How to Choose Compression Socks - Buying Guide

Josh White DPM  /  July 25, 2023 Blog Home

Compression socks are designed to exert pressure on the lower legs, which helps to facilitate healthy blood circulation and alleviate discomfort and swelling in the feet. However, with so many options available on the market, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect pair.

That's why we decided to buckle down and delve into the realm of compression socks, to help you discover the best options for your specific needs and equip you with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision.

Get ready to step into a world of improved leg health and unparalleled performance.

Compressions socks buying guide and FAQ

Do compression socks really work?

 

Compression socks are based on the fact that blood vessels perform better when gentle pressure is applied to the lower legs. 

When compression socks exert pressure on the superficial veins and underlying tissues, including lymphatic vessels, they restrict the dilation of veins, preventing them from filling with blood. As a result, blood is forced to flow through narrower blood vessels, which enhances blood circulation and prevents pooling or backward flow in the lower legs. 

Moreover, by squeezing the legs, these socks also reduce the leakage of excess fluids from the blood and lymphatic vessels, effectively reducing or preventing swelling.

Here are other benefits of compressions socks:

  • They can keep the feet from getting tired and painful.
  • They are helpful in alleviating pain and discomfort in people with circulation issues due to diabetes and varicose veins, pregnant women, individuals who spend long hours on their feet or on airplanes, and those who are recovering from surgery.
  • They can help prevent lightheadedness or dizziness when standing up.
  • They help prevent the formation of clots, which can cause swelling, skin discoloration and other issues.
  • The pressure they apply can help bring more oxygen to the muscles during physical activity to prevent or minimize damage to the tissues (which is why many athletes use compression socks). 
  • The improved blood and lymph circulation can also help the muscles recover more quickly from physical activity. 

 

Additionally, compression socks help with shin splints, plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions. 

How many hours a day should I wear compression socks?

 

Generally speaking, you can wear compression socks all day long and remove them when you go to bed. In fact, these socks are more effective when worn for extended periods of time. 

However, the duration for which you should wear compression socks depends on the purpose for wearing them. For muscle recovery after a workout, for example, it’s recommended to wear them for three to four hours post workout. 

On the other hand, in certain cases, such as post-surgery or during pregnancy, wearing compression socks in bed may be prescribed.

While there is no definitive answer regarding the number of hours per day you should wear compression socks, a good rule of thumb is to wear them for three to four hours at a time initially, to gauge their benefits. If you find them helpful, you can gradually extend the duration of wear.

If you experience any pain or discomfort when you first put the socks on, remove them and wear them for a shorter duration the next day. But, if the pain is acute or your legs are discolored, consult with your doctor immediately.

Is it better to size up or down in compression socks?

 

Compression socks should fit just right. The best ones come in several foot sizes as well as several calf sizes. 

Unlike your average regular socks, when you shop for compression socks it’s best to get the size just right so they are not too loose or too tight. Otherwise, they will not provide the desired effect. 

To clarify, by “the right size” we mean that the compression socks should be able to fulfill their intended purpose. The size affects the pressure level: if it’s a bit too big, the pressure will be lighter and if it's too small, the pressure will be heavier.

How do I know what size compression socks to buy?

 

For mid-calf compression socks, choose your size based on your shoe size. 

With knee length compression socks, in addition to knowing the length of your foot (AKA your shoe size), you need an additional measurement. 

To find the right size compression socks, you will need to measure your calf circumference.

To measure your calf circumference:

  • Stand up straight.
  • Wrap a tape measure around the widest part of your calf.
  • Make sure the tape measure is snug but not too tight.
  • Record your measurement.

 

Once you have your measurements, you can use the size chart provided by the manufacturer to find the correct size compression socks.

You can also consult with your doctor and they can help you find the right size. 

How long does it take for compression stockings to work?

 

The time it takes for compression stockings to work can vary depending on the individual. 

Some people may feel the effects of compression stockings right away, while others may not see results for a few days or even weeks.

If you experience any of the following, your compression socks may not be providing the right level of support:

  • Pain or discomfort: If your compression socks are too tight, they can cause pain or discomfort. If they are too loose, they will not provide enough support.
  • Marks on your skin: Compression socks should not leave marks on your skin.
  • Slipping down or bunching up: Compression socks should stay in place.

 

What is the difference between 15-20 mmHg and 20-30 mmHg compression socks?

 

Another measurement of compression socks is their compression level, starting at 8 mmHg and going all the way up to 40 mmHg, with the most common levels being 15-20 and 20-30 mmHg.

15-20 mmHg (moderate compression) 

This is the most common type of compression socks, as they are a good starting point for people who are new to wearing compression socks. 

These socks provide a moderate level of compression, which can help:

  • relieve tired, aching legs, including in people who spend long hours on their feet 
  • prevent or reduce lower body swelling
  • improve blood circulation
  • speed up recovery from injuries, including from physical activity
  • improve athletic performance
  • prevent varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis
  • reduce swelling and prevent the formation of spider veins in pregnant women
  • reduce swelling and discomfort during flights or travel.

 

20-30 mmHg (firm compression)

The next level of compression socks provides the same benefits as the first level, such as preventing the appearance of varicose and spider veins, preventing and relieving venous issues and swelling during pregnancy, and generally encouraging good circulation.

