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So, you’re in the market for compression socks. Lucky for you, you’ve come to the right place. We spend a lot of time using our legs and feet every day — sitting, standing, trying to keep up with pets and children — that it’s inevitable they’re going to be tired or swollen. But that’s where compression socks come in. Many compression socks go over your calves, and while they look somewhat like the knee socks you wore in childhood, they’re designed to help improve the blood flow in your legs to help support them during either leg-intensive activities or if you tend to stand all day. They can’t make life slow down, but they may be able to help your legs keep up with it. If you’re curious why and when you should wear them, as well as how to pick a pair for you, here are some tips.
What do compression socks do?
Compression socks, well, compress your legs and aid in “preventing and treating inflammation or edema (the accumulation of fluid in the legs) from overuse injuries, electrolyte imbalance, or other causes such as venous insufficiency (when your leg veins don’t function properly, which can result in swelling,” says New York City Podiatrist Dr. Nelya Lobkova, DPM at Step Up Footcare. Because they can help in the rehabilitation and recovery of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, wearing compression socks can help treat inflammation in the foot and ankle.
There are many use cases for them: during running or high impact activities to prevent overuse of tendons; during long periods of standing to prevent tired and swollen feet; during pregnancy to prevent or decreasing the pooling of fluid legs (resulting in swollen feet). Dr. Lobkova also adds that compression socks are measured in mm of Hg (millimeters of Mercury) — the higher the mmHg, the more compression delivered to the legs and feet.
What should you look for in a pair of compression socks?
- Compression level: Dr. Lobkova recommends patients with venous insufficiency to wear compression socks at least 30 mmHg; below that, compression is effective in preventing but not treating swollen feet. She says athletes could wear at least 15 mmHg compression socks to prevent overuse injuries.
- Fit: It’s important to buy compression socks that measure your calf circumference,” says Dr. Lobkova, who recommends looking at www.discountsurgical.com to buy socks. The length of the sock will also depend on where your problem is. “For example, those with venous blockage in the thigh must wear compression socks that go above the thigh. The correct length of sock could be determined by seeing a specialist and having a lower extremity diagnostic ultrasound test.” For athletes and runners, she advises knee-length as a starter sock.
- Material: “I also advise diabetics, patients with skin ulcers (skin wounds), and patients with venous problems to purchase cotton compression socks instead of synthetic materials to prevent irritation of skin,” says Dr. Lobkova.
- If you have any questions on length or how to use compression socks, consult a specialist for advice.
Best Compression Socks
Even though they’re called run socks, these CEP compression socks aren’t just for running. With 20-30mmHG compression and a knit design to improve air flow, these socks provide compression, comfort, and coolness. The toe closure is also seamless to prevent rubbing or blisters.
One reviewer said, “These socks are the best compression socks, period. They are hard to get on but are amazing on your legs. They are not just for running. If you ever have aching or suffer from tired/cramping legs these are the socks. While expensive, they are definitely worth it. I have purchased many socks and brands over the years and nothing is better than my CEPs. They let you run much longer and eliminate the soreness and lactic acid build up after a run. No more cramping at night either.
These 20-30 mmHg compression socks are a popular choice on Amazon, with over 30,000 five-star reviews. They’re knee high, made with a nylon/spandex blend, have moisture-wicking properties, and also come in a variety of colors.
Says one reviewer, “I’ve had a hard time finding compression socks that don’t completely cut off my circulation, but finally found a pair. I am taking a high blood pressure medicine that causes fluid to build up in my ankles. I flew from Arizona to New Orleans and walked for hours and my feet and ankles didn’t swell. The socks were actually comfortable as well.”
These Sockwell socks have four zones (15-20mmHg) of graduated compression, as well as arch support and a seamless toe closure. The socks also have 32 percent merino wool, which not only helps regulate temperatures but also helps keep your feet dry and controls odors.
One reviewer said, “I started wearing these in PA school on spy surgical rotation and now wear them every day at work. Whenever I’m on my feet for most of the day I wear them, including work, and when hiking, or traveling on an airplane. I have told all my friends who work in medicine about them and convinced at least 5 of them to try these, all have bought additional pairs because they are so comfortable and help with leg fatigue. They wick well so I never have wet feet, they also keep my legs warm.”
Best Compression Socks for Nurses
If you’re going to wear compression socks all day, wear ones themed to your job. These have light compression, 360-degree seamless compression, and toe and heel padding. The socks are made with sustainably-sourced yarn and have a nylon and lycra blend. And the pattern, with needles and bandaids, is great, but the message on the soles — “Hit me with your best shot” — is even greater. Says one reviewer, “These are the best socks I have ever tried. Feet are supported and they don’t hurt at the end of my shift.”
