So Apparently Docs Are Saying Compression Socks Are *The* Way To Treat Achey Feet

·11 min read
Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron
Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron

If you’re on your feet a lot, odds are that you experience aches and pains in your body on the regular—especially in your shins and calves. That’s where compression socks come in handy, as they're designed to support you during workouts or just when you're on your feet for long periods of time. They can even prevent leg fatigue during flights, making them perfect for travel.

"Compression socks are great for recovery because they slow blood flow to your lower legs while you're wearing them and then flood the area with fresh oxygen once you take them off, which helps with muscle recovery, explains Becs Gentry, a certified run coach/trainer and instructor at Peloton.


So, if you're looking for some online shopping inspo, keep reading for the 10 best compression socks to buy, according to expert recommendations and reviewer raves. Your lower legs will thank ya!

1. Best Overall Compression Socks

With over 42,000 positive reviews on Amazon, you can easily say that these compression socks are the best of the best. Not only do they look sleek, but they’re easy to slip on and off while still providing enough pressure on your calves. They’ve even got segments up your heel and into your arches and toes to support areas susceptible to overuse injuries.

Compression: 20 - 30 mmHg

Material: 70% nylon, 30% spandex

Length: Knee-high

Rave Review: “I've had a hard time finding compression socks that don't completely cut off my circulation, but finally found a pair. I am taking a high blood pressure medicine that causes fluid to build up in my ankles. I flew from Arizona to New Orleans and walked for hours and my feet and ankles didn't swell. The socks were actually comfortable as well.”

Pros:

  • easy to slip on

  • supports areas susceptible to overuse injuries

Cons:

  • hand wash only

2. Best Compression Socks For Running

“I love the funky styles and colors from the Pro Compression sock line,” Snell explains. And yep, they’re also pretty darn great for those of you who, like Snell, are runners. These improve circulation in critical areas like your foot muscles and tendons, which will help your feet feel less sore. They're also moisture-wicking which makes them great for high-intensity workouts.

Compression: Not provided

Material: 70% polypropylene, 20% nylon, 10% lycra Spandex

Length: Ankle length

Rave Review: “These socks will change your life. Well worth the investment. They last for years!”

Pros:

  • cool color combos

  • designed with moisture-wicking fabric

Cons:

  • customers say sizing runs a little small

3. Best Compression Socks For Plantar Fasciitis

Got sore feet from plantar fasciitis? These socks target all of your sensitive areas: You’ll find they fit extra snug around the achilles tendons and arches. And, yep—because of this pressure, you’ll feel relief from any aches or cramping in those areas. Win!

Compression: 20 - 30 mmHg

Material: nylon and spandex

Length: Ankle length

Rave Review: "I absolutely love these compression socks. I can now walk with very minimal heel pain. I can now run on the treadmill with no pain at all. These are the best find without having to wear my orthotics."

Pros:

  • great for plantar fasciitis

  • targets pressure points

Cons:

  • toe-less socks are not ideal for everyone

4. Best Compression Socks For Shin Splints

“I adore Nike compression socks as they are the perfect level of tightness to aid my recovery after long runs or hard speed sessions, especially when I have to sit down very soon after finishing my workout,” Gentry says.

And, if you work out that much, odds are you’re at risk for getting shin splints (i.e. shin pain) from overuse and tightness. These have a simple design that molds to your legs the more that you use them, making them a good preventative care item no matter your fitness level or preferred sport.

Compression: Not provided

Material: nylon and spandex

Length: Over-the-calf

Rave Review: “Started wearing these socks several years back, when a pair came with my Nike Tiempos and never looked for a different sock. Great quality, longevity, and fit. Great product!”

Pros:

  • mold to your legs

  • available in lots of colors

Cons:

  • on the pricier side for one pair of socks

5. Best Compression Socks For Women

“I'm an avid fan of Swiftwick socks, particularly the Flite XT and Aspire line. They are at the perfect length and I'm always blister free,” says Snell. So, yeah—you're not gonna find other socks as good as these that'll fit right at your ankle and have a stitched Y shape at the heel to support your feet. Plus, they’re super breathable and, yes—they also have mesh bottoms for water release.

Compression: Firmest of the brand

Material: 67% nylon, 28% olefin, 5% spandex

Length: Ankle length

Rave Review: “Got these for running. I love the amount of compression they have. Fairly firm but very comfortable to wear all day. I like how they are lightweight and fairly thin but durable. I wear them for running, biking, as well as at work.”

Pros:

  • mesh bottoms make them moisture-wicking

  • good for people prone to blisters

Cons:

  • may shrink with machine wash if you don't follow wash directions carefully

6. Best Compression Socks For Cold-Weather Workouts

These socks are thick and heavyweight, so you’ll really feel the compression on your tendons, but they'll also keep you warm when temps dip. They come up to your mid-calf to keep the cold out and are made with wool (which is naturally sweat-wicking, yet insulating).

Compression: Not provided

Material: 50% acrylic, 30% nylon, 17% wool/ 2% other fibers, 1% spandex

Length: Calf length

Rave Review: “I always have cold feet and fingers and so I was determined to find a solution. My husband is from Canada and always wears the right things when we travel to the snow...I do not and I freeze every time. I looked for reviews and found these. I also bought another pair of super thick socks but these were PERFECT! I love their height and weight and they kept my feet warm and comfy throughout all of our sledding, walking, snowmobiling, and fun!”

