Friday, May 05, 2023 6 min read

What Compression Socks Do & How They Work

Pam, Team Copper Fit

What Compression Socks Do & How They Work
What Compression Socks Do & How They Work

Socks are more than just an extra layer of fabric that keep your feet dry. With cutting-edge technology, specialty socks can maintain healthy, supported feet for all your needs. 


Whether you’re an athlete, on your feet for long periods of time, or just looking for ways to support blood flow, compression socks can help.


What Are Compression Socks?

Compression socks (also known as compression stockings) fit snuggly with a durable stretch. They apply pressure to the feet and lower legs to support healthy blood flow, oxygen movement, and comfort in your legs. 


Compression socks are especially helpful when it comes to managing discomfort or swelling in the legs and feet. The snug feel of compression socks offers an array of wellness benefits.


There are a few different types of compression socks, each with its own uses and recommendations:

  • Graduated compression socks: The most common and recommended type of compression sock, this sock is tightest at the ankle and gradually decreases in pressure up the leg, contouring with the needs of your body.
  • Nonmedical support hosiery: Unlike the gradual pressure change of a graduated compression stockings, nonmedical support hosiery typically have continuous pressure along the length of the stocking. A more economical option, these stockings do not provide the same benefits as the specialized support of graduated compression socks.
  • Anti-embolism stockings: Medically prescribed anti-embolism stockings also use graduated compression technology. Unlike graduated compression socks, these socks are designed to be used when you have decreased mobility, such as after surgery or while on bed rest. Only use anti-embolism stockings when recommended by a healthcare professional.

The graduated compression sock is the most recommended type for day-to-day use, which offers maximum support. These can be worn anytime, such as on runs, while resting, or at work.


How Do Compression Socks Work?

Compression socks are designed to maintain a healthy blood flow. The graduated pressure provided by the socks gives your blood vessels extra support as they push blood and oxygen up from your feet to your heart.


When you wear compression socks, this blood flow can assist in many necessary functions. While running, this gradual support soothes poor circulation and soreness. While standing and sitting, compression garments soothe aches and pains associated with imbalanced blood pressure or muscle recovery.


The Benefits of Compression Socks

Compression socks have many benefits, as they can support performance and comfort in a wide range of activities.


The pressure provided by compression socks supports healthy blood flow. When this blood flow is strong, oxygen moves more readily into your muscle tissue, which is vital for healing and supported recovery. Many athletes seek oxygen flow while working out to support muscle growth.


The gradual compression of your feet, ankles, and lower legs provided by compression socks also combats natural fluid buildup, supporting comfort and soothing swelling. The support of the socks provides a comfortable feel that can fight against the fatigue and aches often associated with running or being on your feet for long periods of time.


Just a few of the many benefits of compression socks include:

  • Supported blood flow between the legs and the heart
  • Supported muscle recovery
  • Maintained comfort
  • Support and stability to the muscles and joints

    Who Can Benefit from Compression Socks?

    Compression socks can be beneficial to just about anyone. The supportive technology and level of compression provide a wide range of benefits that can soothe many common aches, pains, and blood flow issues.


    You may want to invest in some compression socks if you are:

    • An Athlete. Compression socks can support oxygen flow while working out and provide relief from soreness and aches after a race or match.
    • On your feet a lot. Healthy blood flow supported by compression socks helps soothe swelling and discomfort and provides extra support to your joints.
    • On long flights. Compression socks are often worn on flights to support healthy circulation.
    • Experiencing leg swelling or edema symptoms. Swelling is a result of fluid accumulation under the skin. Compression socks combat fluid buildup with gentle pressure and support.
    • Prone to leg cramps. Compression socks support strong, healthy blood flow. Cramps are often a symptom of insufficient blood flow to the muscles.
    • Experiencing discomfort from varicose veins or venous insufficiency in leg veins. The gentle support and comfort provided by compression socks can aid in easing these aches and pains from spider veins.

