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Do your feet swell when you fly? Are you afraid of deep vein thrombosis?

Along with figuring out what to pack for a long trip, there’s always the decision of what outfit to wear for your flight. Whether you go casual or dressy, consider wearing compression socks, which are becoming more and more popular for travelers on long-haul flights.

Here’s the lowdown on compression socks, why you might want to buy them, and what kind you should buy.

Is It Good to Wear Compression Socks While Flying?

According to the Cochrane Library, “There is high‐quality evidence that airline passengers similar to those in this review can expect a substantial reduction in the incidence of symptomless DVT and low‐quality evidence that leg oedema is reduced if they wear compression stockings.”

So, do you have to wear them? No. If you are at risk because of various factors  for a clot in your leg (history, pregnant etc.), or you are worried about clotting in general, then sure, buy yourself a pair. Some are even FSA Eligible!

Once you decide you want to wear some for your next long-haul flight, you have a few other things to take into consideration. What compression level you need? What style best suits you?

What Are the Best Compression Socks for Flying?

Graduated vs. Uniform Compression Socks

Graduated compression socks are tighter around the ankle, and, according to Ames Walker,  are considered to be more beneficial. Uniform compression socks have the same amount of pressure along the entire sock.

Style 

You’ve got some choices when it comes to what style you’d like. 

  • Ankle – your run of the mill sock.
  • Knee – for extra support, but may itch or get hot.
  • Over the Knee – for even more support, if you don’t mind a thigh-high.
  • Sleeve – if you either don’t want something on your foot, or you want to wear regular socks.

Compression Level 

Compression socks are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), or pressure, much like blood pressure.

  • Mild – 8-15 mmHg – These will help with some mild swelling.
  • Moderate – 15-20 mmHg – According to Ames Walker, these are the most common weight used for travel.  They will help with swelling, and reduce the risk of clots.
  • Firm – 20-30 mmHg – these are for people who have more severe swelling as well as people at risk for deep vein thrombosis.
  • Extra Firm – 30-40 mmHg – The highest weight you can buy over the counter, for people with DVT, who have recently had surgery, or with extreme swelling of any kind.
  • Prescription – There are instances where you might need prescription compression socks, so if you have a history of clotting, you may want to speak to a medical professional.

When all is said and done, choosing the right compression sock is totally up to what you, and what you’re looking for. It can’t hurt to throw a pair on to aid with lessening the swelling that sometimes comes with long-haul flights. If it can help curb a possible blood clot, even better! Of course, if you are doing it because of a medical condition, it’s best to speak to your doctor about what the best type of sock is for you.

Here are some of our favorites:

Best Compression Socks with Fun Patterns

zebra print orange compression socks, blue and green argyle compression socks

CHARMKING Compression Socks

User Review: “These are amazing. They’re lightweight enough to wear in the summer as you would normal socks – but have helped greatly with compression as needed! I wear these for 8-10 hours a day and never ONCE are they uncomfortable! I was a little concerned because they are a little on the “cheaper” side money-wise, but they are better than my $20 single pair I own. These are amazing.!”

Price: $26.99 on Amazon

Star Rating: 4.6

Best Firm Compression Socks:

white with black and grey compression socks, pink compression socks

Blitzu Compression Socks

User Review: “I bought these to wear during a six hour long flight. I usually get really bad restless legs when flying and I was hoping these would help. On the flight there I still got restless legs, but only a mild version. Not nearly as bad as I usually experience. The return flight I had no restless legs at all! Success! I was concerned these would be too tight, or itchy, but they were not. They made it all the way up to the bottom of my knees and they did not sag or fall down. I did not have to pull them up or readjust them at all. I got the pink color which was very cute and a little playful considering compression socks are maybe not the most stylish accessory.”

Price: Starting at $9.99 on Amazon

Star Rating: 4.5


Related Article: 9 Ways to Keep From Stinking When You Travel


Best Compression Socks Specifically for Travel:

black wanderlust compression socks, white compression socks with grey foot

Wanderlust Travel Compression Socks

User Review: “I had a good chance to test these, as recently traveling on a long international flight to Europe, I forgot to use the socks going, and I arrived with some swelling of my ankles and feet. Returning I did use them and there was no swelling whatsoever. They were very comfortable, and did not feel “hot”, as I sometimes experience with any type of socks. Definitely a good product.”

Price: $19.98 on Amazon

Star Rating: 4.5

Best Compression Sleeve:

green, red and tan doc miller compression socks, blue, green and black compression sleeves

Doc Miller

User Review: “I purchased these to use on a trip through SE Asia where I knew I would need some compression from excessive flying and being on my feet, but also needed to be able to be in flip flops due to weather. They compress well and have held up through many washes and wears and were perfect for my original intent.”

Price: $18.70 on Amazon

Star Rating: 4.5

Best Ankle Compression Socks:

White and red ankle compression socks by physix, green and black ankle compression socks

Physix Gear

User Review: “I purchased these to use on a trip through SE Asia where I knew I would need some compression from excessive flying and being on my feet, but also needed to be able to be in flip flops due to weather. They compress well and have held up through many washes and wears and were perfect for my original intent.”

