Best compression socks

Footwear

There is evidence of compression therapy being used by humans for various medical purposes as far back as the Neolithic period.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which compression socks are best?

If you travel often or sit for extended periods of time, you may have noticed some swelling in your lower extremities after long periods of inactivity. Compression socks are designed to address this issue, providing gentle pressure to make it easier for your body to re-circulate your blood from your lower legs up to your heart. 

Compression socks are also often used by athletes to improve their performance. Pairs intended for this use, such as MudGear Premium socks, tend to be more durable because they are designed to withstand excessive wear and tear. 

What to know before you buy compression socks

How compression socks work

Compression socks help improve blood flow by providing gentle pressure to the legs. This gives the veins a boost in moving blood back to your heart, where it can be enriched with oxygen and re-circulated. This pressure also helps prevent fluid or blood from pooling in the lower extremities, which helps you avoid swelling and forming blood clots.

Compression level

Compression socks are categorized by their compression level. Socks with compression levels between 8-15 mmHg are considered mild. These are used for mitigating mild discomfort and fatigue, or helping to prevent varicose veins. Moderate compression is between 15-20 mmHg, and firm compression is between 30-40 mmHg. These levels of sock are best for boosting circulation and preventing blood clots. 

Anything above 30 mmHg is considered firm compression and is best utilized under the guidance of a medical professional. These are used for managing a range of venous disorders. 

Types of compression socks

Along with their compression level, compression socks can also be categorized by how they provide compression. Graduated compression socks are the most common and used for prevention and treatment of medical conditions. These provide the most compression at the ankles and gradually decrease in pressure towards the top.

Anti-embolism socks are intended for non-mobile individuals, such as people recovering from a surgery, and provide a consistent level of compression to assist in healthy blood flow. They generally have a lower level of compression than graduated compression socks. 

What to look for in quality compression socks

Materials

For compression socks, nylon, cotton and wool are commonly blended with stretchy materials like spandex and lycra. This range of materials and different ratios of them result in socks that can feel notably different from one another, with varying levels of breathability, durability and softness. Some also have copper or silver nanoparticles incorporated into the material for antimicrobial purposes.

Length

While you may be most familiar with calf-length compression socks, they are also available in ankle-, thigh- and waist-length options. 

Size

Compression socks come in sizes ranging from XS to XXL. When choosing a size, it is important to take into account both the size of your feet and the circumference of your calves and/or thighs and waist to achieve the perfect fit. 

Color

Just like regular athletic socks, compression socks are available in a variety of colors and patterns. Whether you prefer plain, solid-colored socks or ones with vibrant, eye-catching designs, you can find a pair that matches your style.

How much you can expect to spend on compression socks

Mild, moderate and firm compression socks cost anywhere from $10-$50. If you need a pair with prescription-level compression, you may spend up to $100.

Compression socks FAQ

How long should I wear compression socks?

A. How long you should wear your compression socks depends on the reason you are using them and the level of compression. Socks with light to medium compression used as a preventative measure when working or traveling can be worn as long as they stay comfortable. If you are wearing a pair with high compression for specific medical reasons, it is best to speak with your doctor.

Do I need a prescription for compression socks?

A. You can buy most pairs of compression socks without the need for a prescription. However, if you need something with a very high level of compression, or if you want your insurance to reimburse you for the cost, you may need to visit a doctor to obtain a prescription.

What are the best compression socks to buy?

Top compression socks

MudGear Premium Compression Socks

MudGear Premium Compression Socks

What you need to know: Offering the right balance of performance and style, these compression socks will appeal to many users. 

What you’ll love: Made from a combination of nylon, polyester and spandex, their fabric is durable yet comfortable. 

What you should consider: They tend to get too hot in warm weather.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top compression socks for the money

Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks

Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks

What you need to know: With durable double stitching and a breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, these are ideal for anyone who needs to wear compression socks all day or during exercise.

What you’ll love: Their high level of compression makes them very effective for reducing swelling. They also accommodate users with thick calves well without feeling uncomfortably tight. 

What you should consider: They have to be hand washed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Newzill Compression Socks

Newzill Compression Socks

What you need to know: Available in options with polka dots, hearts and rainbows, these are some of the most stylish compression socks around.

What you’ll love: They feature a padded heel and reinforced toe for comfort and durability. The non-slip cuff keeps them reliably in place.

What you should consider: The sizing runs small.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.