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Prosthetic Sock 101: A Product Guide

    Prosthetic socks, much like foot socks, play the role of skin protector. Their purpose ranges from adding volume to the residual limb to prevent “bottoming out,” to minimizing friction and reducing odor-causing bacteria. But its general design is to help avoid direct contact between your residual limb and the prosthesis while maintaining comfort by adjusting layers as volume fluctuates. 

    Prosthetic sock guide to teach the basics of socks and volume control.

    As these socks also feature some variations of fiber blends, prosthetic socks can brilliantly absorb sweat and dirt, remove toxins and other contaminants, as well as protect the residual limb from harmful oils and odors. The seemingly endless list of features and benefits make prosthetic socks a staple in any amputee’s arsenal. 

    In this article, we further explore the various features of prosthetic socks that explain why these products are commonplace.

    Improve comfort

    As any experienced prosthetic wearer knows, adding and removing socks during the day increases prosthetic comfort and effectively preserves the skin around the residual limb.

    If you wear your prosthesis and you feel pressure on your kneecap for below-the-knee amputees or pubic bone for above-the-knee amputees, the chances are high that you only need to add a sock ply. 

    Wearing your prosthetic leg or arm without the optimal prosthetic sock ply will lead to a host of issues which includes falling too far into your socket, discomfort on the lower back, leg length discrepancies, and increased friction. Maintaining a comfortably snug fit will not only add to your daily comfort but also keep your skin intact.

    Special Fibers and Cuts

    No two persons are the same, and this philosophy includes even amputees’ varying needs. Over the last 12 years, prosthetic sock manufacturers like Knit-Rite have crafted socks that are intended to fulfill these specialized needs. For example, underliner socks were created to be thinner than a standard one-ply prosthetic sock so as not to interfere with suspension. Underliner socks are also usually knitted with silver to reduce odors.

    Meanwhile, standard 3- and 5-ply prosthetic socks, also known as multi-ply socks, usually contain Dupont’s Coolmax fiber to regulate the temperature within the prosthesis better. If you haven’t tried these cooling socks, you may be surprised at how a slight change in temperature can impact prosthetic comfort.

    Prosthetic socks are also known to be highly adaptable, depending on the wearer’s specific needs. Before half socks were created, Prosthetists would usually recommend cutting along the toe section of the sock and creating a half sock. However, cutting a sock that’s not meant to be to be cut would result in unraveling. As the demand for half socks grew, manufacturers finally introduced actual half socks which are used either along the bottom or top of your residual limb.

    Below-knee amputees, who usually experience disproportionate shrinking and swelling in their residual limb, can greatly benefit from using half socks while above-knee amputees who wear suction suspension and use an inner and outer socket design can benefit from a full-length prosthetic sock cut in half. The top half of the once full-length sock is placed over the inner socket. Once the inner socket/half sock is back is back in place, you'll experience a tighter fit and better suction suspension.

    TIP: If the inner socket no longer stays in place within the outer sock, all you need to do is purchase a 1- or 2-inch width Velcro to hold it in place.

    Save a Trip to Your Prosthetist

    The proper use of prosthetic socks can save you a trip to your Prosthetist. If you experience pressure over a bone or if the height doesn’t feel right, often these issues can be fixed by adding a sock ply. Remember that your prosthesis should feel comfortably snug and should be a bit of a struggle to apply in the morning.

    As the day goes on, listen to your body and add more prosthetic socks as needed. For example, you may have to add a 1-ply or 3-ply sock only 30 minutes after drinking your morning coffee.  

    A prosthetic sock, available in a myriad of fiber blends and styles, is a simple solution to a complex problem. So, familiarize yourself with the different types of prosthetic socks so you can use them when needed. 

    Let us know what you think about these simple sock solutions. If you have questions about prosthetic socks, let us know in the comment section.