Compression socks, also known as compression stockings or support stockings, gently squeeze and apply pressure to the legs. The pressure improves circulation while preventing and reducing swelling. These socks are a common part of post-injury or surgery recovery, but they’ve gained popularity among long-distance travelers and athletes for their recovery benefits, too.
Whether you’re an athlete, recovering from an injury, or in an occupation that keeps you on your feet all day, pressure socks encourage blood flow and help you stay comfortable. However, compression socks come in different pressures, lengths, and sizes that make a difference in how well they’ll work for your particular issues.
We’ve rounded up some of the best compression socks for swelling, athletics, and general use to get your feet back in working order.
How we picked these best compression socks
Let’s start with the most basic question—what are compression socks used for? Compression socks apply gentle pressure to the tissues beneath the skin of the legs. That extra pressure prevents fluid leakage and promotes fluid absorption. That generally means less swelling, as well as swelling prevention.
Weakening veins and valves get a boost from pressure socks by supporting vein and capillary walls. Even if your veins are perfectly healthy, blood can pool in the legs after long periods of sitting or time on your feet. Consequently, people who work while standing, those who are walking all day, and those who travel for several hours at a time find relief from swelling with the added pressure of compression socks.
These socks come in different types and designs. For example, gradient or graduated compression socks apply higher pressure toward the toes, feet, and ankles, with less pressure through the calf. Ankle compression socks only apply pressure to the foot and ankle. Toeless designs make it easier to wear regular socks over for greater cushioning and comfort.
Compression socks also come in different pressure levels, with socks available to the average consumer having a light to medium compression. Pressure is measured in millimeters of Mercury (mmHg). People with certain health issues may require a specific sock pressure level recommended by a doctor, while others can just choose a level that feels comfortable.
- 15-20 mmHg (light compression): Daily wear, general sports, and travel.
- 20-30 mmHg (medium compression): Daily wear (especially for varicose veins and swelling), mild symptoms of discomfort, sports recovery.
- 30-40 mmHg (strong compression): Often recommended for blood clot prevention, medical recovery, or post-surgery.
Pressure socks should not cause pain or uncomfortably pinch the skin. A sock that causes numbness, tingling, or discoloration is too tight. We picked a range of socks for a variety of needs.
Best Compression Socks for Foot Injury: Reviews & Recommendations
1. Sockwell Firm Compression Socks
If you’re looking for a compression sock you can wear all day, Sockwell’s Firm Compression Socks provide plenty of support while not looking like medical socks. Created to improve circulation in the legs of people who sit or stand all day, these socks are designed with graduated compression that minimize swelling and cuts down on fatigue. They also wick away moisture, provide odor control, and come in a range of colors from black to putty.
- Designed with graduated compression to reduce swelling
- Comes with arch support and cushioned sole
- Provides moisture wicking and odor control
- Not designed for athletic performance
2. Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
The Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks provide 20-30 mmHg of pressure, which is adequate for running and other sports, as well as post-workout recovery. Their graduated pressure provides higher pressure through the feet and ankles and gradually decreases toward the top of the calf. These socks come in three sizes and include “stay put” cuffs to keep the sock in place. They also come in 12 colors.
- Great for extreme races
- Ankle cuff stays put
- Range of colors and designs
- Not particularly suited for the cold
3. Hi Clasmix Graduated Medical Compression Socks
The Hi Clasmix Graduated Medical Socks are the best compression socks for women and fit shoe sizes 6 to 15.5. They feature graduated compression that stays between 20-30 mmHg, enough for daily wear, athletics, or recovery. A copper-infused fabric helps prevent odors and wicks moisture for more comfortable wear.
- Comfortable for all-day wear
- Encourages blood flow and circulation
- Moisture wicking and breathable fabric that eliminates odor
- Striking design may not work with professional outfits
4. 2XU Vector Cushion
Runners, if you’re looking for compression socks to enhance performance without looking stodgy, the 2XU Vector Cushion Socks are a solid option. Designed with graduated compression, these socks for running increase circulation in your feet and legs to get more blood to your muscles.
They come with arch and plantar fascia cushioning to absorb shocks and with technology that helps reduce blistering. That said, they’re an expensive pair of socks.
- Support feet and legs
- Cushioning provides plantar fascia and arch support
- Lock-in technology reduces blistering
5. PAPLUS Ankle Compression Socks
The PAPLUS Ankle Compression Socks feature light, 15-20 mmHg compression in a side-specific design. Each is labeled R or L, which helps the compression fit and target the foot’s arch better. This compression provides progressive pressure throughout the foot and ankle. They’re made of a moisture-wicking fabric that improves breathability for more comfortable wear. That said, they’re not the best for cold weather, so you may also want to check out these heated socks.