These compression socks have 15-20 mmHg of graduated compression and are made with a cotton/lycra/spandex blend. They come in three different colors (black, white, and navy) and have a simple style that will go with any outfit.
One reviewer said, “As a nurse and on my feet all day I struggled to find support hose that didn’t bind at the knee. I have had some that caused more issues but these are great! The compression is spot on and no binding at the ankle or knee. My legs feel wonderful after a long shift! Highly recommend these!”
These compression socks have 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression and 360-degree stretch for flexibility. They’re moisture-wicking, have arch and ankle support, and a reinforced heel and toe for durability and comfort. The socks come in packs of three, like most good things.
One reviewer said, “I have been working in a hospital for 9 years now. I am currently a Surgical Tech so I stand in the Operating Room all day next to the surgeons. Some cases can go on for hours at a time. My legs and feet used to hurt and I started getting little blood spots on my legs from the knee down. These socks stopped the pressure and pain and the spots eventually diminished. If you are standing or walking all day, do yourself a favor. Get a couple of the 3-packs and be sure that they come up to just below your knee. This is a must have item for people on their feet all day.”
Best Compression Socks for Swelling
If you’re looking for a pair and some spares, this pack comes with three unisex socks that have 15-20 mmHg compression. They’re made with a breathable fabric as well as a silver fiber that provides moisture and odor control. You can choose from solid colors or a variety of prints and patterns.
One reviewer said, “I got these compression socks due to some serious swelling in my ankles, caused by pregnancy. After only about 3 or 4 days of wearing these consistently, they took care of the problem and my ankles are back down to normal size!!”
With 16-22 mmHg compression, the Go2 socks will give you mild compression to keep any leg swelling at bay, whether you’re on your feet or sitting all day. They come in fun patterns (hello, leopard print) because wearing compression socks doesn’t have to be boring.
One reviewer said, “My favorite compression socks! They are thick, warm, and provide the best compression of any compression sock I have ever tried. The price is higher than other socks, but I am telling you it is well worth it, as the other packages of socks are either too flimsy or do not help enough with blood flow. I am completely pain free from my varicose veins when I wear these and they last the full 16 hours that I am on my feet. Great for nurses!!”
Lily Trotters compression socks provide both fashion and function. They have 15-20 mmHg of compression, are moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, and made with a 93/7 nylon/spandex blend. The socks have a proprietary weave to make the socks thinner and easier to put on and take off.
One reviewer said, “Whether I am working out, sitting/standing at my office job or chasing after an active little person, I wear this brand almost daily. I like the hug they give my feet and legs. They are comfortable and made with quality materials.”
Best Compression Socks for Men
These knee-high socks provide 20-30 mmHg of compression and are lined with silver fiber so the socks are antimicrobial, reducing odor and fungi to prevent Athlete’s foot. They’re also moisture-wicking, and have a large toe box and a terry foot and heel for some extra cushion.
One reviewer said, “I was shopping for a more comfortable support sock and these certainly fit the bill. They are easy to put on and at the end of the day the compression has really helped to keep the swelling down. I could not ask for a better stocking.”
2XU was co-founded by a professional triathlete and makes technical sportswear, including compression tights, tops, and socks. These compression socks are made with a lightweight lycra blend that provides support to the calf, shin, and ankle regions. They’re breathable and have SPF 50+ protection as well.
One reviewer said, “As an avid runner and CrossFit athlete, recovering from workouts is important to maximize gains in strength and in endurance. I tried 5-6 different brands of compression socks before I bought the Elite Compression socks from 2XU. These socks are everything they are advertised to be. Despite being a pain the neck to put on, they hug the calves and lower leg area perfectly. I found they do not slip leaving your legs feeling great the next day. I wear them not only after exercise but also when flying cross-country to keep circulation going while sitting for 5+ hours.”
This three-pack of socks has 15-20mmHg of compression and are made with a lightweight, breathable fabric. They have a smooth heel and toe for comfort and come in a variety of colors and three different sizes to accomodate different calf sizes. Best of all, they’re so affordable, you’ll want to pick up an extra pack or two.
One reviewer said, “I am on my feet, literally all day, and suffer from lower leg cramps and night swelling. Surprisingly, these 15-20mmHg compression socks worked for me. These socks actually begin compression gently at the foot then I actually feel the graduated compression from the arch to heel, up to ankle, then moving up to calf.This alone sets these apart from 90% of the other brands on the market I have tried where compression is sporadic. And the beauty is they haven’t lost elasticity after a week. The others were losing elasticity after 3 to 4 wears.They are not bulky and you actually forget they are on. Overall — great socks!! Would definitely purchase again.”
Best Compression Socks for Running
Swiftwick builds compression into all of their socks, at varying levels depending on your preference and goals — firm, moderate, and relaxed. The Aspire Twelve running socks have firm support (managed compression with 20-30 mmHg in the ankle), but are thin, breathable, and lightweight. The heel is Y-shaped to make sure your socks don’t slip off in the middle of a run.
