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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johns

Don't Buy Compression Socks Yet. Read This First


In the fashion and fitness world of today, the compression socks trend is catching on. It's not hard to see why, either. These well-designed and functional garments have been around for a while, but the ones you're getting today really aren't your mother's compression socks. In fact, they're a whole lot better-looking, and with even more functionality thanks to modern fabrics. So should you jump aboard the bandwagon? Well, let's get a few of the usual queries out of the way first, so you know a bit more about the trend.


1. When Should You Wear Compression Socks?

Generally, the answer to this is "whenever you want," although that's a bit simplistic. No, mainly, the idea is to wear them when you need their beneficial effects. Specifically, these are ideal for active sporting events that will work your legs, because the compression keeps the blood flow at an optimal rate. This also means they're suitable for long drives and long plane flights, or for jobs where you stand and walk a lot.

2. What are the Benefits of Compression Socks?

Compression socks provide just that -- compression. A tight, snug-fitting garment helps ensure proper blood flow in the veins in your limbs, which is especially useful and helpful for situations where the blood flow is compromised. These include long periods of seated or standing inactivity, which can make the blood pool or gather in the veins. Compression helps stave that off -- also making them ideal for those with varicose veins -- by making the blood flow more continuously and efficiently.

Studies have shown that athletes also feel like their recovery time is improved after a game if they were wearing compression socks during and after. While the actual efficacy of this is still being studied, that mental and emotional boost is indeed helpful nevertheless. As for clothing, compression socks can be quite warm and snug and can protect your legs from the elements.

3. Why Should you not wear compression socks at night?

While there are plenty of blood-flow benefits for compression socks, that doesn't necessarily mean sleeping in them is a great idea. They can end up cutting off circulation because of pressure at the calf and ankle areas; however, this isn't always the case.

Some people, especially those recovering from surgery, might need the pressure to help keep blood flow consistent in their condition, and as such their doctors might recommend, they wear these. Nevertheless, the lowest compression (less than 15mmhg) is usually recommended for them in such cases.

4. Should I wear compression socks when flying?

Absolutely, especially if you're one of the poor souls stuck in coach for long flights and suffering from terrible cramps afterward. It can be disconcerting to be crammed into a plane seat for a long-haul flight, arrive at your destination, and emerge with ankles twice the average size and terrible pain accompanying every step. This isn't really as much of a risk for shorter hop flights, but as travel time increases, so does the risk of blood pooling and clotting. This is why moderate-level compression socks, which help one avoid DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis by encouraging proper circulation, tend to be useful for frequent fliers of long trips.

Fun fact: DVT is also jokingly called "economy class syndrome," which tells you how common it can be.

5. Is it Ok to wear compression socks all day?

There's no single answer for every person or even every type of compression sock. Some compression socks, particularly those with fairly light or mild compression, can be worn all day. Indeed, that's what some people do -- especially pregnant women or retail workers who have to be standing all day. This generally goes for those with issues in the veins (which is why they're wearing the socks, to begin with) as well. As a matter of fact, for those wearing them as part of surgery recovery needs, compression socks might be needed for any extended periods of sitting or standing.

6. What are the best compression socks?

The real answer here is that there are different good ones for different needs. However, the first thing you need to determine is whether you need light, moderate, or heavy compression -- the rest of the considerations can then be selected to tailor the pair you get to your needs. Of late, compression socks that add Merino wool to their blend (the usual blend is spandex, raylon, and nylon) for increased coziness and comfort have also become popular.

BUT... The best compression socks are the ones with natural fiber and hypo-allergenic. Although there are sports compression socks and prescribed compression socks, cotton compression socks are best for everyday use.

7. Can wearing compression socks cause a blood clot?

Generally, no, and in fact, the usual reason people wear compression socks is to combat the onset of blood clots brought on by things like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Compression socks help wearers avoid blood pooling by increasing and encouraging proper circulation.

8. How do compression socks increase circulation?

Mainly, it's in the name -- it's the compression that the socks provide that helps the body's circulatory process move along as efficiently as possible. The tight, snug fit of compression socks is what keeps the veins continuously running the blood through the compressed limb. Why does the body need this? Well, first of all, valves in our veins ordinarily help keep the blood flowing in the right direction - from the heart to the body, to the muscles and so on, and back to the heart, without ever going backward.

This they do even against gravity. Over time, especially time that stresses the valves out with strenuous and demanding tasks like prolonged standing or sitting, the valves can weaken, causing what's called a "venous insufficiency" that lets the blood gather and pool. Compression essentially reverses the effects of this -- and while it won't cure current varicose or spider veins, it can prevent future ones.

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