Putting on Socks

One of the first things I noticed when I went to work as a certified nursing assistant was how hard it is to help people put on their socks. I would hold the sock in both hands, insert my thumbs, and gather it up. Then I’d hold it open and attempt to stretch the toe part of the sock over my client’s toes. It seemed so easy when I did it on myself, but somehow other people’s toes weren’t nearly as pliable as I expected.  Often, my clients’ feet were swollen, their toe joints stiff and enlarged by arthritis, their feet reshaped by bunions and other issues from a lifetime of walking, their mobility reduced due to stroke or other medical issues. And then the hardest part: working the heel of the sock up over the heel of the foot. My fingers felt weak, my hands clumsy.

These days I’m more confident in my ability to put on socks, though in the meantime I’ve developed arthritis at the base of my thumbs, and in general my verbal agility is considerably more developed than my manual dexterity. I also have a more nuanced appreciation of the difference between putting on compression hose, which by definition are hard to manipulate, and putting on regular cotton socks that you buy in a department store.

Still, I’m impressed when I see others whisking through the sock-donning process with practiced ease. When you’ve been doing this kind of work for years, especially if your hands are naturally dexterous or you’re a knitter, weaver, or other craftsperson, your skill is worthy of admiration. Consider yourself praised.