One reviewer says, “These Aspire 12 are the best running investment I’ve made. My feet are always dry after long trail runs (10 – 20 miles) and well supported. I’ve not had any blisters either. They are extremely durable but are not very thick and have a great feel if you like a closer to minimal running shoe. Rather than wearing separate compression sleeves for my calves, I wear these 12 inch socks. The compression is more even and natural… no cutting or binding. I also wear them on my winter runs… they are all the warmth I need for my lower legs.”
Zensah’s socks are made with a fabric that’s moisture-wicking, lightweight, and thermal regulating, to keep your legs feeling cool no matter how long your runs are. They use graduated compression, have a seamless toe, and have targeted ankle and arch stabilization. They also come in lots of neon colors, if you want to make sure you are easily spotted while running indoors or outside.
One reviewer said, “The material is well thought out and stretchy to the degree it needs to be, the fit is great, and the socks feel as though they will be durable. I suffered from shin splints and these have nearly eliminated that problem. I wear them during and after a run for various lengths of time and will sometimes wear them overnight. They never get uncomfortable and it is easy to forget they are on. Putting them on is straightforward, and I will usually turn them inside out up to about midfoot, slip them on, and then pull the rest up…I have had surgery on one of my ankles and they are both notoriously unstable, and these socks offer just the right amount of compression and support to eliminate ankle pain while running.“
If you’re looking for a pop of color for your outfit, look no further than these compression socks. The PRO compression socks are unisex, come in bright and colorful designs, and provide 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression. They’re made of a nylon/lycra spandex blend and are moisture-wicking.
One reviewer said, “As a nurse working 12-16 hour shifts, my legs used to ache at the end of the day. The pro compression socks have helped tremendously! I highly recommend these to my nurse friends and fellow runners.”
Best Compression Socks for Standing All Day
In addition to making socks (and underwear and tees) for all sorts of activities, Bombas donates an item for every one purchased. These compression socks have 15-20 mmHg of compression, are made of extra durable yarn to keep up with all your daily activities, have a seamless toe, and have a honeycomb arch support system. The fabric is a cotton, polyester, nylon, and spandex blend. One reviewer said, “Amazing pair of compression socks. Definitely my favorite of all time.”
These VIM & VIGR socks have 15-20 mmH of graduated compression to help support you for everyday use. They’re made with the brand’s signature fabric (a cotton blend that also includes nylon and spandex), which will make them as comfy like your regular socks, but help make your legs feel better.
One reviewer said, “These socks are great. I have worn the nylon ones and liked them, but I was looking for something cooler to wear. They are perfect. I also like the wider calf. They’re cute too!”
These 20-30mmHg socks have graduated compression as well as a kinesiology taping design to provide targeted achilles tendon stabilization. The twill design allows for movement and also provides for shock and absorption, and there’s seamless toe construction so you won’t have to readjust your socks throughout the day.
One reviewer said, “I will go so far as to say that so far these are hands down the nicest, most comfortable and well-made socks I’ve bought. The kinesiology tape idea in the design of the sock really comes through nicely in the end product. These socks are very very comfortable, while maintaining perfect compression. After weeks now of use I can attest they do indeed do their job very well. This seems [to be] the only pair with truly graduated compression throughout. I’ve [had] many pairs that are just too tight up top choking off blood flow and digging into my upper calves that rely on only that tightness to get the job done, some that are just oddly uneven with many pieces stitched together, some that just aren’t true compression socks, and then the ones from the doctors office… Anyway, these are far and away the best looking and feeling as well as doing an awesome job. They are very well made, no odd stitching anywhere along the inside of the socks, very uniform sizing, with a perfect fit. No complaints at all, have ordered more already
Compression socks, also known as compression stockings or support stockings, gently squeeze and apply pressure to the legs. The pressure improves circulation while preventing and reducing swelling. These socks are a common part of post-injury or surgery recovery, but they’ve gained popularity among long-distance travelers and athletes for their recovery benefits, too.
Whether you’re an athlete, recovering from an injury, or in an occupation that keeps you on your feet all day, pressure socks encourage blood flow and help you stay comfortable. However, compression socks come in different pressures, lengths, and sizes that make a difference in how well they’ll work for your particular issues. We’ve rounded up some of the best compression socks for swelling, athletics, and general use to get your feet back in working order.
- Best for men: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
- Best for women: Hi Clasmix Graduated Medical Socks
- Best ankle: PAPLUS Ankle Compression Socks
- Best toeless: SB SOX Plantar Fasciitis Socks
- Best budget: ACTINPUT Compression Socks for Men and Women
What to look for when shopping for compression socks
Let’s start with the most basic question—how do compression socks work? Compression socks apply gentle pressure to the tissues beneath the skin of the legs. That extra pressure prevents fluid leakage and promotes fluid absorption. That generally means less swelling, as well as swelling prevention.
