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While compression boots have become a recent fad among athletes for workout-related recovery, socks that embrace the tech have long been in the mainstream. The best compression socks are built to enhance performance during long runs or cross-training sessions, but can also be great for anyone who needs a little extra leg support throughout the day.
What do compression socks do and why should you wear them?
Compression socks are made of a tightly woven fabric that works to boost blood flow by providing gradual compression up the leg. According to New York-based podiatrist and Vionic Innovation lab member Dr. Jackie Sutera, the most notable benefit of wearing compression socks is the reduction of swelling to the lower legs. “Compression socks encourage the blood to circulate back up to the heart and not ‘pool’ in the legs and feet, which can cause swelling and even stretch the skin so much that it breaks open. For this reason, compression socks can help with leg fatigue and pain, varicose veins, spider veins, leg ulcers and even wounds.”
Dr. Sutera adds that compression socks can also help decrease inflammation and pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
And as far as the best time of day to wear compression socks? “Put them on in the morning when legs are least swollen” Sutera says. “This helps to decrease swelling during the day.”
Who should wear compression socks
Compression socks are very popular among athletes, as they can help reduce workout-related swelling — in turn improving mobility — and minimize muscle fatigue.
Drew Nuñez, LA-based marathon runner, personal trainer and Barry’s Bootcamp principal instructor, suffers from plantar fasciitis and wears compression socks three to four times a week. “Compression socks don’t heal my plantar fasciitis, but they definitely relieve pressure, swelling and minimize pain while I’m on my feet all day,” he says. “I always make sure to wear them while I’m traveling or sitting in the same position for hours on end to ensure ankle mobility and blood flow.”
Compression socks are also beneficial for people who stand and walk a lot throughout the day, like nurses, retail workers, chefs and flight attendants. They can also be ideal for people who suffer from superficial varicose veins or poor venous circulation, including pregnant women, the elderly, those with diabetes and individuals who are overweight.
What to look for in the best compression socks
The level of pressure a pair of compression socks provides is expressed in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury. Standard styles offer 15 to 20 mmHg of compression. There are also medical-grade options that offer up to 50 mmHg of compression, many of which can only be found at medical supply stores but, at lower compression levels, are sometimes sold at common retailers. “For those without major medical issues, start with the lowest level of compression and work your way up,” Dr. Sutera says. “This is true for everyone, not just runners. The more compressive they are, the tighter they are and the more difficult they’ll be to put on and take off.”
She adds: “Your compression socks shouldn’t feel excessively tight, cause discomfort, numbness or tingling or dig into skin. If this happens, size up — your legs should feel supported, like a hug, not constricted.”
Instead of applying compression throughout the leg, some compression socks now offer gradient compression, which some wearers may find to be more comfortable. These apply a controlled amount of pressure at the ankle to prevent swelling specifically in the area.
Today’s compression socks also come in a range of fun colors and prints, as well as varying lengths and materials. Knee-high and crew-length styles made with moisture-wicking fabrics are popular.
Just be sure to avoid pairs that are overly thick, Dr. Sutera warns, which can cause excessive tightness in the toe box. Also, replace your pairs when they start to feel loose and worn down.
It’s important to note that compressions socks aren’t suitable for everyone, and it’s always best to consult your doctor before adding a pair into the mix. “People with arterial circulation problems or who have thin, brittle skin or wounds should avoid compression, since this can decrease blood flow and cut off circulation in already compromised
Ahead, we round up the 12 best compression socks for every need.
Charmking Compression Socks
Best-Rated Compression Socks on Amazon
These Charmking compression socks from have over 42,000 five-star reviews on Amazon alone, with shoppers raving about how comfortable and effective they are. Made of a breathable nylon-blend performance fabric, they come in a pack of three at 15 to 20 mmHG for everyday support while running, cycling or standing on your feet all day.
