All About Compression Socks, Including Who Needs to Wear Them and How to Choose a Good Pair

Perfect for everything from self-care to birthday gifts and Easter baskets, the socks can improve circulation, minimize swelling, and relieve discomfort.

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Compression stocks are stockings that deliver compression to your feet and lower legs, treating and preventing inflammation, fluid retention, and electrolyte imbalance, among other ailments. They're a popular choice to wear on flights, where standing is restricted. When worn during exercise, they also can help curb the overuse of tendons. But not everyone needs to wear them. Here's how to know if you should invest in compression socks—and how you can find the very best pairs available to you should you decide that you need them.

person wearing compression socks running along rocks
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If You Have Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency means the veins in your legs struggle to pump blood back into your heart. "Compression socks speed up this process," explains Nelya Lobkova, D.P.M., a board-certified podiatrist in New York, "and prevent blood from pooling in the feet and legs, causing swelling."

If You're an Athlete Protecting Tendons

Athletes, including those men and women who run, bike, play soccer, or engage in any other high-cardio activity, can benefit from wearing compression socks, which can prevent the overuse of tendons. If tendons are overused, they can cause inflammation and pain in the ankles and feet, Lobkova says.

If You Sit or Stand for Long Periods of Time

If you work on your feet (let's say you're a chef or nurse, for example) with little opportunity to sit down, or if you are confined to the same seated position for long stretches of time, such as on an overnight flight, you might want to wear compression socks. In both of these cases, your "veins could get overwhelmed and become leaky, causing foot swelling," Lobkova explains.

If You're Pregnant

As Lobkova explains, pregnancy is commonly associated with swollen feet. (Hormone changes often mean more blood is pumped throughout the body.) By wearing compression socks, pregnant women can prevent or decrease the amount of fluid and swelling in their legs and feet, she says.

How to Choose the Right Pair of Compression Socks

To find the best compression socks, it's usually smart to speak to your physician or podiatrist—the amount of compression you need will vary based on your reasons for wearing them. (Plus, how often you should wear them, and when, is something you should discuss with your doctor.) But if you want to order them on your own—perhaps ahead of your next long-haul flight—then be sure to measure your calf circumference so you can pick the best size for your legs. Lobkova recommends starting with a knee-length sock, as they're comfortable and effective.

The Hi Clasmix Store's Medical Compression Socks (from $17, are knee-high and come in a range of sizes; the Belly Bandit Compression Socks ($60, are also knee-high, but in a heathered knit style.

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