What Is The Difference Between Diabetic Socks And Compression Socks?

what is the difference between diabetic socks and compression socks

Diabetic socks are loose-fitting, seamless, absorbent, and antibacterial. They are designed to protect the foot from wounds and ulcers. Compression socks are snug fitting with compression to the lower extremities to help manage, prevent, or treat venous disorders.

Diabetic Socks vs Compression Socks

Both diabetic socks and compression socks offer many advantages for someone who has diabetes. I will explain the difference between the two, and show you how they differ from regular socks. 

How Do You Know If You Need Diabetic Socks?

Diabetic socks are designed to protect your feet from getting ulcers and sores. They have no seams on the inside, and they have extra padding for additional protection.  

What are the signs of diabetic feet?

  • Numbness, pain, and swelling
  • Pressure around calves
  • Poor blood circulation or blood flow
  • Discomfort from regular socks 
  • Foot ulcers and wounds
  • Sensitive feet
  • Diabetic neuropathy    
  • Diabetic radiculopathy (DR) or severe and sudden onset of lower extremities

Benefits of Diabetic Socks:

  • Promote blood circulation back to the heart
  • Vein support
  • Prevent or decrease the pooling of blood in the lower extremities
  • Relieve swelling
  • Prevent orthostatic hypotension (lightheadedness when standing up)
  • Decreased pain associated with varicose veins
  • Prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or blood clots

When Should I Wear Diabetic Socks?

When you have diabetes (type 1 or type 2), you will likely benefit from wearing diabetic socks. Before making the decision, you should consult with your doctor or medical provider. 

Your medical provider might be the one who suggests diabetic socks for you. Most insurances do cover them.

What Attributes Should I Look For In A Diabetic Stock?

These socks have unique features that we should look for and recognize to get the most benefit from this product. Some of the characteristics that a diabetic sock should have are:

  • The sock should have seamless toes. People suffering from diabetic neuropathy benefit from seamless socks. If this is not the case, the seams will rub and irritate that area of the skin. Seams can cause abrasions, and abrasions will, in turn, cause blisters, sores, and infections.
  • The top of the sock is soft and loose. A tight sock will restrict circulation, and poor blood circulation can damage the nerves in the foot.
  • Diabetic socks offer cushion support. A padding that cushions the foot from heel to toe protects the foot from potential injury. 
  • Diabetic socks come in a variety of colors. You may want to look for light-colored socks, as it will be easier to identify any oozing or blood loss from a wound. 
  • The sock material will wick moisture from your foot. The key to preventing infection is to keep the foot dry. Fibers in the sock may include cotton, nylon, or polyester, or a blend of these for greater effectiveness. 
  • The socks should be antibacterial. This helps to decrease the presence of bacteria responsible for diabetic foot infections.

How Do You Know If You Need Compression Socks?

Compression socks or stockings are designed for medical conditions related to poor blood circulation. Compression socks can help prevent, alleviate, or treat the following:

  • Edema (swelling or fluid buildup in the feet, legs, and sometimes hips)
  • Deep-vein thrombosis or DVT (blood clot usually in the leg or thigh)
  • Chronic venous insufficiency or CVI (veins in the leg do not allow blood to flow back to the heart and may cause pooling of the blood)
  • Varicose veins (enlarged veins near skin’s surface caused by an increase of blood pressure)
  • Spider veins (mild version of varicose veins that are not painful or harmful)
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS (lightheadedness, rapid heart rate after standing up from a supine or reclined position and standing up)
  • Gestational diabetes (high blood sugars during pregnancy) if indicated
  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage causing pain, tingling, or loss of sensation)

What Do Compression Socks Do?

If you have poor circulation, blood does not flow smoothly to your lower extremities. Compression socks or stockings apply the needed pressure to promote blood flow back to your heart. 

With diabetes, a medical-grade compression stocking will help the blood flow back to the heart and thus, improve circulation. When this is achieved, the feeling of tired legs, foot pain, and the potential for varicose veins will also diminish.

What are the Symptoms of Poor Circulation?

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Throbbing pain in your limbs
  • Muscle cramps

What are the Causes of Poor Circulation?

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Blood clots
  • Varicose veins
  • Peripheral artery disease or PAD (narrowing of the blood vessels and arteries)

Be sure to check out my article, “Should Diabetics Wear Compression Socks?” for additional information.

Educator’s Tip:

Put your compression stockings on first thing in the morning when the edema in your legs is likely the lowest. Take them off before you go to bed unless otherwise directed by your physician.

Are There Different Kinds of Compression Socks?

Compression socks have either a graduated support or uniform support.

The most beneficial compression socks are “graduated.” This means that a sock is tighter at the ankle and becomes looser towards the knee and thigh. This aids in circulating the blood back to the heart. This type of stocking requires a professional fitting.

The tube part of the stocking is called a compression sleeve. 

A stocking with unified support has the same amount of compression throughout the sock, usually a lower grade compression. 

How Much do Diabetic and Compression Socks Cost?

Compression socks and diabetic socks vary in price, according to the features associated with the product. Both are more expensive, as they are a specialty product. 

According to Stacey Wiedewitsch, a consultant from Heidi’s Mastectomy and Compression services, a basic specialty sock sells for $28. Some items come with a silicone toe or are available in various colors. The items with more features sell for up to $160. 

Will my Insurance Pay for my Diabetic or Compression Socks? 

Insurance will cover the cost of diabetic socks and compression socks if you have a valid prescription from your doctor.

Do I Need a Prescription for Diabetic or Compression Socks?

A prescription is necessary, particularly for compression socks with more than 20 units of pressure or mmHg (millimeters of mercury).

Socks that are “uniform” in strength can be purchased online, in medical supply outfits, and in stores without a prescription.

A Final Thought On Diabetic And Compression Socks

Diabetic socks and compression socks are not the same thing. Diabetic socks should give the person a gentle compression. This mild compression will help relieve swelling without limiting blood circulation.

 In compression socks, their purpose is to increase constriction so that blood properly returns to the heart.

If you have questions, talk to your medical provider, your podiatrist, or the professionals at your local footwear supply store. Also be sure to read my guest post by Dr. Mark Hinkes on diabetes foot care education and case study.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Stacey Wiedewitsch, a consultant from Heidi’s Mastectomy and Compression Services for her valuable input.






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