Are Compression Socks Good for Diabetics?

Last updated on May 27, 2022 – Published on January 8, 2021

When looking for your new pair of diabetic socks, you may have run into compression socks for diabetes. You’re wondering if you should get these, and you’re right to wonder.

Compression socks for diabetics aren’t always a good choice. Compression socks or compression stockings are specially designed to gently squeeze the leg or the foot to promote better blood circulation from the lower limbs back to the heart. 

While compression socks can really help alleviate some diabetic foot problems, they can also aggravate others. So, read this article before wearing compression socks for diabetes, and always ask for your doctor’s advice first. 

Compression socks for diabetics

Diabetic Socks Vs. Compression Socks?

Diabetic socks and compression socks are two different medical socks serving opposite purposes. In most cases, diabetics are recommended to wear loose-fitting diabetic socks and avoid compression socks. But, in some particular cases, compression socks can be prescribed to diabetics too. 

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What are diabetic socks?

Diabetic socks are loose-fitting socks that do not constrict your feet and legs in order not to restrain blood circulation. 

Diabetics often have circulatory problems such as peripheral artery disease – PAD. PAD is a blood circulation condition in which the blood vessels are narrowed, reducing blood flow from the heart to the limbs. In that case, diabetic socks are recommended, as their loose-fit design promotes blood flow down from the heart to the lower limbs. 

By promoting better blood circulation towards the lower limbs, diabetic socks allow oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to reach your feet. It helps prevent nerve damage and improve overall foot health.

Besides boosting blood circulation, diabetic socks are also extra protective and offer optimum comfort to the feet. They have a seamless interior design to prevent blisters and frictions to the skin. They often have extra padding and are made from high-tech moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial materials that help keep your feet in a dry and healthy environment.  

What are compression socks?

On the other hand, compression socks are snug-fitting. They are designed to prevent blood from pooling in the lower legs and feet when you have different circulatory problems. 

When blood accumulates in the lower limbs, it can cause swelling or blood clots. Compression socks are designed to promote blood flow from the lower limbs back up to the heart. This is the exact opposite of diabetic socks which are designed to promote blood flow from the heart to the lower limbs. 

Wearing one instead of the other can be harmful and cause serious health problems. 

You especially need compression socks for diabetes when you suffer from venous insufficiency, excessive foot swelling, or blood clots. But should NOT wear compression socks if you have diabetes associated with peripheral artery disease.

In any case, always ask for your doctor’s advice before wearing compression socks for diabetics. 

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How to Choose Compression Socks for Diabetes?

If you have diabetes, only wear compression socks if your doctor has advised you to do so. You should not get just any compression socks, but make sure that the ones you’re buying are designed for diabetes and can address diabetes-related specific foot conditions.

Here are the most important features to look at when buying compression socks for diabetes:

Socks’ Length

There are different lengths of compression socks for diabetes: knee-high, thigh-high, and waist-high are the most commonly used. 

Whether you should wear one or the other depends on where the affected area is on your legs. If you experience ankle and feet swelling, then knee-high compression socks should be sufficient. If you have swelling above the knee, you might need to wear thigh-high or waist-high compression stockings. That is something you should ask your doctor’s advice on. 

Compression strength

The strength of the diabetic compression socks should be chosen according to your doctor’s advice. 

Compression strength is measured in mmHg, the medical abbreviation standing for “millimeters of Mercury”. It’s a unit of pressure measurement, the same that is used to measure your blood pressure. There are 4 main compression strengths available, and you can get the first 3 over the counter. 

  • Mild Compression – 8-15 mmHg. Ideal daily wear for people who need a little help improving blood circulation
  • Moderate Compression – 15-20 mmHg. A bit stronger but still not too tight on your leg, ideal for diabetics experiencing mild swelling.
  • Firm Compression – 20-30 mmHg. Ideal for edema, swelling, varicose veins, spider veins, and after surgery.
  • Extra-firm Compression – 30-40 mmHg. The stronger level of compression is recommended for more severe conditions such as blood clots, lymphedema, severe swelling, or severe varicose veins. You cannot find these over the counter. You need a medical prescription to get extra firm diabetic compression socks.

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Diabetic-friendly Socks

Once you and your doctor have agreed on what length and compression strength you need for your new diabetic compression stockings, there are still a few things you should take into account when choosing your socks.

Remember that diabetes can affect your feet in many ways. Tiny little cuts, mini blisters, skin irritations, and many other apparently insignificant things can turn into real nightmares if not taken care of.

Taking extra care of your feet and avoiding any kind of wounds can save you from much bigger problems such as foot ulcers and lower-limb amputations in the worst cases.

To protect your feet, make sure to choose diabetic compression socks with extra protection and comfort features such as:

  • Non-binding top: diabetic socks should not constrict your legs to avoid pressure hotspots and blocking your blood circulation.
  • Seamless construction: compression socks for diabetics should have at least a seamless toe to minimize rubbing, skin friction, and irritation that could lead to infections.
  • Moisture-wicking fabric: a good moisture-wicking fabric is essential. Look for bamboo fibers, nano-fabrics, or synthetic materials that help keep your feet in a dry and healthy environment preventing fungus and bacterial growth.
  • Cushioning: extra-cushioning and reinforced heels and toes provide more comfort and protection than regular socks.

Only a few compression socks will provide these extra protective features for people with diabetes. 

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The 6 Best Compression Socks for Diabetics

Finding compression socks that are diabetes-friendly is no easy task. Very few products provide you with both quality medical-grade compression and diabetes-friendly features at the same time. 

Foot care is such an essential thing when you live with diabetes that you do not want to ruin your efforts with compression socks that will make your skin blister and crack, constrict your legs, or leave your feet in a moist and unhealthy environment. 

