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If you live with diabetes, you might not give as much thought to your foot care as your blood sugar levels and diet. But having high glucose levels can affect the nerves in your feet and cause peripheral neuropathy — nerve damage in your legs and feet, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, about one-third to one-half of people living with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“Many diabetics develop peripheral neuropathy, which is a decrease or lack of sensation in the feet,” says Dr. Pamela Mehta, owner of Resilience Orthopedics in San Jose, CA and medical advisor to The Good Feet Store. This can put them at risk for falls and other injuries related to losing their balance.
Because people with diabetes have increased inflammation and a weakened immune system, they’re also at higher risk for developing fungal and bacterial infections in their feet, says Dr. Emily Splichal, a podiatrist and founder of the performance-driven accessories line Naboso. “The prevention of infections is important for diabetics as they often have impaired healing capabilities due to poor circulation and immune responses,” she explains. Poor circulation and lack of exercise can lead to swelling in the legs and feet.
In addition, people with diabetes tend to have thin, sensitive skin from autonomic neuropathy (nerve damage in the heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, eyes and reproductive organs), Dr. Splichal explains, so they are more prone to cuts and blisters. They may also experience muscle atrophy (deterioration and loss of muscle tissue), which puts them at risk for hammertoes and bunions, she adds.
That’s where wearing supportive diabetic socks comes in. “Diabetes management requires a little extra foot care to avoid damage to the nervous and circulatory systems caused by high blood sugar levels,” Dr. Mehta says.
What do diabetic socks do?
A great complement to the best shoes for diabetics, most diabetic socks are made of antimicrobial materials to help prevent infection and offer light compression to reduce swelling in the legs and feet. They also often have a seamless design, so there’s a lower risk of breaking the skin, and some cushioning for extra comfort.
According to Dr. Mehta, diabetic socks are “designed to keep the feet dry, help decrease the risk of foot injury and enhance blood circulation.”
How to find the best diabetic socks
- Look for antimicrobial and moisture-wicking fabrics, such as bamboo charcoal, polyester, nylon and merino wool, which can help prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus. Additionally, Dr. Splichal suggests socks that are woven with antimicrobial fibers such as silver and copper, which can help limit fungal and bacterial infections. “Selecting white or light-colored materials can also increase your awareness of bleeding cuts,” Dr. Mehta adds.
- Hunt for a seamless design and a stretchy fit. Socks with seams can cause discomfort for those with sensitive feet and abrasions that go unnoticed if the wearer has sensory loss, Dr. Mehta says.
- Go for socks with light compression to improve blood flow to your legs and feet and reduce swelling. Just don’t choose pairs with too much compression, as this can cut off circulation.
- Seek pairs with heel cushioning to provide comfort and support for sensitive feet, Dr. Mehta says. Neuropathy can cause numbness, tingling and pain in your feet, so you may not realize how much impact your feet and joints are absorbing while walking, running, standing or doing any other activity.
Diabetic socks vs. compression socks
Although some diabetic socks offer some compression, Dr. Mehta says they typically have a looser fit than traditional compression socks, which are offered in a range of tightness levels up to medical-grade compression.
And while diabetic socks are typically made of extra soft, moisture-wicking and antimicrobial fibers, compression socks might not necessarily have these materials. “Diabetic socks come in less abrasive materials, such as wool, combed cotton, nylon, and spandex, that are gentler on the skin, therefore causing fewer blisters,” Dr. Mehta explains. “These materials also allow for better circulation to keep the feet cool and dry.”
Most diabetic socks are also designed with flat seams or have a seamless construction to prevent irritation around the toe and have more cushioning in the heel to provide additional comfort and support, Dr. Mehta adds.
Like compression socks, however, diabetic socks also come in various lengths, from no-show to ankle and crew and knee-high cuts, so you can wear them for a variety of purposes.
Below, shop the 10 best socks for diabetics, as chosen by our experts and backed by customer reviews.