Feetures Graduated Compression Socks
Best for Athletes
Performance compression socks for athletes are typically priced a bit higher than the average compressive styles, mainly because they have powerful moisture-wicking properties. This pair from Feetures brings a custom-like fit and 15 to 20 mmHG of compression that targets areas prone to pain and swelling. The sweat-wicking material keeps the feet dry without compromising comfort.
Belly Bandit Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Pregnancy
Offering 15 to 20 mmHg of compression, these socks from Belly Bandit should be comfortable to wear and easy to take on and off. They’re designed to minimize discomfort in the calves, ankles and feet — something women experience during pregnancy and after they give brith — and are infused with silver ions to help stave off odors. Not to mention, they’re pretty darn stylish, complete with a subtle scalloped trim that also helps prevent any unwanted digging.
Cep Compression Run Socks
Best Compression Socks for Running
What makes these compression socks from Cep special is their superior lightweight construction. They offer a slightly higher level of compression at 20-30 mmHg and a thin material that’s still strong enough to hug the foot, ankle and calf. Thanks to moisture-wicking nylon fabric, they’re a great option for people who play sports and suffer from shin splints, swelling and frequent muscle soreness.
LevSox Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Nurses
Nurses are prime candidates for compression socks. These 20 to 30 mmHg compression socks from LevSox are not only available in quirky healthcare-inspired prints, but also provide 360-degree support to stimulate blood flow and prevent varicose veins. Several nurses have reviewed this style, with one mentioning that it “significantly improved [her] work day with more energy and less leg fatigue.”
Comrad Compression Socks
Best for Everyday Wear
Perhaps the most stylish socks on our list, these knee-highs from Comrad will easily fit right in with the rest of your wardrobe. They offer medium compression (15-25 mmHg) and are moisture-wicking and anti-odor. Wear them for travel, post-workout recovery, work and more.
Ostrichpillow Bamboo Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Varicose Veins
Ostrichpillow is a premier brand for traveling well, and its socks live up to this reputation. Made out of bamboo material, these are one of the comfiest, most sustainable styles you can buy. They have the latest gradual compression technology, as well as an extra-cushioned sole and durable reinforcements from heel to toe.
TechWare Pro Ankle Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Ankle Swelling
These patent-pending ankle compression socks from TechWare provide standard compression in a lightweight, stretchy nylon-spandex blend fabric for relief from arthritis, Achilles tendonitis, muscle fatigue and more. The gradually compressive style comes in four different sizes and is a must-have for anyone who’s experienced an ankle injury and is on the road to recovery.
Sockwell Elevation Firm Graduated Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Standing All Day
When you stand all day, your feet move around a lot and may get sweaty. That’s why it’s important to seek a pair of compression socks with moisture-wicking capabilities, such as this style from Sockwell. But, it’s not like most other breathable compression socks available, as it’s made from temperature-regulating merino wool and finished with a super elegant pattern. For stabilizing muscles and minimizing fatigue, these socks offer 20 to 30 mmHg of gradual compression.
SB Sox Compression Socks
Best for Plantar Fasciitis
These open-toed compression socks from SB Sox have over 45,000 near-perfect reviews on Amazon. Users say they’re super comfortable, effectively decrease swelling and are quite easy put on compared to many other calf-length and knee-high styles on the market. They’re made to support the foot’s natural arch, targeting pain and swelling caused by plantar fasciitis.
SunFeeling Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for the Elderly
When you get older, the blood doesn’t quite flow like it used to. That’s why elderly people are a target demographic for compression socks. If you or a loved one falls into this age group, why not go for a pair in a super fun design? These easy-to-wear socks from SunFeeling have 20 to 30 mmHg of compression and will bring a smile anyone’s face. Not to mention, they get bonus points for being moisture-wicking and breathable.
Pro Compression Socks
Best Compression Socks for Athletes, Runner-Up
Offering 20 to 30 mmHg of compression, Pro’s compression socks provide ample support to accelerate recovery for athletes. They focus on boosting circulation in the calf muscles down to the arches while bringing cushion and support to the foot for running, pivoting and jumping. Their polyester-nylon blend fabric makes them feel extra luxurious and breathable for all-day comfort.