- Designed with targeted compression zones
- Moisture wicking
- Only provides compression to feet and ankles
6. SB SOX Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks
SB SOX Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks feature compression and ribbing designed to follow the arch of the foot. The ribbing through the arch mimics the natural movement of the foot’s ligaments to provide better support.
A thin heel lets you fit it under your regular socks without changing the fit of your shoes. Moisture-wicking fabric keeps the SB SOX cool even under another pair of socks. They come in four sizes and nine colors.
- Provides arch support
- Moisture wicking
- Not designed for cold weather
7. ACTINPUT Compression Socks for Men and Women
The ACTINPUT Socks for Men and Women are made with 15-20 mmHG compression and come in packs of eight. These knee-high compression socks provide uniform pressure from toe to knee in two sizes. You get lots of options, from a pack of all black to nude, white, gray, and colorful patterned designs.
- Comes in an eight-pack
- Moisture wicking
- Good value
- Not designed for foot ailments
Things to consider when buying compression socks
Alleviating ankle swelling
It is possible for your feet and ankles to swell due to pregnancy, poor circulation, temperature fluctuations, and fatigue. The capillaries, which carry blood to and from the arteries and veins, are very small blood vessels. Fluid buildup and poor circulation can occur when their thin walls are damaged.
These pressure socks gently squeeze the legs, increasing blood flow and reabsorption of fluids. These socks also decrease the diameter of veins, increasing the velocity of blood flow. In short, they keep the blood moving and fluid from pooling. If swelling occurs during or after a long flight, car trip, or work shift, these socks may be helpful.
Potentially improved running performance
The jury is still out on the benefits of compression socks for running. Some studies have found that compression socks improve running performance and reduce muscle fatigue, while others have found no correlation.
It comes down to what you need and what you want the compression socks to do. If you have swelling when you run, which is pretty normal, pressure socks can definitely help reduce fluid buildup in your feet and legs.
As a result, your running time and recovery may or may not be improved. Compression socks may also be beneficial to runners who travel long distances to compete in marathons or triathlons because they reduce swelling that can result from prolonged sitting or standing.
A fairly universal finding, however, is that if the wearer believes the socks help, they report less fatigue, better circulation, and faster recovery. Running is just as challenging mentally as physically. It might be worth considering buying the socks if they help you recover.
Style of sock
The sock that goes to your knees or beyond may be too much. In other cases, you may only need support and compression for your arch, heel, or low ankle. Ankle socks may be the answer.
It is common for these socks to rise above the ankle bone, but many remain below it. The pressure levels are similar to those for taller socks. These socks also cover less surface area than taller socks, making them a cooler choice when temperatures rise. Some of these models relieve plantar fasciitis by applying targeted pressure through the arches or heels.
What to expect from budget socks
The price of a single pair of socks can quickly climb to $15 or more. However, you can get comfortable compression for much less, if you don’t mind sacrificing a few things. First of all, budget compression socks usually have a lower pressure level. They typically have a pressure level of 15-20 mmHg.
As opposed to higher-priced socks, these socks may have lower quality fabrics. For example, there is no moisture-wicking fabric among the cheaper designs. The seams may also come apart more easily. For the price of one pair of pricier socks, you can buy several cheap pairs.
Q: What does 15-20 mmHg mean for compression socks?
A 15-20 mmHg sock means that it provides 15-20 millimeters of mercury of pressure. This is the sock’s tightness, which ranges from 15-40 mmHg.
Q: Can compression socks lower your blood pressure?
You cannot lower or raise your blood pressure by wearing compression socks. They increase the velocity of blood flow in the lower legs, but not enough to affect blood pressure measurements.
Q: What level of compression socks do I need?
It depends on your activities, comfort level, and the socks’ purpose how much compression you need. 15-20 mmHg socks are usually enough to improve circulation during daily activities. At 20-30 mmHg, athletes and those with medical conditions like poor circulation or injury get more support.
It is crucial to wear socks that are comfortable, regardless of the pressure level. They shouldn’t cut off circulation, cut into your skin, or cause discoloration of the skin.
Q: How many hours per day should I wear compression socks?
The National Health Service recommends taking off compression socks at night, unless you are showing or bathing.
The final word
When your feet start to get tired, keeping your tootsies happy can help you keep moving. The best compression socks allow your blood to flow and reduce swelling without pinching or cutting off circulation. They make great gifts, too. If you have an arch, you may need a sock with no toes or an ankle compression sock.
Talk to your doctor about choosing the right pressure and style of compression sock if you have a medical condition requiring them. Socks can express your personality with bright colors and patterns, or they can blend in with your natural skin tone. There’s a design out there that will work for you if you need a pair.