The Science Behind Sweat-Wicking Prosthetic Textiles
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts swear by sweat-wicking fabrics to keep them dry and odor-free. Prosthetic users also rely on the same material—made of high-tech polyester—to keep themselves comfortable while wearing a prosthesis for hours.
If you are experiencing excessive sweating (new prosthetic users typically report excessive sweating during the first few months) or lead an active lifestyle, you might want to look into what the different types of sweat-wicking prosthetic textiles can do for you.
How it works
You can think of the moisture-wicking process as similar to how the roots of a tree move nutrients from the soil to the branches. Sweat-wicking textiles work by taking the moisture from the skin, dispersing it onto the fabric surface.
Sweat-wicking fabric has the capacity to dry more quickly than materials that absorb moisture, like cotton.
Benefits of moisture-wicking fabrics
According to a study done on athletes, sweat-wicking fabrics allow the wearer to regulate their body temperature better. The material itself also weighs much lighter than fabrics that absorb moisture. Aside from keeping the wearer dry and odor-free, these textiles are also more comfortable to wear throughout the day.
This type of textile is also skin-friendly, preventing your residual limb from soaking in excess moisture, which can lead to skin irritation. It also discourages the overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. So if your current prosthetic sheaths and socks are not moisture-wicking, you may want to replace them regularly to prevent skin irritation.
Sweat-wicking prosthetic socks
Prosthetic socks secondarily offer cushion, while some can also help regulate socket temperature. Their primary objective is to help you manage size change in your residual limb. A prosthetic sock attempts to mimic your body’s natural cooling process inside the enclosed environment of a prosthetic socket, so your skin stays comfortable while wearing your prosthesis.
Sweat-wicking prosthetic socks, like the ones from Knit-Rite, work exactly like an athlete’s activewear—they move moisture away from the skin, keeping you drier.
Using a prosthetic sheath in addition to a prosthetic sock is an effective way to wick sweat away from your skin. Nylon sheaths allow moisture to pass through, which then gets absorbed by your prosthetic sock. This sock system makes you feel drier longer.
Sheaths from Silipos, Knit-Rite, and Comfort also offer additional benefits similar to moisture-wicking fabrics, like preventing odor-causing bacteria.
However, if you are to make a well-informed choice about which fabrics you purchase, we need to add a note about the environmental costs of moisture-wicking fabrics. These textiles—like any other human-made material—are constructed from thin plastic fibers. These tiny bits of plastic, also called microfiber or microplastic, are released every time the clothes are washed.
According to a study done by researchers at the University of Plymouth in the U.K., a single load of laundry releases up to 700,000 microfibers, which bypass filters at wastewater treatment plants.
If you are looking for a sustainable option, we recommend wool. This material is breathable and odor-resistant. It also keeps you dry and warm. Wool fibers are already being used to create sustainable activewear and prosthetic socks, like the Knit-Rite X-Wool Prosthetic Sock.
The type of fabric you choose for your prosthetic sock supply is entirely up to you. However, everyone can agree that sweat-control prosthetic textiles make a big difference in your skin’s health and your daily comfort use it as suggested by your prosthetist.