wireless technology signals on the feet for diabetics. Previous studies have found that disrupted electromagnetic fields or high electromagnetic fields will cause erratic blood sugar readings; thus, socks that depend on this technology may contribute to worsen blood sugar levels, which then accelerates progression of diabetes.
Medical Studies Backing Diabetic Socks
Let’s go to some medical studies that have been done on different types of diabetic socks – and see what they have reported:
Copper Impregnated Socks
- fungi can’t successfully reproduce when copper is plentiful. Copper is an essential trace element that everyone needs, and both skin and new capillaries need it to be healthy. It’s possible that your levels of copper in your body are low due to inadequate intake, but in the meantime, while you’re waiting on those results, copper could be released from copper impregnated socks and absorbed through the skin.
- then helps enhance the skin’s resistance to infections. Copper is normally involved in the physiological and metabolic processes for the synthesis and stabilization of extracellular matrix skin proteins and the development of new capillaries.
- one double blind, placebo-controlled study, 32 volunteers wore socks impregnated with copper while 28 volunteers wore ones without the copper. Each wore the socks at least 10 hours a day for four weeks. Those who wore the copper socks showed an increase in the skin elasticity of their feet by 21%. That’s a benefit that could make a big difference to diabetic feet!
- another study, 56 patients with tinea pedis, a fungal infection of the feet were asked to wear copper-impregnated socks. The copper was in the sole of the socks.
- 9 days, all patients showed improvement or resolution of the redness, fissures, blisters, scaliness, burning and itching. In 40 days, patients had resolution or improvement of 68-97% for the scaliness; 65-97% for fissuring, burning, itching, and blisters. None of the patients’ conditions worsened and side effects were not seen.
Padded Socks to Reduce Stress
- UK study from back in 1989 confirmed that padded socks actually do work well to reduce the stress the feet feel. They tested the padded diabetic socks on 27 patients that had neuropathy, the inability to feel sensation in the feet. This can result in the creation of foot ulcers.
- padded socks reduced the pressure in the forefoot by 26-29%. The researchers concluded that padded diabetic socks were effective in reducing vertical pressures under the diabetic foot, and if used in combination with orthotics, may be useful for diabetics at risk for foot ulceration.
- socks are sometimes called preventive foot care socks. Compared to ordinary supermarket socks, preventive foot care socks – which diabetics may wear – increase the amount of contact area of the foot with each step by 11cm2, a 14.2% increase. They also reduce the total foot pressure by 9% and the forefoot pressure by 10.2%.
Compression Diabetic Socks
- there’s swelling in the legs and feet, compression socks are often recommended. However, choosing these types of socks should be your doctor’s decision, as compression may compromise the circulation if there’s peripheral artery disease in the legs, too.
- a study done at the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in Chicago, 80 subjects with foot swelling and diabetes received either mild compression knee high diabetic socks (18-25mm Hg) or non-compression knee high diabetic socks. They were instructed to wear the socks at all times except sleeping.
- who wore the diabetic compression socks showed significant decreases in the swelling of the feet and calves without any decreases in the circulation. Mild compression diabetic socks may be effective and safely used in patients with diabetes and swelling in the foot.
In an Egyptian study on smart socks with 7 thermal sensors woven into the fabric of the sock to measure the temperature beneath the foot and pressure changes, only two of the sensors were sufficient to predict changes in the pressure of the foot. It hardly makes the benefits of these socks worthy of purchase. To date, no studies back the wearing of smart socks for diabetics.
If you’re diabetic, you can decrease the suffering that your feet feel by choosing the right type of diabetic socks. Always check first with your doctor for his recommendation, and then follow up and get a few pairs of the diabetic socks he recommends. Then give your feet a healthy trial of at least one month. Evaluate the progress with your doctor at the end of the month. This way you can continue to upgrade your health and not let diabetes get the best of you!
Murray, H.J., et al. Role of experimental socks in the care of the high-risk diabetic foot. A multicenter patient evaluation study. American Group for the Study of Experimental Hosiery in the Diabetic Foot. Diabetes Care 1993 Aug;16(8):1190-2.
Borkow, G., et al. Reducing the risk of skin pathologies in diabetics by using copper impregnated socks. Med Hypotheses 2009 Dec;73(6):883-6.
Borkow, G. Using copper to improve the well-being of the skin. Curr Chem Biol 2014 Aug;8(2):89-102.
Dykes, P. Increase in skin surface elasticity in normal volunteer subjects following the use of copper oxide impregnated socks. Skin Res Technol 2015 Aug;21(3):272-7.
Zatcoff, R.C., et al. Treatment of tinea pedis with socks containing copper oxide impregnated fibers. Foot (Edinb) 2008 Sep;18(3):136-41.
Veves, A., et al. Use of experimental padded hosiery to reduce abnormal foot pressures in diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes Care 1989 Oct;12(9):653-5.
Garrow, A.P., et al. Efficacy of multilayered hosiery in reducing in-shoe plantar foot pressure in high-risk patients with diabetes. Diabetes Care 2005 Aug;28(8):2001-6.
Wu, S.C., et al. Control of lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes: double blind randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of mild compression diabetic socks. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2017 May;127:35-43.
El-Nahas, M., et al. Relationship between skin temperature monitoring with Smart Socks and plantar pressure distribution: a pilot study. J Wound Care 2018 Aug 2;27(8):536-541.
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