What Do Compression Socks Do? & More Compression FAQs

February 19, 2024 9:30 am Published by Leave your thoughts

We’re often asked about the benefits of compression socks: should you wear them on a run? What about while sitting for hours working at a desk? On a flight?

Truthfully, everyone can benefit from wearing pressured socks during certain situations. However, the type and pressure may depend on why you need them. Keep reading for the squeeze on what compression socks do and why they can keep your feet happy.

Compression Sock FAQ’s

What Are the Benefits of Compression Socks?

Perhaps the number one way compression socks benefit you is by stimulating blood flow upward. The added pressure of these form-fitting socks around your feet, ankles, and legs encourages blood in the veins of your legs to travel to your heart— reducing the likelihood of a blockage (blood clot). They can also help stabilize your ankle or aid in recovery from a foot injury

What Do Compression Socks Do?

Since compression socks are designed to apply pressure to your legs and feet for increased blood flow, both those who are inactive and very active can benefit from wearing compression socks— if they have the right pressure level. 

Generally, there are three levels of compression ratings: mild, medium, and high. They are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which categorizes the amount of pressure or firmness around your legs, ankles and feet. 

1. Less than 15 mmHg. This mild pressure is perfect for those on their feet for long periods a day. It’s enough support to combat muscle fatigue and swelling from extended vertical positioning.

2. 15 to 20 mmHg. This is the perfect amount of pressure for those worried about developing a blood clot while flying or those with minor swelling. It’s the medium compression level and can help to relieve varicose vein pain.

3. 20 mmHg to more than 40 mmHg. This is a medical grade level, usually recommended by a doctor to help with bad veins, severe swelling problems, or those forced on bed rest. 

Generally speaking, you want to look for compression socks that are tight but not uncomfortable. Most of our patients looking for extra support while running or traveling are good with one of the top two options.

When Do You Use Medical Compression Socks?


If you’re stuck in a confined space and unable to walk for many hours, compression socks can help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot. They’re becoming a more and more popular staple for flights. Even celebrities like Jessica Alba attest to wearing them while traveling.

Bed Rest

If you broke a bone in your foot or recently had surgery that prevents you from moving, compression socks can help to reduce dangerous stagnation within your blood. Elderly patients often benefit from pressured socks or stockings in particular, but really, anyone whose movement is limited can benefit from wearing a pair.

Swollen Feet or Legs

There are a number of reasons that you could experience swelling in your feet or legs, so be sure to seek a professional opinion before diagnosing the cause. However, those with poor return of fluid from their leg veins with conditions like Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) can benefit from compression socks.

Varicose Veins

Those with varicose veins have blood that collects in the small valves behind the veins instead of flowing to their heart. Protruding varicose veins can be quite painful, and compression socks can help stop the veins from worsening and encourage better upward movement.

Prolonged Activity

Those on their feet for hours upon hours at a time are great candidates for compression socks. Why? Marathon runners, waiting staff, pharmacists, and those who stand or move for extended periods of time can overburden their veins and muscles. Pressured stockings or socks can increase circulation and provide relief for tired muscles.

Medical Conditions

We have patients with previous conditions like Plantar Fasciitis who find relief wearing compression socks with padded heel, arch, or toe support. Those suffering from foot or ankle conditions may need different socks for honing in on problematic areas. 

Can You Sleep in Compression Socks?

There’s really no need to monitor how long you wear compression socks in the span of a day. You can wear them for a few hours or most of the day— just be sure to take them off before bed (unless advised to wear them overnight by a doctor).

Personalized Advice on Medical Compression Socks

We usually never advise self-diagnosing. While compression socks can be a tremendous aid to many, you should always talk to a professional before picking a style and tightness for your lifestyle.

Our podiatrists can recommend the best compression socks for you and your specific needs. Schedule an appointment with Foot & Ankle Group today.

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