How to Choose the Right Compression Socks

If you are someone that regularly experiences swelling or discomfort in your legs throughout the day, you may be looking into purchasing some compression socks. They are a popular treatment for poor blood flow and varicose veins in other parts of your body, but for someone who knows very little about the world of compression socks, it may be confusing to know what options are out there and what would be the right solution to combat your issues. Here is some comprehensive advice on how to choose compression socks to meet all of your needs.

The Types of Compression

The first thing that you should note is that not all products will deliver the same compression level, because not all people need the same amount of compression depending on their reasons for using socks compression.

What mmHg Compression Level Do I Need?

Compression socks are categorized by the amount of pressure that they put on your leg, this is measured by mmHg, which means ‘millimeters of mercury’. Naturally, the higher the mmHg, the more compression you will get. If you are someone who doesn’t suffer too badly with swelling or inflamed veins, you will only need to use light compression. These ones usually measure in at under 15 mmHg and aren’t too tight, these are recommended for someone who doesn’t need to wear them everyday, but could use a bit of support. There are then moderate standard compression socks, these can come in anywhere between 15-20 mmHg and are used to treat temporary swelling of the leg and are primarily used by people taking long haul flights.

The compression stockings that you may be more familiar with are commonly known as medical grade compression socks. These are far tighter than the socks that people commonly buy and can have compression levels that can surpass 40 mmHg. These are used for more serious medical cases, for example they have proven to be exceptionally effective when treating varicose veins.

They are also popularly used post surgery, as it is common for blood clots to form in the legs after long surgery. To some people this may appear to be too tight and could potentially lead to lessened circulation in your legs, however most are graduated, which means that they are looser at the top than they are at the bottom. Compression socks don’t just come depending on their tightness, they come in several sizes in order to cater to differing sizes in people. When buying a compression sock, make sure to take measurements of your own legs so that the compression sock is able to do its job and have the current amount of tightness for your body.

Socks vs Stockings

For a lot of people, another difficult decision they may face is whether they should use socks or stockings for compression. Before anyone can make that decision, it’s important to know what the differences are between the two. Stockings are used for more passive purposes and are not as actively compressing as compression socks. Compression stockings have evenly distributed pressure and are not as tight as compression socks as they are usually used to treat less severe issues. So if you are someone who simply needs swelling support and does not have serious vein issues, stockings may be an effective treatment method.

The Purpose of Compression Socks

Compression stockings apply pressure to the lower areas of your legs, their main purpose being to maintain a consistent blood flow and lessen the appearance of swelling. Not only do they help with general swelling of the leg and other minor issues, but they can also be used to treat more serious conditions. For example, a lot of people use compression socks for edema. Edema is caused by an excess of fluid trapped within your body tissue. This can be caused by a number of things, like being on your feet for too long, causing fluid to naturally flood the bottom half of your body. Compression is regularly used to treat Edema and is one of the most effective methods of preventing the worsening of any Edema as the pressure that it forms prevents any further swelling and also prevents fluid from collecting in the tissue in the areas that have the applied pressure.

There are several other conditions that compression socks can help with. A large number of people use compression socks for varicose veins due to their effectiveness when treating the condition. Varicose veins are basically veins that have come swollen and enlarged, they can be extremely off putting appearance wise and can cause aching and pain within your legs and feet. Compression socks are a fantastic remedy for varicose veins as the varicose veins are caused by blockages in the veins leading to the heart.

They help with the blood flow and encourages blood flow to reach the heart, which lessens the effects of varicose veins. The socks also help with general poor circulation as they help to channel the blood flow in the direction that it’s supposed to be going and does not allow the circulation to lag behind and potentially cause swelling. If you are someone who doesn’t suffer with these conditions as of yet, but are aware that you have poor circulation, it would be a good idea to start using some light compression socks as a preventative measure as they can prevent the progression of any blown out veins or water retention.

But are compression socks a good option for people who don’t necessarily have medical issues, but have to deal with the aches and pains of standing up all day? In short, yes. Standing up and moving around all day can put a lot of pressure on your circulatory system, which can really compromise the consistency of your blood flow. Even if you are someone that can consider themselves to be in good health, problems can start to progress over time if you are always on your feet. Even for people in good shape, it is hard to ignore poor circulation caused by being upright for a prolonged time. It’s just uncomfortable and can be easily remedied by using low pressure compression socks on a regular basis. Plus, it makes standing up all day far more comfortable which means you can focus on any work you need to do as opposed to worrying about any aches and pains.

They’re also used for sports and you can get special compression socks for running which will help to improve your performance. They are a very versatile piece of clothing with a vast number of medical and sporting uses.

Using Compression Socks When Pregnant

It is no hidden fact that compression socks are a pregnant woman’s best friend. As a woman goes through the stages of pregnancy, she will put on a vast quantity of weight which will lead to pressure on the knees and ankles. This is why swelling is such a common occurrence during pregnancy and is something that a lot of women dread. Some moderate compression socks can be very beneficial for anyone that is experiencing the aches and pains of pregnancy and is a solution that is recommended by the majority of doctors. An unknown fact is that the hormone increase that happens when you’re pregnant can lead to your blood clotting easily.

Why They Help During Pregnancy

This can be extremely dangerous and so it is important to ensure that you are wearing your socks daily. Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on your body and so you should take any chance you can to make sure that you are doing all that you can to alleviate this pressure. This should also be taken into account post birth, as during this time your body will once again experience a lot of spikes in your hormones and potentially an increase in blood clots. You will also get a lot of water retention as part of your pregnancy and so using them is a good way to make sure that the water does not flood one particular part of your body.

How many hours a day should they be worn?

They should only be worn during the day and it’s important that compression socks are worn correctly to ensure that you are receiving the results that you are looking for. They should be worn snug to your skin, but should not be too tight as this could cut off your circulation.

The socks should lie flat on your skin and not bunch up in areas. If they do begin to bunch up, this is a sign that they have lost their elasticity and so will not be an effective treatment for any swelling. It is important that you wash your compression socks after every use to ensure that the fabric keeps its integrity. If they are too loose from the start then you have bought the wrong size and will not benefit from the compression.

How you put your socks on is also very important to maintaining their quality. It is important that you don’t pull at the socks to make them easier to put on as this will stretch the material and make it ineffective, be sure to carefully roll the socks so that they cover all of your leg.

Size Guide
OTC Compression Socks
Women’s US Shoe Size

5 – 7

7.5 – 9.5

10 – 12

Men’s US Shoe Size

6 – 8

8.5 – 10.5

11 – 13

Calf Circumference

26 – 34 cm

30 – 38 cm

34 – 42 cm

38 – 46 cm

Crew Compression Socks
Women's US Shoe Size

5 – 7

7.5 – 9.5

10 – 12

Men's US Shoe Size

6 – 8

8.5 – 10.5

11 – 13

Compression Sleeves
Calf Circumference

27 – 31 cm

32 – 36 cm

37 – 41 cm

42 – 46 cm

Body Width
Body Length
Sleeve Length