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What type of socks are best for diabetics?

Diabetic patients are vulnerable to a number of foot-related conditions. If they do not maintain good foot care practices, they may fall victim to different conditions. This includes diabetic neuropathy, which is an inability to feel the foot injuries they fester.

This will ultimately result in non-traumatic amputation, with high chances of a second contralateral or new same side amputation. Nearly eighty percent of diabetic patients under this category die within five years.

Many new patients, as well as old ones, are often confused about the best foot care practices to manage their diabetes. They turn to health care practitioners, medical experts, or diabetes caregivers for authentic recommendations regarding the best socks to manage diabetic foot issues.

Care providers take full responsibility for creating awareness of self-care practices among diabetic people. It is very common to hear how “people suffering from diabetes must keep their feet dry’ or how “moisture is a major cause of fungal growth.”

Alongside these pronouncements, care providers also emphasize how the sock fabric is widely responsible for the level of moisture or dryness the feet have.

Based on the recommendations of medical experts regarding foot sock care, we see three main ideas. Some medical experts recommend wool or cotton socks; others prefer stockings of a synthetic or acrylic blend.

However, many of the experts tend to differ in their suggestions regarding the appropriate fabric, construction, and practices of sock wear for diabetic patients. Let’s look at each one in detail.

SOCK WEAR RECOMMENDATION BY PODIATRISTS AND PHYSICIANS- A SURVEY

When one questions diabetic care providers about their suggestions of the best sock wear, they would usually recommend things that might not even have any research data to support the idea. From a general survey, the following information came to light from the podiatrists, staff nurses, physicians, and certified diabetic educators (CDEs) from the Durham VA Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center and the surrounding areas.

General Staff Members

Staff nurses are of the opinion that socks need to be comfortable primarily but also of wool or cotton fabric specifically. They also laid great emphasis on the acrylic material for diabetic socks wearers because the material has more absorbing potential and is more comfortable.

Podiatrists and Physicians

Out of 12 participants of the survey, the majority of podiatrists and physicians revealed they do not prioritize sock wear as a necessary part of diabetic care. Most suggest sock wear is not a primary concern in diabetes, and only one physician committed to casually suggesting sock wear in the event a patient showed symptoms of tinea pedis.

Some of the other participants of the survey revealed they recommend wool or cotton socks to their diabetic patients, mainly because the fabrics absorb moisture better, and the natural fibers are more comfortable.

They were also some physicians and podiatrists who suggest acrylic socks to their patients based on their personal preference. Some were also of the opinion that a blend of wool/cotton/ acrylic would be the best choice of sock wear for diabetics.

Above all, the unanimous consensus if the group of experts was that regardless of the choice of fabric, diabetic patients must ensure that the socks they do wear is comfortable and not tight at all.

Diabetes Educators

Eleven CDEs participated in the third segment of the survey and also proved to be the most vocal about sock wear. The majority of this group, too, shared the same opinion as to the nurses, of wool and cotton being the best fabric for diabetic feet. They prioritized less moisture in the foot care of diabetic patients, focusing on the fact many diabetic patients tend to have excess perspiration in the feet.

Cotton, according to the better part of this group, is the better fabric in terms of moisture-absorbing power. The rest ranked acrylic as the next best material for less moisture.

What the Pharmaceutical Company and Government Literature Suggests

Many of the recommendations one hears from diabetes caregivers take root in the literature that pharmaceutical companies and government provide for diabetes. These sources largely recommend the use of socks at all times for diabetic patients, mainly because it is imperative for them to keep their feet dry.

Most of the literature does not specify one fabric for the socks, but it does emphasize that diabetic patients must avoid wearing tight ones. The literature also suggests white as the best color for diabetic sock wear, mainly because the color would make any bleeding or wound instantly evident.

Diabetic patients tend to lose feeling in their feet, and sensitivity makes them more vulnerable to foot injuries and wound. Any of these remaining undetected could be highly dangerous for diabetic patients. White, therefore, is the best color choice for diabetic patients.

In many examples, the literature recommends cotton or wool socks because the materials provide easy breathability for the feet and also prevent perspiration.

What Magazines and Books Recommend for Diabetic Patients

Diabetes is a very common health issue across the globe today. For this purpose, a wide number of periodical publications and books exist to provide as much information as possible for diabetic patients. These resources provide information on health care for diabetics, including sock wear recommendations and the need to wear socks.

An article from these publications informs that diabetic patients must choose socks that fit comfortably, without being tight. The reason being that the seams and lumps in the socks material must not exert any pressure on the feet. The article also stresses that cushioned socks may be helpful in preventing callus formation, but they tend to become tight inside the shoes.

Under the same discussion, the article stressed that diabetic patients must not wear socks while exercising, mainly because cotton does not wick moisture, and there can be compression of the cushioning fibers. All of this results in the feet remain moist and vulnerable to infections and wounds.

If a patient wishes to wear socks during exercise, polypropylene acrylic fabrics are the best choice. Meanwhile, for daily use, any sock fabric would do, as long as it is comfortable, keeps moisture away, and is not tight.

Continuing with foot care suggestions, other publications suggest that diabetic patients must refrain from wearing knee-high and tight socks. They also stress the necessity of changing socks regularly, especially if the patient perspires heavily.

The publications explain that since socks are by design constricting, the reason why resources stress heavily upon choosing cotton is because of its easy breathability factor. Cotton material makes room for more air to flow in a while, absorbing moisture effectively. They also consider synthetic fibers a good choice because of their moisture-wicking capability, especially during active sports.

The one aspect that all publications and books unanimously agree upon is the need for diabetic patients to keep their feet at all times to keep fungal infections and wounds away.

What Research Suggests

Among all the differing opinions, the most concrete evidence and explanation regarding appropriate foot care for diabetic patients are present in research-based evidence. A few studies describe what would happen to the feet of diabetic patients in socks of various constructions and fabrics.

In 1989, one resource proved how Thorlos cushioned socks were able to decrease the vertical pressure on the diabetic foot. The research concluded that proper orthoses, in conjunction with cushioning, are fairly beneficial against ulcer formation.

The authors of the same study published another research in 1990. In it, they discussed how their findings revealed that cushioned socks, while declining in effects, still provided pressure relief better than being barefoot, even after six months. The research decided that the best choice for insensitive feet would be high-density socks.

When Herring and Richie carried out the research, they discovered that diabetic patients who are more prone to perspiring must wear socks with dense padding in the acrylic fabric so that it can wick moisture quickly away from the skin.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Reflecting on all the research and the traditional beliefs of health care professionals regarding sock wear in diabetes, one must bear certain facts in mind. Diabetic patients with normal feet can wear socks of any choice, as long as it is comfortable and not constricting. The pair of socks must fit well but must not constrict or have uncomfortable seams and lumps.

Light colors are also the recommended choice because the wearers can instantly note if any draining wound occurs in their feet. Patients who are vulnerable to ulcer development must wear densely padded socks so that the pressure sensation decreases. A blend of 100% acrylic fiber, spandex and nylon for elasticity as the best choice.

1 comment

  • Do you have any calf sleeve, toeless socks?

    Gene Dailey

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