Dr. Scholl’s Diabetes & Circulatory Socks
Keep your feet dry and comfortable with these cushioned socks from Dr. Scholl’s, a trusted foot care brand. These diabetic socks have a smooth toe seam and a non-binding ankle top so they conform to the shape of your legs without restricting blood flow. Plus, each pack comes with four pairs, so you have plenty to rotate through for an entire week.
Even reviewers who don’t have diabetes are raving about how comfortable these socks are. “I honestly don’t think ever in my life I have had a more comfortable pair of socks,” writes one shopper. “There is absolutely no binding at all and yet they still stay up.”
Doc Ortho Casual Comfort Antimicrobial Diabetic 1/4 Crew Socks
Best Diabetic Crew Socks
From diabetic socks and insoles to walking boots and ankle sleeves, Doc Ortho is well-known for its high-quality orthopedic products. Dr. Splichal recommends the brand’s diabetic socks for their antimicrobial treatment, which keeps odor-causing bacteria and fungus at bay. Quick-drying, flexible materials like polyester, nylon and spandex give this pair a stretchy fit, while the padded footbed provides comfort for all-day wear. These also have mild compression and a flexible sock ring instead of an elastic top so they won’t restrict blood flow.
“Comfort of a slipper in a sock,” says one reviewer. “No tightness on ankles whatsoever. I’ve reordered more already.”
OS1st WP4+ Wellness Performance Socks
Best for Arch Support
OS1st designs several performance socks for a variety of sports, but they also carry specific lines of socks for people with diabetes, plantar fasciitis, bunions and other foot issues. These wellness socks are great for people with diabetes for several reasons, Dr. Mehta says. They not only have arch support, cushioning at the bottom of the foot and are available in regular and wide widths, but they’re also made of silver-based antimicrobial fibers and nano bamboo charcoal.
“Adding that premium material to the cushion keeps feet dry and healthy,” she explains. “It’s also non-binding, meaning there’s room for the toes and foot to breathe, and doesn’t have tight compression.”
Like other diabetic socks, this pair has medical-grade compression for enhancing blood flow. “My husband has neuropathy in both feet, and we’ve tried almost every sock on the market,” says one reviewer. These are the first socks that have made a huge difference in abating his pain and discomfort.”
OrthoSleeve Diabetic and Neuropathy Non-Binding Wellness Socks
Although OrthoSleeve has been around since 2008, the brand launched its line of socks geared for people living with certain conditions, including diabetes, in 2018. These neuropathy socks check all the essential boxes, featuring a seamless design, nano-bamboo charcoal material, medical-grade compression, arch support, contoured padding and Y-gore stitching that cradles your heels.
“I ordered these for my dad’s neuropathy and he loves them,” one reviewer says. “They’re so comfortable for him that we ordered a couple more.”
The best part is that they come in a variety of designs and colors, so they’re not just ideal for exercise or running errands but also for the office or a night out.
Doctor’s Choice Diabetic Crew Socks
Best for Ventilation
Whether you’re going for a run or lounging around at home, these neuropathy socks from Doctor’s Choice provide ultimate comfort. Thanks to their special stitching, they have a seamless toe construction that works double duty to prevent cuts and blisters and improve air circulation. To top it off, these socks have antimicrobial copper, silver and zinc fibers and are infused with aloe for a softer and smoother feel — making them great for those with sensitive feet.
Bombas Everyday Compression Socks 15-20 mmHg
People love Bombas for its comfortable and stylish line of socks, and these compression socks don’t disappoint. Although they aren’t specifically designed for people with diabetes, they include many of the must-have features experts recommend. For example, they provide a moderate amount of compression and have a seamless toe construction and built-in arch support system. They’re also made of moisture-wicking materials, like polyester, nylon and spandex.
“I’ve tried many different compression socks and they’ve all been bunchy in the toe area, with too much fabric,” one reviewer writes. “Bombas’ socks are shaped in the toe area, and there is no extra fabric there. They fit beautifully and are so comfortable.”
