What are compression socks? Types, Benefits, More

Enad, Wu and Mahlay say the first factor to consider when choosing compression garments is the intended use, which will determine the level of pressure. This is measured in mmHG, or millimeters of mercury.

“Lower levels of compression are adequate for running, low to medium levels for standing at work, and medium to high levels for preventing blood clots,” says Enad.

Mahlay offers the following guidelines:

  • 8 to 15 mmHg: Light compression, suitable for non-specific indications, such as tired legs.
  • 15 to 20 mmHG: Light compression, ideal for minor swelling, varicose veins, tired legs and travel.
  • 20 to 30 mmHG: Moderate pressure, generally used for moderate swelling and venous conditions, such as superficial venous clots, post-thrombotic syndrome or orthostatic hypotension. This level of compression can also help prevent venous ulcers. Clothing with 20 mmHg or more requires a doctor’s prescription.
  • 30 to 40 mmHg and more: High pressure, used for severe varicose veins, swelling, lymphedema, venous ulcers, orthostatic hypotension and venous insufficiency.

Mahlay also says to keep in mind that size is not the same as pressure – both are important.

“Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s sizing guide, which usually refers to measurements around the calves, as there may be subtle measurement differences in determining the correct size, and the wrong sized compression socks may be unnecessary or potentially dangerous if they are too tight,” says Enad. . Specifically, if they are too tight, it can cut off circulation at the knee crease on the back of the leg.

Enad says they should feel good but not tight. “You should still be able to bend your ankle or knee through a full range of motion while wearing them.”

Mahlay also suggests carefully considering the height of the sock. To allow full mobility and avoid a “tourniquet effect,” she says, knee-high socks should end an inch below the knee, not at the knee crease. The same goes for the toes. An open-toe could cut off circulation if your toes are particularly prone to swelling, she says, so opt for a closed-toe instead.

Wu and Mahlay suggest being mindful of fabrics as well. They recommend breathable, moisture-wicking, and seamless materials to prevent skin irritations and bacterial infections. And for people with reduced mobility, a zipper can make it easier to put on the garment.

Another good feature to look for is the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Acceptanceindicating that the garment has been reviewed and approved by APMA podiatrists.

As for particular brands, Wu recommends Physix Gear compression socks for athletics and travel. “They offer moderate compression, a sleek design, arch-to-calf compression, and breathable fabric,” she says.

Another favorite of Wu’s is the SB Sox Compression Socks. “These have premium compression to help with muscle recovery and lactic acid removal,” she says. “The toe area and heel are reinforced to provide exceptional support.”

Enad also recommends the ProCompression brand for athletes and marathon runners, due to its “firm elastic support and durability.”


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Richard V. Johnson