Here are 6 of the best compression socks for diabetics in 2022: 

1. Yomandamor Compression Diabetic Dress Socks

Best over-the-calf diabetic compression socks for men

Yomandamor diabetic compression socks for men
  • Light compression 8-10 mmHg
  • Designed to prevent swelling, varicose veins, cramping, and fatigue
  • Breathable moisture-wicking fabric
  • Anti-microbial 
  • Wide stretch top to avoid pressure hotspots
  • Seamless toe to prevent blisters and frictions
  • Reinforced heels and toes for improved comfort and durability
  • Men’s socks size: 13-15
  • Best value for money 
  • Free shipping + free returns
  • 90% 4+ stars from Amazon customers’ reviews

Yomandamor’s diabetic compression socks for men are made with 70% bamboo fibers, an extra soft, good moisture-wicking, and anti-bacterial fabric. These associate a light compression on the foot to promote blood flow and a wide stretch top to avoid constricting your leg. A great choice for a fair price!

2. Dr. Motion Non-binding Top Compression Socks for Women

Best diabetic compression socks for women 

Dr Motion diabetic compression socks for women

Dr. Motion’s compression socks are very popular. The women’s half cushioned seamless compression socks are just great for diabetics. Their non-binding cuff, seamless toe, and extra-cushioned sole are exactly what you should be looking for. The compression is mild (8-15 mmHg) which makes them ideal for everyday wear. High quality and good durability!

3. CharmKing Circulation Compression Socks for Men & Women

Best moderate compression socks for diabetics  

CharmKing Moderate compression socks
  • Moderate graduated compression: 15-20 mmHg.
  • Decrease ankle and foot swelling. Recommended for varicose veins, and circulatory problems.
  • Breathable fabric
  • 360-degree stretch for greater flexibility and durability
  • High-quality stitched and easy to get on
  • Reinforced toes
  • Cushioned heels
  • Extra ankle protection
  • Large choice of colors and sizes available
  • Free shipping – Free returns
  • 89% 4-5 stars costumers reviews on Amazon

CharmKing’s 8-pairs pack of compression socks for men and women is a great choice if you need moderate knee-high compression socks for diabetes. Made with a durable moisture-wicking fabric, these socks have special toe reinforcement, cushioned heels, and extra ankle protection. Plus, you get to choose among many different colour packs and sizes. However, they do not have a seamless toe construction. If you tend to blister easily, it might not be the best choice for you.

4. SockWell Circulator Moderate Compression Socks for Women

Best moderate compression socks for women with diabetes  

Sockwell moderate compression socks for women

Sockwell is one of the leading compression stockings’ companies. It’s officially approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association. Besides being top-quality compression socks, the women’s circulator moderate compression socks feature most protections diabetic feet need. They are more expensive than others, but their quality and durability are incomparable. High-quality compression socks do cost around that price anyway. 

5. Ez Sox Seamless Toe Diabetic Compression Socks

Best firm compression socks for diabetics

Ez Sox firm compression socks for diabetics

6. HiClasmix Medical Compression Socks for Diabetes

Firm graduated compression socks for diabetes

HiClasmix firm compression socks for men and women are an Amazon best-seller. Their unique copper-infused fabric help rejuvenates blood circulation in the legs while wicking moisture away and providing extreme softness and comfort. They efficiently prevent fatigue, swelling, varicose veins, and blood clots. Perfectly suitable for diabetics whose doctors have advised them to wear firm diabetic compression socks. 

Only downside: they do not have a seamless construction. If your skin tends to blister, it might not be the best choice for you. I have not found any firm compression socks with a seamless toe construction yet. 

More About Compression Socks for Diabetics

Here’s a series of questions and answers about compression socks for diabetics. Remember that in most cases diabetics are not recommended to wear compression socks. Diabetic compression socks are only suitable in some particular cases and with a doctor’s advice. 

Are compression socks dangerous for diabetics?

Whether you need diabetic socks or compression socks really depends on what type of circulatory problems you might have. Using one instead of the other can really harm you.

In 90% of cases, diabetics are not recommended to wear compression socks. Most diabetic circulatory conditions come from Peripheral Artery Disease where blood is not flowing enough from the heart to the legs and foot. Compression socks are designed to help blood flow back from lower limbs to the heart. It’s easy to understand they will aggravate the problem. Wearing compression socks when you have PAD can be dangerous. 

Some diabetics suffering from other blood circulation conditions such as venous insufficiency, excessive foot swelling, or blood clots, but who have NOT been diagnosed with PAD, might be recommended to wear compression socks. 

In any case, always ask for your doctor’s advice before wearing compression socks if you have diabetes. 

Can you wear compression socks on the plane?

After a long flight, legs and feet can be quite swollen. Spending a few hours in a confined space, unable to move around, can make it harder for your veins to send back your blood back up to the heart. Blood accumulates in the lower limb, which can cause pressure and swelling. That’s why you often see recommendations about wearing compression stockings during long plane trips.

But what about diabetics? If you have diabetes you might suffer from a distinct blood circulation condition: Peripheral artery disease – which prevents your blood from getting to your lower limbs in sufficient quantity. If that’s the case, it’s probably not recommended you wear compression socks, even on the plane. If you’re planning a long plane trip, ask for your doctor’s advice beforehand. Never wear compression socks unless it’s been medically recommended to you.

Are compression socks covered by medical insurance?

Hum… unfortunately, probably not. In the USA, Medicare does not provide coverage for compression socks. You can get your compression socks prescribed by a doctor, but you’ll have to pay out of your pocket. It’s the same for most private medical insurance companies, but check directly with yours beforehand.

How to put on compression socks?

Because we’ve all struggled to get these things on, here’s a great video from Alecia, a certified Compression Hosiery Expert from Oswald’s Pharmacy showing you the easiest way to put on compression socks!