However, this greater level of compression can also help treat more serious issues, including:

  • Medical recovery
  • Moderate to severe edema or lymphatic edema (swelling)
  • Severe varicose veins
  • Orthostatic hypotension, a sudden fall in blood pressure that occurs when you stand up

 

Is it OK to sleep in compression socks?

 

In most cases, you do not need to wear compression socks to bed. This is because when you lie down, gravity does not affect blood circulation in the same way as it does when you are standing or sitting.

Although it is not necessarily harmful to wear compression socks to bed, it is generally advised to give your skin and feet a break and let them breathe during the night. This can help to prevent skin irritation and other problems.

If you are unsure whether or not you should wear compression socks to bed, it is always best to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. They can help you determine if compression socks are right for you and recommend the best time to wear them.

Should you elevate your legs when wearing compression socks?

 

Compression socks and leg elevation do pretty much the same job. If, at the end of the day, you want to literally put your feet up, you can take the socks off, although it won’t really matter if you elevate your legs while your socks are still on.

What not to do with compression socks?

 

  • Do not wear them right after applying lotion. This can cause moisture build-up and damage the elastic fibers in the socks, making them less effective.
  • Do not wear any jewelry that might damage the socks. This includes rings, bracelets, and necklaces.
  • Do not roll or scrunch them up when you put them on or take them off. This can create a tight band that can cut off circulation and cause sores.
  • Do not wear them at night unless prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not use harsh detergents to wash your socks. This can damage the fabric and make them less effective.

 

How often do you wash compression socks?

 

Just like regular socks, it’s best to wash your compression socks every day after taking them off. This is important for the obvious hygienic reasons, but also for practical reasons.

  • Hygienic reasons. Compression socks can collect sweat, dirt, and bacteria throughout the day. Washing them daily helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and the spread of infection.
  • Practical reasons. Compression socks are designed to provide a snug fit. Over time, they can become stretched out and lose their effectiveness. Washing them helps to restore their original elasticity.

 

It is important to wash compression socks according to the manufacturer's instructions. Most compression socks can be machine washed on a gentle cycle with cold water. It is important to avoid using bleach or fabric softener, as these can damage the fabric.

After washing, compression socks should be air-dried or tumble-dried on a low setting. It is important to avoid ironing or heat drying, as this can damage the fabric.

Who should avoid compression socks?

 

Not everyone can wear compression stockings. People who should not wear compression stockings include:

  • Individuals with advanced peripheral neuropathy
  • Individuals with arthritis
  • Individuals who have been diagnosed with ischemia (advanced arterial disease)
  • Individuals with untreated septic phlebitis
  • Individuals with uncontrolled congestive heart failure
  • Individuals with concomitant dermatoses
  • Individuals who are intolerant to compression stocking material

 

If you’re not sure, it’s best to consult your doctor or healthcare provider to determine whether compression socks are right for you.

What are the best compression socks for women and men?

Here are two socks that are a great choice for women and men - the best compression socks you’ll ever need.

Mid-calf compression socks 18-25 mmHg

 

 

MID-CALF COMPRESSION SOCKS - 18-25 MMHG

These mid-calf socks are designed with an anatomical shape that conforms to the natural shape of the foot and leg. They provide gradual compression from the foot to the mid-calf, with enhanced compression in the midfoot area. This helps to improve circulation and reduce swelling.

They are made with a soft blend of materials and are both comfortable and durable. The stretch fabric allows the socks to move with your body, which helps to prevent them from bunching up or slipping down.

The socks are also designed with extra padding at the heel and ball of foot, which helps to reduce friction and prevent blisters. This is especially important for people who are on their feet all day or who participate in activities that put stress on their feet.

The seam free interior prevents chafing and irritation, and is especially important for people with sensitive skin.


Knee-high compression socks - two-piece set

 

COMPRESSION SOCKS COMBO

 

This two-piece set is an innovative solution for people who need knee-high compression socks, providing a few key benefits.

If you’ve ever worn knee-high compression socks, you know how extremely difficult it is to put them on and take them off, even if you don’t have any mobility issues or weakness in your hands. The innovative solution comes in the form of a unique two-part sock system, consisting of an ankle sock and separate calf sleeve, which enables effortless on/off wear. This is a game changer for everyone who needs knee-high compression socks.

Crafted with a distinct calf shape that conforms to the natural contours of your leg, these socks feature gradual compression starting from the foot and ankle, extending up to the knee. This targeted support enhances circulation and promotes improved blood flow.

The two-piece system allows you to mix and match the compression levels, sizes and colors, tailoring the socks to your specific foot and calf measurements and individual requirements. This ensures an optimal fit and the desired level of compression.

Similar to the mid-calf socks, the sock interior of this set is seam free, delivering ultimate comfort and protecting sensitive feet against irritation. 

These socks are knitted using soft microfiber threads that offer flexibility and conform to the unique shape of your foot and leg. Extra padding at the heel and ball of the foot ensures exceptional cushioning and unmatched comfort.

The knee-high two-piece compression socks are available in two compression levels: 15-20 mmHg and 20-30 mmHg.