Compression socks are useful for a number of conditions, including varicose veins and leg swelling from injuries or blood clots. But they also offer relief to anyone who might be on their feet a lot because they generally promote better blood flow.
While compression socks started out as medical devices you could only get by prescription, nowadays you can find them at your local pharmacy or online in a variety of styles, prints and colors.
By doing some research and speaking to Margot Savoy, MD, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we've found the best compression socks available right now.
Read on to find the pair that's right for you.
1. Best Overall: Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks
These compression socks are made in Italy, so it's no wonder they're expertly crafted. The thermal-regulating fabric is lightweight and will keep you moisture-free (no sweaty calves here), and the seamless toes help prevent blisters or chafing from footwear.
The graduated compression of these socks ensures they won't be too tight for comfort. "Compression should feel like pressure, but not pain," Dr. Savoy says.
These come in colors ranging from black to hot pink and adult sizes to fit just about every size foot.
Buy it: Zensah.com; Price: $50
2. Best on a Budget: SB SOX Compression Socks
These compression socks are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, so you can really play around with them. They're durable and lightweight, making them good quality for the money, and they come in a convenient pack of three.
The cushioned heel, toe support and breathable fabric make them comfortable to wear for longer periods, too.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $8.95 for a 3-pack
3. Best for Air Travel: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
Dr. Savoy recommends wearing knee-high compression socks if you're going to be on a plane for a few hours and you won't be able to get up and walk around.
These Physix Gear socks are very highly rated and stylish to boot. They have just enough compression to encourage blood flow, and they're made of a durable, soft, antibacterial material that makes them comfortable and hygiene-friendly for a long flight. Plus, reviewers note that these don't lose their compression after washing.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10.99
4. Best for All-Day Wear: NxTSTOP Ultra-Soft and McDavid Rebound Compression Socks
When it comes to a compression sock you're going to wear all day, comfort and style are typically top of mind.
That's why NxTSTOP's offering (pictured above) is our pick for best compression socks for women, and the McDavid Rebound socks get our nod for men. Both provide gentle compression that's ideal for all-day wear while being sleek enough to pair with your work wardrobe.
5. Best for Running: Paplus Ankle Compression Socks
If it's ankle support you're after during your runs, these Paplus socks deliver. Their circular pressure design is designed to keep your feet at the right angle to prevent injuries, and their moderate grade of compression is comfortable for exercise but still encourages better blood and oxygen flow.
These are low-cut and made of absorbent fabric, which helps keep feet cool and dry as you run. And they come in packs of two, four and six pairs, so you can use them for runs throughout the week without re-wearing them or doing a ton of laundry.
Check out LIVESTRONG.com's running shoe guide for more shopping ideas.
Buy It: Amazon.com; Price: $11.99–$19.99
6. Best for Post-Workout: EvoShield Recovery DNA Compression Tights
You might feel a little like you're in a Shakespearean play when you wear these compression stockings, but it's worth it: These tights are specifically designed to be worn after exercise, as the compression is strategically mapped to improve muscle recovery.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $112.55
What to Look for in Compression Socks
Here, Dr. Savoy breaks down what to keep in mind when buying compression stockings or socks:
Compression socks should fit snugly, but it's important that they're not too tight — you shouldn't feel any numbness or tingling when you wear them.
"If you are having pain, the socks may not be the right size or the amount of compression may be too high," Dr. Savoy says.
If you have overweight or have wide calves, she notes, you might need to be fitted for a special size.
Knee- and ankle-high socks are typically more comfortable to wear and easier to put on than thigh-high compression socks.
2. Compression Level
Compression socks you can buy without a prescription offer a moderate level of pressure, which works well for most people. But if you think you may need a higher level of compression based on your medical condition, Dr. Savoy suggests asking your doctor at your next visit.
"I often will Google the brand they are considering and take a look along with my patients in the office to see if what they are about to buy makes sense for their medical conditions," she says. "In some cases, we may decide to skip the cute prints and styles online and go for the prescription socks because they are covered by their insurance and offer a different level of compression than they could get over the counter."
Remember to give your legs a break! Dr. Savoy says you shouldn’t wear compression socks for more than 12 hours a day, and it’s best to take them off at night when you’re in bed. This is when your legs are least likely to swell, and it gives your legs a chance to breathe and prevents the likelihood of developing a skin infection.