The Right Way to Wear Compression Socks

Nurses wearing brightly colored medical compression socks

Compression socks seem so simple. They are literally socks. How can you mess up wearing a pair of those? It’s true that wearing medical compression socks is one of the easiest ways you can boost your circulation, but that doesn’t mean that you can just throw on any random pair and be fine. Below, we answer six of the most frequently asked questions about wearing compression socks, from who should wear them to how to choose the right level of compression.

Who should wear compression socks?

Medical compression socks can benefit many people, from older adults with poor circulation to performance athletes looking for muscle recovery. Anyone who spends most of their day standing, sitting or traveling should wear compression socks to combat the effects of their sedentary lifestyle. People who have venous insufficiencies (such as spider or varicose veins) can wear compression socks to help slow their progression of symptoms. Many pregnant women also find it helpful to wear compression pantyhose to reduce swelling and relieve pressure on their veins.

Woman gripping painful calf muscle

Is there anyone who should avoid compression socks?

Generally speaking, compression socks are safe to wear and pose little to no side effects. However, people with the following conditions should usually avoid wearing compression socks:

  • peripheral neuropathy or another condition that impacts skin sensation
  • history of a peripheral arterial bypass grafting
  • peripheral artery disease
  • skin infection
  • dermatitis with oozing or fragile skin
  • massive leg swelling
  • pulmonary edema due to congestive heart failure

What style should I choose?

What style of compression gear you wear depends partly on where your symptoms are manifesting. If your poor circulation and swelling is mostly confined to your feet, ankles and calves, then the classic knee-high medical compression socks will be a good choice. If you also want to promote circulation in your thighs, you can look into compression thigh high stockings or even pantyhose for fuller coverage. Compression socks come in many styles to suit every lifestyle–from dress socks and tights to athletic designs to fun patterns. If you don’t like your foot to be totally confined, there are open-toed socks available, as well as footless calf sleeves.

What level of compression do I need?

We created an entire guide where we go in-depth to the five levels of compression, but here’s a quick summary: Mild compression (8-15 mmHg) is the lowest level and only relieves minor symptoms, but are a great way to main already healthy legs. Medium (15-20 mmHg) is a good level for compression newbies to start and can be worn safely on a daily basis by most people. The remaining three levels—firm (20-30 mmHg), extra firm (30-40 mmHg) and RX (40-50 mmHg)—are designed to treat serious venous issues and should only be worn if prescribed by a doctor.

When should I wear compression socks, and for how long?

Your doctor may have specific instructions for how to wear the compression socks, so always check with them first. Some people only wear medical compression socks for certain activities, such as working out, while others wear them all day long (except for showering or bathing, of course). If you’re wearing the compression socks to combat swelling, it’s usually a good idea to put them on first thing in the morning right when you wake up, before the swelling has a chance to start.

Male runner wearing white compression socks

Should I wear compression socks to bed?

Most people should not wear compression socks at night when they sleep. Since you sleep horizontally, with your legs on the same level as your heart, gravity doesn’t pull on your blood the same way it does when you’re sitting or standing upright during the day. When you lie down for long periods of time, the pressure from the compression socks can actually interfere with your circulation negatively. Now, there are a few small groups of people who may be instructed to wear compression socks in bed—such as surgery patients who are on bed rest and can’t really move (and therefore have poor circulation as a result). But these people are the exception to the rule, and you should always check with your doctor before wearing compression socks in bed.

This FAQ will get you well on your way to choosing the perfect pair of medical compression socks for your needs. If you need more help beyond this guide, the allheart customer support team is always happy to assist you with your order.