Compression socks vs diabetic socks, which one is better? In this blog, I’ll compare compression socks and diabetic socks, and highlight important points that would help you to decide which socks pair you should select based on your activity.
Compression socks are snug-fitting and are meant to keep your blood flowing at an optimal level and reduce the symptoms of venous insufficiency. Diabetic socks are non-binding socks. They are loose-fitting and work to keep skin dry and prevent blisters from forming on your feet.
Also Read: Socks sliding down in shoes
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How Are Compression Socks Different from Diabetic Socks?
Compression socks and diabetic socks are designed very differently, although they may look similar to the untrained eye. Compression stockings aim to enhance blood flow and make traveling easier for people who suffer from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), while diabetic socks are primarily aimed at protecting feet from diabetic complications.
Compression socks squeeze your feet and legs to force blood back toward the heart, which helps prevent swelling in the lower extremities. Compression socks create a gradient of pressure by having a snug fit around the ankles and legs. This creates higher pressure in the lower limbs surrounded by the compression socks. This high pressure forces the blood out of your legs and back up to the heart.
The goal of wearing compression stockings is leg elevation, which helps to reduce the risk of Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) by fighting against gravity thus preventing any pooling of blood in the lower leg area.
You can also check out the below animation to get a visual insight into the impact of compression stockings on blood flow.
Diabetic patients have elevated sugar levels that cause nerve damage in their feet, resulting in their loss of ability to feel pain subjected to the changing temperature and pressure. Diabetic socks have a much different goal for diabetic patients. Diabetic people need diabetic socks because they prevent foot ulcers that can lead to amputation or other serious complications caused by diabetes.
What Are The Features of Diabetic Socks?
Here are some important features of Diabetic socks that seem to be beneficial for diabetic feet.
Super-stretchy and non-elastic
Unlike compression socks, diabetic socks do not have an elastic band on the top for tight compression. No doubt, compression socks help blood circulation by forcing the blood vessels.
But, in diabetic patients, high glucose levels make blood vessels narrow (Peripheral Artery Disease), due to which the compression principle of compression socks does not apply to diabetic patients. That’s why compression socks are harmful to diabetic patients and can cause problems as compression socks stimulate blood flow from lower limbs to the heart. Diabetic patients actually need improved blood flow from the heart to the lower limbs.
Diabetic socks should be loose to the point where you barely feel them as you don’t want to feel an extra burden on your lower limbs and feet when you are a diabetic patient.
Excessive moisture can soften the skin, due to which it softens, swells, and wrinkles easily. Diabetic socks are supposed to be moisture-wicking and keep your feet dry. Such type of diabetic socks are worn in summers.
Diabetic socks allow perspiration produced by the skin to evaporate rapidly so it’s able to keep the foot well ventilated preventing sweat build-up which often comes with a risk of infection or skin irritation/blisters due to excessive moisture.
Diabetic socks are extra springy as compared to regular socks. Since diabetic patients can’t sense the injuries due to peripheral neuropathy, diabetic socks have thick padding to avoid future injuries when your feet collide with the objects or rub with the shoes. Moreover, the cushioned footbed of diabetic socks helps in absorbing the impact that exerts during long hours standing.
Keep Feet Warm
Diabetic socks are designed to keep the feet arm as the heat helps improving the blood circulation. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate that promotes the blood flow. Such type of diabetic socks are worn in winters. You can read about different diabetic socks that keep the feet warm at here.
Diabetic socks don’t have any rough seams to scratch, poke or irritate the foot. These types of socks come with seamless toes that prevent any kind of discomfort like pressure or irritation on your feet when you’re constantly moving around during the day. This also prevents bruises and the kind of infection that can cause foot ulcers.
Diabetic socks are antimicrobial and antifungal to keep infections away. Diabetic socks contain antimicrobial yarns, such as copper or silver-infused that prevent fungus from developing on your feet and control foot odors.
What Is The Material of Diabetic Socks?
Diabetic socks are typically made from a soft breathable material, such as bamboo fibers or 100% cotton that are gentle on sensitive skin, doesn’t itch or irritate the feet at all. Moreover, the material of diabetic socks should be loose-weave so that air can circulate and the feet can breathe, thus preventing sweat build-up and skin irritation.
You can also check out this study to get an idea of diabetic socks material, based on the recommendations from different people.
What Are The Features of Compression Socks?
Compression socks are very much similar to diabetic socks, except the fact that they have a strong elastic band to help them stay on and provide fast relief to the tired and achy legs by keeping your muscles activating. Moreover, the level of cushioning and arch support in diabetic and compression socks is almost the same.
Compression socks are made from a fabric blend that is spandex and nylon to reduce muscle vibrations. These are good for your muscles if you have been exercising.
Compression socks are tight on your feet, up to your knee or thigh, depending on the sort of compression sock you purchase. The more expensive ones will also have an extra ‘layer’ on them and more elasticity for added pressure at certain parts of your leg.
There are the following compression levels available for compression stockings.
- Under 15 mmHg is considered as a light compression sock. Runners or athletes aim for such compression socks.
- Under 20 mmHg are mildcompression socks used to treat DVT problems. They must be worn upon the recommendation of doctors.
- 20mmHg to 30mmHg is considered medical-grade compression socks. It is worn to resolve blood clots and edema in the lower limbs. These are called graduated compression socks. The amount of pressure is maximum at the ankles and decreases as it goes up your leg.
Several diabetic patients are confused about whether they should wear compression socks or not. Some sugar patients are also suffered from edema issues, due to which the body fluids start accumulating in the feet. This becomes extremely dangerous as sugar patients are also suffering from peripheral artery disease. For this issue, researchers at the Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research, North Chicago, conducted a study.
It was found that mild compression socks (18mmHg-20mmHg) could be easily used by patients with diabetes and LE edema. While wearing compression socks, note that they should be either seamless or should have a flat seam.
How Tight Should Compression Socks Be?
Compression socks should be tight enough to prevent blood flow but not too tight that they make your feet and legs numb. When you wear compression socks, you should feel tightness around the ankle. Moreover, there should not be wrinkles on the compression socks. Also, folding or bunching them can increase their tightness.
Can Diabetic Patients Wear Compression Socks?
It depends on the blood circulation. Some diabetic patients also develop peripheral artery disease in which blood flow is constricted to flow from the heart to the feet. This causes peripheral neuropathy. If this is the case with you, I would not recommend you wear compression socks.
However, if you are diagnosed with venous insufficiency, which is causing foot swelling, you can wear mild compression socks. But, before taking this step, always consult with your doctor.
What Length of Compression Socks Do I Need?
To determine the desired length/height of the compression socks, you’ve to first determine the exact pain point where you should get a tight sleeve.
You can measure the circumference of the widest part of the calf with a measuring tape and compare it to the size to decide what size to get.
You should measure both your calves because they might be a different size and the socks might fit better this way. If you need thigh-high socks, you would need to measure the circumference of the widest part of your thighs.
Can I Sleep in Compression Socks?
It is not recommended to wear compression socks if you’re sleeping in a position of lying down on a bad. In this position, heart and legs are at the same level, due to which the blood circulatory system does not have to fight against the gravity, and the blood in the veins can easily be flowed to the heart.
In such cases, wearing compression socks can cut off the blood circulation supply. If you still want, you should first consult this with your doctor as no one can predict your health condition.