Diabetes and Compression Socks: Managing Foot Health in Elderly Patients

a man putting socks on

Living with diabetes is a life of constant adjustment and vigilance over every aspect of your health, especially when it’s diagnosed in the elderly. Heart, kidneys, and vision are the primary sources of concern, but foot care should be prioritized as well. If that sounds unrelated, bear in mind that nerve damage and poor circulation in the feet can cause complications that take longer to heal and can sometimes become serious health concerns.

When it comes to foot care for elderly diabetics, prevention is key. Most of the complications can be avoided by meticulous check-ups and the use of suitable hosiery and shoes. For some people, the use of compression socks is just what the doctor ordered, but there are different factors that should be considered. Here’s what you should know.

How does diabetes affect your feet?

Diabetes is a fickle illness and it affects our whole metabolism in many ways. Even though your feet and diabetes don’t seem connected at first glance, the truth is that they’re inextricably linked. 

Because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to efficiently deal with the sugar in your blood, that sugar roams free through your bloodstream, wreaking havoc in its wake. This can have different consequences for every individual, but one of the most common side effects is nerve damage, which can cluster in your feet. 

This condition, called diabetic neuropathy, causes the feet to become numb and less sensitive to cuts, bruises, and injuries. If you don’t pay enough attention to the health of your feet, those small problems can quickly escalate and turn into emergencies. That’s why it’s advised for diabetics to be diligent and check their feet daily for any problems and unusual changes.

Another issue with which people with diabetes wrestle is excessive swelling of their ankles and feet. The reason for this is usually venous insufficiency, a condition in which your veins have difficulty pushing the blood from your feet back to your heart. Poor circulation in your feet will then cause swelling and make it harder for you to move and function normally. In this instance, compression socks can help.

How can compression socks help with your foot care?

Graduated compression socks, which are the most common and most helpful models of all compression hosiery, have many perks that elderly diabetics can benefit from. The socks are created so that they can provide graduated pressure from the knee to the foot. 

This technology stimulates and improves your blood flow, which can significantly diminish the swelling and unpleasant sensations that come with it. For diabetics and the elderly who don’t move a lot, it’s recommended to use socks with milder compression, in order to avoid the cut-off of the blood flow, which, instead of helping, can cause more complications. 

Generally, comfortable compression socks for men and women with diabetes offer gentle, moderate support of 15-20 mmHg. Before you get your pair, talk to your doctor to make sure you’re buying the right type and compression level.

It’s important to note that compression socks, though extremely helpful in some cases, aren’t always recommended. If you’ve been diagnosed with arterial insufficiency or you’ve been struggling with poor circulation your whole life, talk to your doctor before you start wearing compression socks, because they might not be the best option for you.

Characteristics of Quality Compression Socks

Not all compression socks were created equal. Take extra care when choosing the right type and brand, so that your feet are comfortable and secure. Compression hosiery needs to tick all the boxes in order to be safe to use, and this is especially the case for diabetics, because even the smallest nuisance on your foot, like a rogue seam, can cause big problems.

For people who deal with diabetic neuropathy and swelling, the socks they wear need to fit perfectly, or as close to perfect as possible. If the socks are too loose, they move around more, they can bunch in one place and get too tight in the other, which can cause friction and blisters.

On the other hand, if the socks are too tight, they could mess with your circulation, which can be painful and slow down the healing processes on your feet. You want to find compression socks that fit you like a glove, that are just the right amount comfortable and snug. It might take a bit of time to find them, but the effort will be worth it.

Quality compression hosiery will also be moisture-wicking, which is very important because you want your feet to be dry at all times. Wet or sweaty feet can cause the spreading of bacteria and fungi, and all this can be avoided by choosing socks that are made of synthetic blends, wool, or cotton.

Finally, good compression stockings will be either seamless or with as few seams as possible. We all know that those pestering seams are too often the main cause of blisters, which can become a real issue for diabetics. For peace of mind and comfort, use seamless compression socks, and remember to check your feet for blisters and injuries every day.


Compression socks make life easier for millions of people, including those living with diabetes. They can help you live a more active life while taking good care of your feet, even when you’re on the go and don’t have the time to do so. If your doctor recommended compression socks to you, take a bit of time to do your research and find the brand that works best for your needs, your feet will thank you for it.