Price: Starting at $9.36 on Amazon

A huge benefit of wearing compression socks when you fly is preventing achy legs or blood clots from forming. Plus, you get the added benefits of preventing varicose veins, DVT, and a host of other awful things when your blood doesn’t flow properly. But which compression socks should you choose?

Approaching hour 24 of straight travel, you’re not sure which feels more tired: your tired eyes or your achy legs.

Well, take out your contacts and put your glasses on to solve your tired eyes. As for your achy legs? Pack a pair of compression socks on your next trip.

Compression socks have many benefits for airline travel, but if you’re new to using them this guide will take you through what level of compression socks to use for flights and a list of the best compression socks for men and women on the market.

What are Compression Socks?

Compression socks are tight, stretchy socks (or tights!) that gently squeeze your leg. Think of them as a hug for your blood vessels. Because the pressure from these stockings relaxes your arteries, it lets your blood flow freely and keeps your legs from getting tired and achy. It’s especially helpful for athletes, people at risk for circulation problems, restless legs, and—yes—people who spend long hours on airplanes.

Is it Good to Wear Compression Socks While Flying?

Yes, especially on long haul flights. According to WebMD, it’s a good idea to use compression socks while flying. During long flights, your blood tends to pool in your feet and it’s hard for it to fight gravity and get back to your heart. You’re also relatively sedentary with your knees and hips bent for many hours, which can negatively affect blood flow. This, along with changes in cabin pressure can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot in the lower leg and could prevent you from flying in the future.

All of this sounds scary, but you can help prevent it with compression socks. If you want to keep your jetsetting ways and stay healthy while you travel, buy a pair of compression socks. Your heart will thank you.

What Level of Compression Socks do I Need for Flying?

There are different levels of compression sock, but the best level of compression socks for flying is a moderate, 15-20mmHg. It’s also a good idea to choose a sock that rise just below the knee, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Degree pressure or tightness in compression socks are measured in millimeters of Mercury (mmHg) they’ll put on your legs. Here’s a cheat sheet to different levels of compression socks:

  • Mild (under 15 mmHg) is for healthy people (think: pregnant women with tired legs from standing all day).
  • Moderate (15-20 mmHg) prevents DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in airline passengers… like you!
  • High (over 20 mmHg) is medical-grade for varicose veins, edema, and preventing blood clots post-surgery.

What Are the Best Compression Socks for Travel?

As mentioned above, you’ll want compression socks that are at least knee-high with a level of 15mmHg or higher. The best compression socks for travel include:

TOFLY Thigh High Compression Stocking ($28)

  • Compression sock level: 20-30mmHg
  • Type: compression socks for women

At 20-30mmHg, these thigh-high compression socks are a little stronger than what most travelers will need while flying but good for those at risk for circulation problems.

Overall, they’re easy to put on and comfortable while traveling. A row of silicone beads keep the stockings in place, leaving you free to move around in flight. If you’re not pregnant, ignore the maternity labeling — because when a product works, it works.

BeFit24’s Compression Tights For Women, 120 DEN. Class 2 ($50)

  • Compression sock level: 23-32 mmHg
  • Type: compression tights for women

These top-notch compression panty-hose-style tights are medical-grade and, again, stronger than what most airline passengers will need. However, they’re specially designed for support of DVT, varicose veins, and venous thromboembolic events, lower limb saphenous veins (thrombophlebitis) and thromboembolism of the pulmonary artery.

High-quality, comfortable, and supportive, these compression tights are perfect if you’re a mature traveler — ahem, referring to your age not humor level — and need extra support to prevent tired legs on long days.

Physix Gear Compression Socks ($26)

  • Compression sock level: 20-30 mmHg
  • Type: compression socks for men or women

Comfortable, fun, and effective, the Physix Gear Compression socks are a great and affordable option for both men and women.

These knee-high compression socks look like high-quality athletic sock. Which is exactly what they’re going for: to help your inner athlete go faster, stronger, longer… to catch that last-minute flight. Perfect for men and women.

Mojo’s Opaque Compression Stockings, Open Toe, Firm Support – Black ($19)

  • Compression sock level: 20-30 mmHg
  • Type: compression socks for men or women

With 20-30mmHg compression, these surgical-weight compression stockings give you the exact graduated compression your doctor recommended to combat poor circulation, edema, chronic venous insufficiency, and varicose veins.

They also come in a variety of style options: knee-high length, reinforced heel, open toe, or in a shorter lengths for petite frames. The toe-less option is great for travelers who run hot.

RejuvaWear Black Footless Legging ($70)

  • Compression sock level: 15-20 mmHg
  • Type: compression tights for women and men

At 15-20 mmHg, Rejuva’s footless black leggings are perfect for travel, especially if you don’t to wear socks or a pair of tights under your pants. Travelers can easily wear these leggings on their own as part of their in-flight outfit.

These leggings are designed to relieve swelling, aching, heaviness, and fatigue. They may not prevent a delayed flight, but it promises a comfortable, pinch-free belly thanks to a 4” wide tummy band.

Further, Rejuva has a wide variety of 15-20mmHg compression socks and leggings for men and women to choose from.

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