Diabetic socks are specially designed socks that keep the feet dry, decrease the risk of foot injury, and avoid preventing or slowing blood circulation. They usually are made of materials that have superior abilities to wick away moisture, are fitted, padded, and nonbinding. They differ from regular socks in that they are non-elastic and seamless. By eliminating the elastic, diabetic socks reduce the constriction that often occurs in swelling, which can limit blood flow.
Why People With Diabetes Need Special Socks
People with diabetes are at higher risk of foot injuries and infection due to potential damage to their circulatory and nervous systems caused by high blood sugar levels.1 Nerve damage, or neuropathy, decreases sensation and increases the risk of injury, especially on the bottom of the feet. It can also cause a person with diabetes to be unaware of an injury and delay treatment.
Circulatory problems make it harder for wounds to heal because it is difficult for them to benefit from the healing properties of continuous blood flow. Elevated blood sugar levels also can create a sluggish immune system. These problems can create a situation that could lead to amputation or even death.1
Clearly, foot care is an extremely important consideration for someone with diabetes.
Who Should Wear Diabetic Socks
Not everyone with diabetes needs diabetic socks. For those without foot problems, regular socks that are comfortable, non-binding, fitted, and without lumps or uncomfortable seams would be sufficient.2 Socks should not be tight, constricting, lumpy, or have seams that are uncomfortable. They should ideally keep your feet dry. Practice good foot care and inspect your feet regularly for injury.3
Diabetic socks may be helpful in the following conditions:
If you have diabetes and have experienced changes in foot color, temperature, redness, irritation, nerve damage, blisters or fungus.
If you have diabetes and have extreme foot moisture or sweat, as these specialized socks keep your feet dry by wicking moisture and thereby reducing the recurrence of fungal infections.
If you have experienced any of the above issues, talk to your health care professional for advice and recommendations on using diabetic socks.
Benefits of Wearing Diabetic Socks
Diabetic socks can help people with diabetes who are prone to infections and foot injuries. Here's how they can help:2
Moisture-wicking materials keep feet dry so that excess moisture doesn't form a breeding ground for fungal infections
Antimicrobial features prevent bacteria and fungal growth
Increasing comfort and decreasing swelling
Keeping feet warm to improve circulation
Seamless socks reduce the risk of rubbing and blisters, which may ultimately lead to a foot ulcer in someone who has neuropathy or chronic hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
Extra padding for sensitive areas, such as the soles of the feet, can help prevent foot injury
White-soled socks can alert those with diabetes if they have a wound that is draining
Types of Diabetic Socks Available
There are many different types of diabetes socks on the market, making it hard for someone with diabetes to know which types of socks to select. Price may play a role in your decision-making, too, as some socks can be costly. Here is a breakdown of some features and price points:
Copper-infused: Made with Cupron, a copper-infused yarn, these socks have antifungal properties that have been shown to kill athlete's foot fungus. Copper-infused socks may also prevent reinfection of athlete's foot on subsequent wears. These socks also offer anti-odor protection. Costs range between $7 and $16 and can be purchased at Renfro Socks.
Moisture-wicking: Wicking socks pull moisture away from the foot to evaporate sweat, which reduces the risk of fungus, infections, and prevents odor. The drier the foot, the more protection you have from developing blisters and other foot wounds. They typically cost between $5 and $20 and can be purchased online or in stores. Common brands include Dr. Scholl's CoolMax, Brooks, and Balega.
Padded acrylic socks: People who exercise vigorously should consider padded acrylic socks because they keep feet dryer and cause less blistering than cotton socks. Acrylic fibers seem to have better moisture-wicking abilities and can also be good for people who have diminished sensation or neuropathy, as the extra padding can help to prevent foot injuries. Many types of diabetes socks are made with this type of fiber.
Extra padding or gel padding: Heavily padded socks or socks with gel padding are also available and can aid in moisture-wicking, protecting the foot from injury, reducing sensitivity and irritation, as well as providing comfort.4
Soft yarns: Diabetic socks are often made from finer-textured fabrics such as bamboo and wool. These types of yarns have natural antimicrobial properties and reduce rough abrasion on the skin.
Blister guard yarn: This type of yarn is meant to reduce blister-causing friction. Approved by the American Podiatric Association, Dr. Scholl's makes them for about $8 to $12.
Smart technology socks: Some diabetic socks have embedded sensors that track foot temperature and alert you via an app if there is a change, such as a sore or ulcer that is forming. The coin-size battery is located on the exterior of the sock near the ankle. These socks usually last around six months and can cost $19.95 per month. For more information, check out Siren.
Where to Purchase Diabetic Socks
Diabetic socks can be purchased at most chain stores, such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and pharmacies such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS. You can also find them easily online at Amazon or a specialty site such as Renfro Socks.
There's a wide range of pricing—anywhere from $2 to $140 per pair, depending on the materials and functionality. Unfortunately, diabetic socks are not currently covered by Medicare or commercial insurance, although some may be eligible for reimbursement under a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). Call your plan provider to check your eligibility for reimbursement—and you may need documentation provided by your doctor that the socks are part of your treatment plan.
How to Clean and Care For Diabetic Socks
Diabetic socks should and can be worn daily, and should be changed and washed frequently so as to prevent bacterial or fungal build-up, especially if your feet become wet or sweaty.2
Sock lifespan is usually around six months with regular wear. Additionally, socks should be thrown away at the first sign of wear and tear, such as holes, rips, or pilling. This may seem overly cautious, but holes or pilling can cause extra friction against the skin, which may lead to blisters.
To increase their longevity, wash socks in a mesh undergarment bag in the washing machine, and dry them on low heat, as higher temperatures may cause fibers to break down faster. You may also want to use a sweater comb or sweater shaver to remove any fabric pilling.
Differences Between Diabetic Socks, Regular Socks, and Compression Stockings
Regular socks differ from diabetic socks in that they are typically made from cotton, which can trap moisture. They may be too tight or loose-fitting and contain seams around the cuff or toe, which can increase friction and/or slow circulation in the foot.
People with diabetes who also have a peripheral arterial disease may need compression stockings or hosiery to help with circulation and reduce swelling. Compression stockings are not the same as diabetic socks—their purpose is meant to increase constriction so that blood can return more easily to the heart. Typical compression socks are a concern for those with diabetes because they can decrease blood flow to your feet and accelerate damage.5
If you have swollen feet, discuss with your doctor whether mild compression diabetic socks are appropriate for you. These have lighter compression that the typical compression socks.6
A Word From Verywell
Diabetic socks may be helpful to prevent foot complications, damage, and nerve pain or poor circulation resulting from diabetes. Wash and inspect your feet daily to keep tabs on their condition. Trim toenails with care, or have them done professionally by your caregiver. Don't ignore any new changes when it comes to your feet—take any and all injuries seriously and discuss them with your care provider to prevent further complications.