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November 18, 2000

Complications

Question from a diabetes educator in Eden, North Carolina, USA:

I am seeing conflicting messages about what type of fabric socks should be made from for people with diabetes. Some say cotton or wool socks are best, but a podiatrist says those are the worst fibers to recommend because they "lose their shape and compress significantly faster than Hi-Tech synthetic fibers. Cotton and wool fibers also become rough and abrasive with multiple use and machine wash-wear cycles." So what am I supposed to tell patients?

Answer:

This question has motivated me to seek out some information. I sought the advice of our podiatrist in our diabetes center to get his feedback. He indicates to me that, in most cases, good white socks are usually made of a blend of cotton and polyester. Socks that are all cotton lose their original shape and apparently are more likely to ball up with the potential to cause pressure on the feet of patients with neuropathy. Wool socks, by virtue of their coarse texture, can cause undo abrasion over the feet, despite having some ability to absorb moisture. They also can ball up. In summary, socks that maintain their shape and ability to absorb moisture are preferable and are seen with materials with this blend of cotton and polyester. My consultant also told me to watch for additional information regarding this subject in the future. Manufactures will be coming out with cushioned and low-abrasion potential socks to use in patients with diabetic neuropathy.

JTL