Pros:

  • thick, so they keep your feet warm

  • sweat-wicking

Cons:

  • not the best for warm weather

7. Best Budget Compression Socks

If you want to enjoy the benefits of compression socks without emptying your wallet, you’ll love this simple beige option with over 19,000 positive reviews on Amazon. You’ll get three pairs of socks for less than *10 dollars*, and because of the simple coloring you can wear them just about anywhere.

Compression: 15 - 20 mmHg

Material: 85% nylon, 15% spandex

Length: Knee-high

Rave Review: “These are my first pair(s) of compression stockings. I like how they came in a three-pack and at a great price. They are easy to put on, not too tight, and nice material. At only 27 years old, I noticed some spider veins popping up. I am a nurse and on my feet 12+ hours during a shift. I need to start taking care of my feet/legs and this is the first step! About to work out with them on.”

Pros:

  • very affordable

  • available in many colors and designs

Cons:

  • not the best for sweaty feet as customers say they're not the most breathablek

8. Best Compression Socks For Travel

“I also use Comrad socks,” Gentry says. “They’re not so tight, but great for when you’re still hot from a workout or in a tight space on a plane.” And, these are a little wider at the calves, so you won’t get annoyed adjusting them in tight spaces or tucking in pants.

Compression: Not provided

Material: Nylon and terry cloth

Length: Knee-high

Rave Review: “Bought these for a cross country plane trip and they were great! Arrived after 7 hours of travel and my feet and ankles weren't swollen."

Pros:

  • great for travel

  • good for people with wide calves

Cons:

  • customers say they take a little more effort to throw on and remove

9. Best Compression Socks Design

I mean, could these compression socks look more fun? With a bunch of different patterns, they will satisfy both your functional and creative sides. In each pack, you’ll get different patterns and colors, and each pair provides fast-acting compression relief for all your aches and pains.

Compression: 15 - 20 mmHg

Material: 100% nylon

Length: Knee-high

Rave Review: “These compression socks are the best! I have had some in the past, but they were hard to get on and quite ugly. These are so easy to get on and are so cute! I got the seven pack and there are six different designs.”

Pros:

  • available in lots of fun patterns

  • breathable

Cons:

  • designs are embroidered, so they might leave a temporary imprint on skin

10. Most Comfortable Compression Socks

Yes, these compression socks are expensive—but it’s for a good reason! Not only are they made of high-quality, soft materials, but they also help those in need. For each pair of Bombas socks purchased, the company gives a pair to someone without the means to buy their own.

Compression: 15 - 20 mmHg

Material: 64% cotton, 17% polyester, 13% nylon, 6% spandex

Length: Knee-high

Rave Review: “They make my legs feel better and these are very comfortable and don't squish my toes as other brands do. I would recommend these to anyone who needs a change. I will buy these again.”

Pros:

  • one pair of socks donated for every pair bought

  • stylish

Cons:

  • on the pricier side


How do compression socks work?

You've probably felt the relief of a snug-fitting sock before, but you don't know how the magic works. So, here's how. Compression socks are designed to gently squeeze your ankles and calves to help stimulate better blood circulation, says Dr. Patrick McEneaney, MD, owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialist.

"More blood circulation means ailments can heal faster and more efficiently. These socks increase the pressure in your leg's tissue to minimize and prevent swelling." The pressure can also help prevent damage to the vein walls and valves, minimize inflammation, and prevent blood clots, he adds.

What should I look for in compression socks?

When it comes to buying compressions socks, you should aim for ones that are slightly snug, but not so tight that they’d cut off your circulation, explains Latoya Shauntay Snell, HOKA One One athlete, ultrarunner, and Runner’s Alliance ambassador.

Another thing to note is the look of the socks and where they deliver pressure, too. “Great compression socks are segmented into small areas of the foot, as well as looser areas like around the toes and heels,” Gentry notes. “Good socks shouldn’t leave your lower legs or feet freezing cold if you leave them on too long, either.” (You want 'em to slow the blood flow, not cut it off entirely, obvs.)

When shopping for compression socks, McEneaney recommends buying just one pair at first. "Don't buy up six pairs and then find out later that they don't fit right, or they're too big and they slide down and then they don’t want to wear any brand or style. That’s not helpful, so it’s important to get the right size at the beginning." One you find something comfy, go ahead and stock up.

Another thing to keep in mind is that normal medical grade compression socks are 20 to 30 mmHg, and that much compression can sometimes feel uncomfortable for people at first, says McEneaney. "Unless someone has grossly swollen calves, I usually start people at like 10 to 15 millimeters mmHg; those are half strength." If you start there and find the compression doesn't feel strong enough, you can always bump up to something stronger.

Is it okay to wear them everyday?

"Generally, compression socks are fine to wear all day when you follow your doctor's advice," says McEneaney. If you're having leg, ankle, or foot issues, you should speak to a doctor to see if compression socks are in fact the solution, since there are different kinds of socks to used different kinds of ailments. It's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, explains McEneaney.

You should also always be aware that your compression socks are properly fitted since they come in various sizes. "If they're either too tight or too loose, they won't do their job or actually make the ailment worse by cutting off blood flow," says McEneaney. If they are too tight, they can also cause bruising, lesions on the skin and aggravate sensitive skin, especially if you're wearing them for too long.

How long should I wear them for?

Because this differs from person to person, you should speak to your doctor to see what they're recommendation is for how long you should wear your compression socks.

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