If you travel on airplanes for hours at a time, you might benefit from compression socks. Even if you’re young and healthy, the positive impact on circulation can make a huge difference for discomfort while travelling on a long-haul flight and swelling in your feet and legs.

Benefits of compression socks

When travelling, compression socks can help avoid achy legs and blood clots. Plus, when your blood doesn’t flow properly, you risk developing varicose veins, DVT, and many other problems.

There are lots of things you can pack for maintain your health while travelling. If you’re new to using compression socks for travel, this guide will walk you through a list of the best compression socks for men and women on the market.

What do compression socks do?

First, let’s talk about the science of compression socks. Compression socks do exactly what they say, they apply slight pressure to your lower legs. This sends blood back up towards the heart and improves overall blood flow and circulation. This helps get a healthy amount of oxygen circulating in your whole body which helps everything from your mental clarity, to organ health, to preventing things like varicose veins.

how compression socks work chart

Who needs compression socks?

Practically, doctors will often suggest compression socks or compression stockings for athletes for faster recovery and preventing lactic acid build-up, pregnant women with swelling in the feet and legs, people with heart conditions, diabetes, or circulation issues, the elderly, and people who stand a long time as well as sit a long time. Hikers can also benefit from compression socks.

Don’t think any of this applies to you? If you take a flight longer than 3 hours, you might benefit from compression socks. Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis can actually be life-threatening, so better be safe than sorry. Plus, when choosing your travel day socks, why not pick the ones with an added health benefit?

How to pick the best compression socks for women

There are typically two types of compression socks: graduated and uniform. As it suggests, graduated means there is a tighter pressure around the ankle that eases up as the sock goes higher. These ones are particularly helpful for circulation. Uniform, on the other hand, are all one grade of compression and are used more for muscle support for athletes. When shopping for compression socks, you’ll notice a measurement in “mmHg,” which stands for millimetres of mercury. This is the standard way of measuring pressure and what you’ll want to look at first when dipping your toes into compression socks.

Light: 8-15 mmHg
Mild: 15-20 mmHg
Medium: 20-30mmHg
Firm: 30-40 mmHg

Light is perfect for every day if you’re on your feet a lot. If you have no other health conditions, I typically recommend mild to medium for travel. The firm ones are most often used for more specific medical needs.

When picking a size, go with your regular shoe size first. If those feel too tight around your calf, you can try a lighter compression grade or a different fabric.

Compression socks can come in a variety of fabrics from cotton and wool to synthetics like nylon. Light compression socks can be as thin as trouser socks and pretty simple in design. My favourite type is the merino wool socks that add extra warmth and comfort.

best compression socks to buy

How long can you safely wear compression socks?

If you’re in good health, you can wear them all day. It’s not recommended to wear them at night or when your legs are elevated. When I took care of my grandmother in her later years, she would have 2-3 pairs in rotation and I’d remove them at night, hand wash, let dry and put a fresh pair on in the morning.

One of the reasons I like merino wool compression socks is that they dry super fast and keep my feet from smelling too.

Best place to buy compression socks for travel

Alright, where to buy the best compression socks? Well, the great news is they are sold in tons of places. You probably have seen them around and not even noticed.

Local pharmacy

The first place is your local pharmacy. Since these are a common medical accessory, you’ll find them with things like knee and wrist braces, shoe insoles, and foot care.

Department or big box stores

Department stores will also carry these in their sock or pharmacy sections. Target has some, as does Walmart.

Speciality sock brands

The best ones I’ve found have been from specialty sock brands, notably Sockwell, Bombas, and Comrad.

Top Pick: Sockwell Compression Socks

Sockwell’s cutting-edge compression socks for ladies are consistently ranked among the finest. The graduated compression in four zones ensures that you get protection where you need it without feeling trapped in your toes. In addition, the Accu-Fit technology of Sockwell Compression Socks ensures that they maintain their shape even after being washed multiple times. While many compression socks enhance circulation, reduce swelling, and reduce fatigue, this product goes above and beyond by including practical features such as socks manufactured from a moisture-absorbing material with natural odour control.

Second pick: Comrad Compression Socks

These are my favourite travelling socks of all time. They’re composed of odour-fighting, moisture-wicking fabric, so you can take them off in the middle of a flight without bothering your neighbour. These, like most excellent compression socks, take a little elbow grease to get on—they’re designed to be tight—but after 30 minutes or so of watching your in-flight movie, you won’t even notice them around your legs. (They’re in the range of 15-25 mmHg.) 

Comrad Compression Socks also don’t bunch or slip, which is a little but important feature if you’ve ever spent too much time tugging your socks up under your pant legs. They’re just well-designed in general, aside from the health benefits. They come in a variety of neutral colour schemes and striped patterns, and they resemble regular dress socks in appearance.

Comrad – Get 25% off your first purchase

Special mention: Bombas

Newer to the game but gaining quickly in popularity, Bombas also has a philanthropic mission to give socks to the homeless across the United States. Their wide range of styles and fabrics means Bombas can be a one-stop shop for all sorts of socks for your whole family.

Bombas – Get 25% off your first purchase.

Nurses uniforms

Next, you can also get compression socks at places where nurses’ uniforms are sold, like Figs.

compression socks for nurses

Athletic brands and sporting goods store

You can get them from an athletic brand like Lululemon or Under Armour or from stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Top pick: Physix Gear Compression Socks

If you’re looking for the greatest compression socks for athletes, go no further than Physix. The athletic fit makes them great for travelling and hiking, long walks, and other trips. In addition, they have a trendy design and come in a variety of colours. The Physix Gear Compression Socks offer a 20-30 mmHg compression level, are double stitched, and are manufactured with high-quality materials to provide you with the best support and compression. 

These socks are designed with the most up-to-date arch-to-calf compression technology to improve circulation above other socks on the market. In addition, you’ll like how breathable the fabric is, no matter how hot it gets on the plane, because it’s made of washable lycra. So it’s no surprise that Physix is a great compression sock for travel because of everything they have to offer.

Maternity brands

Maternity brands like Hatch or Storq have great compression socks.

maternity compression socks

Maternity compression socks for pregnancy typically come in 2-3 sizes. They’re made of nylon and spandex and have a compression rating of 15-21 mmhg. These travel compression stockings have a gentle compression and are of a high medical grade, giving you support, relief, and aiding blood flow to mom and baby.

The material is breathable, anti-slip, and anti-bacterial, and it has an open toe area to prevent that annoying sweaty foot’ problem! These are definitely the greatest compression socks for ladies available.

Travel brands

Away and other similar brands like Vol Privé, as well as travel stores will carry them.

Let me know if you wear compression socks and what your favourite brand is in the comments below.

Happy travels xox

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