      Choosing the Best Compression Sock for You

      The benefits of compression socks are vast, and choosing the right sock for you can bring wellness benefits into your life. Let’s go over some of the specific types of graduated compression socks so you can make an informed decision on which fit your needs. 


      Compression Level

      The compression level is the first thing to consider when looking at compression socks. The level of compression refers to the tightness of the compression sock. 


      The tighter the sock, the more pressure you will feel on your feet, ankles, and legs. Compression level is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is a unit of pressure also used to measure blood pressure.


      Compression levels can be broken down into the following categories:

      • 8-15 mmHg: This light and mild compression is great for comfort and gives gentle, easy support while lounging or walking.
      • 15-20 mmHg: The perfect mid-grade compression to wear out running or to promote recovery after a marathon or match. This is great for runners, athletes, workers on their feet all day, and those wishing to support strong blood flow.
      • 20-30 mmHg: A high-level, medical-grade compression sock is best if you are looking for next-level support. Like mid-grade compression, these are perfect for running or working, with strong support for rest and recovery. This higher grade of compression is especially recommended for those experiencing swelling or symptoms of vascular discomfort.
      • 30+ mmHg: This extra-firm compression sock should only be worn when prescribed by your healthcare provider to treat certain health conditions.

        Choosing Your Style

        Compression socks come in an array of styles and lengths, from ankle to thigh-high. Choosing the right sock for you can simply be a matter of style preferences, but can also be an important consideration when managing discomfort and optimizing performance.


        If you are up and moving a lot and mostly looking for that extra support and comfort for your feet, an ankle sock with built-in arch support may be all you need. Great for shock absorption, these socks are comfortable, all-day wear.


        If you want a bit of extra support for your ankles but aren’t interested in the knee-high or thigh-high look, a good crew compression sock will give you all the performance benefits without the extra length.


        For maximum support and comfort, wear a knee- or thigh-high sock. Giving that extra support to your calves and shins will go a long way in supporting your overall wellness, whether recovery or performance. 


        If you want to go that extra mile, try a specialty sock, like an ice compression sock, which simultaneously provides the comfort of compression and the relief of cooling.


        Tips for Wearing Compression Socks

        Wearing compression socks should never be painful or uncomfortable; they should provide you with additional comfort throughout the day. If you find that your compression socks are cutting tightly into your skin, opt for a bigger size or a higher length. 


        For example, if you wear crew-length socks and find that they are too tight around your calf, opt for knee-high socks instead. 


        When To Wear Compression Socks

        Compression socks should be put on first thing in the morning, when your legs and feet are least likely to be swollen from use, and taken off before you go to bed unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. 


        Compression socks can be comfortable, all-day wear, or worn for your specific needs, like while resting, working, or working out. Just like any other pair of socks, take them off and wash them between uses.


        How To Put On Compression Socks

        Just like your normal socks, compression socks should be put over the foot first and rolled up the rest of the leg. Make sure your compression socks are pulled up all the way and are smooth. 


        Avoid bunching or folding your compression socks. Compression socks should fit snugly and closely to your leg for maximum effectiveness and comfort. Folding over the tops of your compression socks may provide unnecessary tightness at the top of the sock, taking away from your comfort.


        If you can, buy more than one pair of compression socks so you can wash and dry them between uses and have another pair ready for your next day’s use.


        Try Compression Socks Today

        With all the wellness, performance, and recovery benefits of compression socks, it’s no surprise they are widely recommended and encouraged for people of all walks of life. Experience the comfort and support of a good quality compression sock, and you won’t ever look back!



        Compression Socks: What Are They and Who Needs Them? | Riverside

        How to Choose and Use Copression Stockings | WebMD

        What You Should Know About Compression Socks | Health Essentials

        Benefits of Compression Socks for Runners | The Manual

        Compression Running Socks | All About Marathon Training

        Understanding Levels of Compression for Stockings | Leg Smart

        Oxygen: Implications for Wound Healing | National Library of Medicine

        Compression Socks for Arthritis: Do They Help? | Living with Arthritis

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