How Do Compression Socks Work?

Smiling senior man with crossed legs sitting on couch
Compression socks don’t make headlines at fashion week festivities. Models aren’t rocking them on the runways, and celebrities aren’t turning heads by pairing them with plunging necks at premieres. Despite the lack of attention, this hardworking hosiery is still worn by millions of Americans. After all, it might not exactly be glamorous, but it does have a reputation for being potentially life-saving. How do compression socks work? Exploring that topic makes it easier to appreciate the appeal of this footwear.

How Do Compression Socks Work?

What’s in a name? When you’re talking about compression socks, the name contains a major clue. They are socks that apply pressure to your legs by compressing or squeezing them. Even before you get to appearances, you have a number of style choices to contend with. Options include open-toe or closed-toe styles. Possible lengths include ankle, calf, thigh, and waist. The level of compression, which is measured in mmHg, also varies. In addition, there are also specific types:

  • Graduated compression stockings: These are medical-grade products. When prescribed by your doctor, they may be covered by insurance. The pressure is greatest at the ankle and gradually decreases as the sock rises up the leg. They are designed for ambulatory patients who are able to move around.
  • Anti-embolism stockings: These products are designed for patients with little or no mobility. They also offer graduated compression.
  • Nonmedical support stockings: An over-the-counter version, these products normally provide less compression.

How Do Compression Socks Help?

How do compression socks work? They help by increasing the pressure in the veins in the feet in legs. As Healthline explains, this provides a few major advantages. For starters, it helps blood flow back up towards the heart. It also decreases the diameter of major veins in the legs and feet. This can prevent situations where blood that should be returning to the heart goes off course and ends up pooling in the legs or feet. This can help fend off a number of potentially serious health worries.

Why Do People Wear Compression Socks?

People wear compression socks for a variety of reasons. Some are following their doctor’s orders. Doctors often prescribe compression socks when patients have been restricted to bed due to illness or surgery in hopes of preventing blood clots as a result of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. However, many people are perfectly happy to don compression socks without a medical professional’s instruction. For example, some recognize that being immobile for hours can raise the odds of a DVT, so when they’re traveling, they wear compression socks to reduce their risk. Others struggle with leg pain or varicose veins and turn to compression socks for relief. Some are people who spend long hours on their feet and find that the extra support from compression socks helps.

What Are the Benefits of Compression Socks?

As MedlinePlus makes clear, compression socks offer a number of benefits. Wearing compression socks helps with all of the following:

  • Prevent potentially deadly complications like blood clots
  • Reduce pain and swelling in the legs
  • Support vein health
  • Boost circulation in the legs

Are There Any Drawbacks to Wearing Compression Socks?

Compression socks offer clear benefits, and they are generally considered safe for anyone who wants to wear them. What should you watch out for if you decide to give them a try? Check your skin for signs of unusual irritation, chafing, or redness. It could indicate that you’ve selected the wrong size of compression socks. Or, you may not be putting the socks on properly or may be allergic to the material that they’re made from. Alternately, you may have an infection that is unrelated to the compression socks but still needs to be addressed.


Discovering how compression socks work can be the beginning of a fascinating journey. If you’re interested in giving this type of hosiery a try, compression socks are available in medical supply stores and online outlets. While traditional solids may dominate the market, a surprising array of patterns and fashionable colors have found their way onto the shelves.

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