Naboso Foot Recovery Socks
Best for Neuropathy
“This innovative sock by Naboso features a texture on the inside of the sock that is designed to stimulate the nerves in the bottom of the foot,” Dr. Splichal says. Texture stimulation, such as that featured in the Naboso sock, has been shown to improve foot awareness, balance and foot circulation.”
In addition to its sensory features, this pair offers compression in the arch for recovery. Reviewers with health conditions that cause balance issues, like multiple sclerosis, say these socks stimulate the bottom of their feet.
Debra Weitzner Non-Binding Loose Fit Diabetic Socks
These Debra Weitzner diabetic socks have grippy soles to help prevent falls at home or while at physical therapy. They also have non-binding ankle tops and a relaxed fit for added comfort. Made with lightweight cotton, this non-slip pair promotes air flow and comfort. If the non-slip feature doesn’t appeal to you, Debra Weitzner creates other types of diabetic socks without the grippers that are available in ankle and crew-length styles.
“I’m diabetic and have found some socks to be too tight around the ankle, but these socks are perfect,” one reviewer comments. “They never turn while wearing them and work well in shoes. I often take my shoes off in the house, but these socks help to prevent any slipping and keep my feet warm.”
Yomandamor Diabetic Socks With Seamless Toe
Micromesh details in these Yomandamor diabetic socks makes them extra breathable. What’s more, they’re made of bacteria-fighting bamboo and have a seamless toe to prevent irritation on sensitive feet. Although this pair doesn’t include cushioning like other styles on our list, reviewers say they love its more relaxed fit, especially around the ankles and calves. Some have even used these for hiking.
“I am diabetic, but most importantly due to a disc problem in my back, I have unreliable sensation in my right foot with the first three toes and the ball of my foot,” one shopper wrote. “I take my shoes off frequently to make sure I am not having skin breakdown in those areas because that is the sensation always. These socks are light and soft enough and don’t have an uncomfortable seam. I don’t need to check my feet as often because they just don’t hurt as much. These are a godsend.”
Dr. Comfort Diabetic 15-20 mmHg Knee-High Support Socks
Best Compression Socks for Diabetics
These Dr. Comfort diabetic socks feature antimicrobial bamboo charcoal fibers, extra cushioning and a seamless construction, making them ideal for working out or any physical activity. They also provide graduated compression, meaning they fit tighter around the ankles and gradually become loose the higher up you go on the leg.
“Diabetic-specific compression socks provide support without restricting circulation or risking injury to the often sensitive skin,” Dr. Splichal says. “Too much compression, restriction of swelling, seams and rough fabrics can all potentially cause irritation or a break in the skin.”
They also come in a variety of lengths, including ankle, crew and over-the-calf, and sizes to accommodate larger or swollen feet.
More ways to take care of your feet
Good foot care is crucial to staying healthy for people with diabetes. In addition to wearing clean diabetic socks daily, Dr. Mehta recommends that people with diabetes inspect their feet daily and check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling and nail problems. “It may be beneficial to use a magnifying hand mirror to look at the bottom of your feet, and keeping the feet clean by washing them daily is imperative,” she says.
Other things she suggests are moisturizing your feet daily to prevent and soothe dry, cracked and irritated skin, and cutting your nails carefully and regularly. Try to avoid going barefoot around the house, too, and wear slippers to prevent cuts and scrapes.
When wearing shoes, Dr. Mehta also advises diabetic patients to use a custom arch support system, like Good Feet Arch Supports, to help prevent blisters and foot issues, as well as knee, hip and back pain. “An arch support system can provide proper gait and joint alignment, which offers increased support for overall comfort and pain alleviation throughout the day, especially when being active,” she says. “It works by evenly distributing pressure throughout the hindfoot (back of the foot) and midfoot,”
Be sure to look for shoes with comfortable insoles made of breathable materials like leather, canvas and suede.
Your lifestyle can also impact your foot health, so following a nutritious, well-balanced diet and regular workout routine can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.