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How Do I Choose the Best Compression Socks?

Compression socks vary depending on how much circulation compensation is needed.
People with varicose veins may wear compression stockings for comfort and to improve circulation.
Compression socks may be used to relieve discomfort associated with edema.
A runner wearing compression socks.
Medical compression socks may be worn after surgery.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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Compression socks are a type of hosiery item that helps to compensate for inadequate blood circulation in the feet and lower legs. Socks of this type may be worn after surgery or in order to provide some relief from a permanent health issue that has damaged the circulatory system. Choosing the best socks for your needs involves knowing what degree of compression is required to properly compensate for the lack or proper circulation.

There are five commonly used classes or groups of compression socks you can consider. Each class focuses on the degree of compression needed and may be helpful in different situations.

Socks that are formulated for use when light compression is required work very well when the legs are tired because of temporary circumstances, such as pregnancy. These socks can provide relief when the individual must stand or sit in the same position for long periods of time, and they can also help correct any mild swelling that may be present in the legs.

Compression socks in the moderate class or group are intended for use when the circulation is more seriously slowed. For example, if swelling — or edema — in the legs and feet are accompanied by pain and fatigue, socks of this type often prove helpful. They can also help when varicose veins begin to appear on the legs during pregnancy.

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A firm sock is sometimes necessary when the symptoms are not alleviated by products in the lighter classes. They may also be worn as part of the ongoing treatment for a primary venous ulcer or to help deal with orthostatic or postural hypotension.

Extra firm compression socks are used to address severe cases of edema and varicosities or when the individual is diagnosed with a form of chronic venous disease, normally grades II and III. Should other health factors, such as severe post thrombotic syndrome or lymphedema after decongestant therapy, be present, extra firm socks can often provide the highest degree of relief.

Products in the heavy classes are necessary in cases where there are serious circulation problems in the feet and legs. Most of the health conditions that would merit socks of this type are also associated with the extra firm socks, but the heavy variety are used when the patient does not seem to be getting the amount of circulation that a medical professional thinks is necessary.

When choosing the right compression socks, it is important to speak with a medical professional about all the factors that are inhibiting proper circulation in the legs and feet. Knowing exactly what health issues are causing the problem will make it easier to settle on the proper class socks and get the maximum amount of relief possible.

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anon303651
Post 4

What is the best sock for long flights of 20 hours-plus?

musicshaman
Post 3

I really like using compression socks for running. A lot of professional runners use compression socks, especially for a long run, since they have been shown to help your muscles get a better oxygen flow, and can also help reduce lactate (that stuff that makes your muscles sore) in your muscles.

Even if you don't wear them while you're running, many doctors say that wearing them after a tough run can speed up your muscle's recovery time, so that's a definite reason to invest in a pair (as if you need another one!)

I have to say, once I started wearing them, I definitely noticed less muscle fatigue -- which was good enough for me! But with all the science and physiology to back it up, I would never consider going back to running without compression socks.

galen84basc
Post 2

I used to get horrible edema and foot cramps when I was pregnant until some thoughtful soul gave me a pair of maternity compression socks.

Those things are fantastic! It took me a little bit of getting used to, since they can feel really, really tight if you're not used to them, but the wonders those things can do for your feet! I could go on for ages.

So if you get pregnant, be absolutely sure to get yourself a pair of maternity socks. Pregnancy has enough uncomfortable things that go along with it -- hello back aches and morning sickness! -- without worrying about your feet.

Believe me, you will definitely thank me when you get about seven months in.

pharmchick78
Post 1

It's often a good idea to keep a set of compression socks or stockings around for when you go on flights too.

Whenever you fly, you are at risk for blood clots and deep vein thrombosis because of compromised circulation.

What this translates to in everyday life is swollen feet and ankles, tired legs, and those awful long-haul flight cramps in your feet and legs.

Flight compression socks are a must for anybody who has had previous problems with circulation, and many doctors insist on their patients wearing them on long flight trips.

However, they can benefit really anybody. And although they do sell compression socks specifically for flights, a pair of athletic compression socks can often work just as well.

Of course, medical compression socks are great too -- they even make thigh-high versions that can really help your circulation.

But if you get stuck you can go with the athletic compression socks, as long as you don't have any underlying circulatory conditions.

I would highly recommend wearing compression socks to any long-haul flight travelers -- the risk of DVT is just too serious to consider going without.

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