Weakening veins and valves get a boost from pressure socks by supporting vein and capillary walls. Even if your veins are perfectly healthy, blood can pool in the legs after long periods of sitting or time on your feet. Consequently, people who work while standing, those who are walking all day, and those who travel for several hours at a time find relief from swelling with the added pressure of compression socks.
These socks come in different types and designs. For example, gradient or graduated compression socks apply higher pressure toward the toes, feet, and ankles, with less pressure through the calf. Ankle compression socks only apply pressure to the foot and ankle. Toeless designs make it easier to wear regular socks over for greater cushioning and comfort.
Compression socks also come in different pressure levels, with socks available to the average consumer having a light to medium compression. Pressure is measured in millimeters of Mercury (mmHg). People with certain health issues may require a specific sock pressure level recommended by a doctor, while others can just choose a level that feels comfortable.
- 15-20 mmHg (light compression): Daily wear, general sports, and travel.
- 20-30 mmHg (medium compression): Daily wear (especially for varicose veins and swelling), mild symptoms of discomfort, sports recovery.
- 30-40 mmHg (strong compression): Often recommended for blood clot prevention, medical recovery, or post-surgery.
Pressure socks should not cause pain or uncomfortably pinch the skin. A sock that causes numbness, tingling, or discoloration is too tight.
Related: Are you an athlete looking for workout gear? These are the best running socks for all weather and terrain.
Can compression socks improve your running performance?
Here’s the deal: The jury is still out on the benefits of compression socks for running performance. Some studies have found a correlation between pressure socks and improved running performance and muscle fatigue, while others have found no difference.
It comes down to what you need and want the compression socks to do. If you have swelling when you run, which is pretty normal, pressure socks can definitely reduce fluid buildup in your feet and legs. That may or may not benefit your running time and recovery. Runners who travel long distances to get to their events, such as marathons or triathlons, may also reap the benefits of compression socks because they can reduce swelling due to prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
However, a fairly universal finding is that if the wearer believes the socks help, they report less fatigue, better circulation, and quicker recovery. For runners, the mental “race” can be just as difficult as the actual race. If the socks work for you and help with recovery, you may want to consider a purchase.
Best compression socks for men: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
Durable, Breathable Construction
The Physix socks come in three sizes, many colors, and provide comfortable compression with durable fabric and finishings. Physix Gear SportCHECK PRICE
The Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks provide 20-30 mmHg of pressure, which is adequate for running and other sports, as well as post-workout recovery. Their graduated pressure provides higher pressure through the feet and ankles and gradually decreases toward the top of the calf. These socks come in three sizes and include “stay put” cuffs to keep the sock in place. They also come in 12 color options.
How can they help alleviate ankle swelling?
Pregnancy, poor circulation, temperature fluctuations, and fatigue are only a few of the reasons your feet and ankles may swell. Capillaries, which are very small blood vessels, help carry blood to the arteries and veins and back again. Their thin walls are easily damaged, which can lead to fluid buildup and poor circulation.
Pressure socks gently squeeze the legs, helping fluids to reabsorb and blood to flow more easily. These pressure socks also decrease the diameter of veins, increasing the velocity of blood flow and volume. In short, they keep the blood moving and fluid from pooling. If swelling plagues you during and after a long airplane, car ride, or a long shift on the job, these socks may help.
Best compression socks for women: Hi Clasmix Graduated Medical Compression Socks
Great Compression, Fun Colors
These graduated compression socks offer 20-30 mmHg of pressure, two size options, and breathable fabric that keeps feet and calves comfortable. Hi ClasmixCHECK PRICE
The Hi Clasmix Graduated Medical Socks are the best compression socks for women and fit shoe sizes 6 to 15.5. They feature graduated compression that stays between 20-30 mmHg, enough for daily wear, athletics, or recovery. A copper-infused fabric helps prevent odors and wicks moisture for more comfortable wear.
What style sock are you looking for?
Something that goes to your knees or beyond is too much sock for the occasion. In other cases, you may only need compression and extra support in the arch, heel, or low ankle. Ankle socks may offer a solution to any of the aforementioned issues.
These socks sometimes rise above the ankle bone, but many stay below this visible landmark. They have similar pressure levels as taller socks. Some of these designs feature targeted pressure through the arches or heels to relieve plantar fasciitis or support foot injuries. These socks also cover less surface area, making them a cooler option when temperatures rise.
Best ankle-compression socks: PAPLUS Ankle Compression Socks
Light Compression, Cool Design
These ankle socks provide 15-20 mmHg compression that helps circulation and offers extra foot and ankle stability. PAPLUS