Want to keep your feet comfortable and healthy? The right socks can make a big difference.
Socks and stockings aren’t just for hanging goodies above your fireplace! This holiday season, think about adding some good-quality socks to your list. There are a wide variety of specialized socks that not only keep you comfortable, but help your health as well. And, they make great stocking stuffers!
If you’re experiencing foot pain, podiatrists may prescribe orthotic inserts and properly-fitting, supportive shoes. But socks are an important part of the equation, too – especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation in your feet. The right socks will:
- Prevent Injury
- Improve Circulation
- Absorb Moisture
- Regulate Temperature
- Provide Support & Cushioning
Good Socks Prevent Injury
If your feet are prone to blisters and calluses, socks are the first line of defense. It’s crucial that your shoes fit properly, but socks need to fit properly too! Socks that are too big can cause blisters and friction. Socks that are too small can restrict movement of your toes, causing injury or cramping. They also can prevent sweat from evaporating, increasing the chance of foot odor or fungus!
Sock sizes typically come in 9-11, which fits a large range of women’s shoe sizes, and 10-13, which fits a large range of men’s shoe sizes. This one-size-fits-most approach doesn’t work for everyone. Many sock companies have started to offer more targeted sizing, so you can find a better fit. Prescription orthotic socks are the most precise—they’re based on careful measurements made by your doctor.
If you have diabetes or peripheral neuropathy, you might not be able to feel a foot injury. If left untreated, these injuries or wounds can be very dangerous. For this reason, your doctor might instruct you to wear white socks—any blood or discoloration on your sock will be easily visible and alert you to an injury.
Blisters are often caused by excess moisture. A damp sock creates lots of friction, so be sure your socks stay dry and have moisture-wicking capabilities.
Good Socks Improve Circulation
Compression stockings are prescribed by doctors for people with poor circulation to help combat edema, swelling, spider veins, and varicose veins. These specialty socks are designed to fit precisely, and provide a specific level of compression based on your doctor’s assessment of your condition. They’re tighter and taller than regular socks. By constricting your legs, the pressure from a compression sock helps blood return to your heart.
In recent years, light-pressure, non-prescription compression socks have become popular for travellers and people with jobs that require long periods of standing or sitting. This is because they have been shown to reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition caused by blood clots in the legs. Runners of all ages often find that a light compression sock reduces swollen feet and improves circulation.
If you have diabetes, it’s very important to discuss socks with your doctor! Patients with diabetes should usually avoid tight compression socks, because they can cut off circulation and cause serious foot problems. Instead, use diabetic socks. They are specifically designed to not squeeze your calves and allow circulation in your feet. They also have special seam designs to protect your toes from injury.
Good Socks Absorb Moisture
When it comes to preventing damp feet, not all socks are alike. Cotton is absorbent, but tends to retain moisture—and damp socks are much more likely to rub and cause blisters. For this reason, most runners use socks made of blended performance fibers, which include synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
It may surprise you that wool socks can be a great option to avoid sweaty feet. We often think of wool as a very warm material, but socks made of lightweight wool (like Merino) or wool blends can be worn year-round. Wool wicks moisture better than many synthetic materials, and has also been shown to have anti-fungal properties.
Good Socks Regulate Temperature
Always have hot feet? Many companies now manufacture socks with a lighter, open weave on the top of the foot, which allows more air circulation. This not only keeps you cooler, it allows sweat to evaporate so you’re less likely to get blisters.
On the other hand, if your feet are always cold, look for a thick wool or acrylic option. Unlike cotton, wool can insulate even when it’s damp. Combined with its moisture-wicking properties, this means your feet will stay warm and dry.
Wearing multiple pairs of socks can constrict the feet and cause injury, and very thick socks may prevent your shoes from fitting properly. If your feet are constantly cold, it can be a sign of peripheral artery disease or other medical condition. If even the thickest socks are leaving you in the cold, let your doctor know.
Good Socks Can Provide Support & Cushioning
Socks are a good way to add some additional cushioning for your feet. Styles designed for hiking provide additional material under the heel and ball of the foot to absorb shock. This can help relieve pressure on bunions and heel spurs, but if you’re experiencing pain from these conditions you should see a podiatrist. Left untreated, these foot injuries can get worse and lead to pain in other areas of the foot.
In addition to cushioning, many athletic socks have stronger elastic in certain areas that are intended to support the arch of your foot. Some compression socks may even have enough support around the arch and heel area to provide a bit of relief from plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain.
However, if you’re feeling arch or heel pain, you should make an appointment with a podiatrist to discuss treatment. Socks can only provide so much support before causing circulation issues, and a more targeted approach like custom orthotic inserts or night splints are more effective in treating pain.
The right socks will keep your feet dry, comfortable, and healthy. Don’t leave them off your list!