A Guide To The Best Compression Socks For Seniors (2023)

Table of Contents

  • What Are Compression Socks?
  • Types of Compression Socks and Their Benefits
  • Features to Consider When Buying Compression Socks
  • How Much Do Compression Socks Cost?
  • How to Use Compression Stockings
  • How to Choose the Best Compression Socks for You

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Unlike standard socks, compression socks don’t just keep you comfortable—they can help preserve your health, too.

Compression stockings are snug legwear that can improve circulation and prevent fluid buildup in the legs. They can also help seniors stay active and prevent health problems, such as leg swelling and even blood clots.

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What Are Compression Socks?

Compression socks gently squeeze the leg, moving blood up the leg and preventing fluid retention that can cause swelling. Compression stockings can help prevent blood clots and are often prescribed for people with varicose veins, spider veins or those who just had surgery. They can also help with vascular conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis (characterized by a blood clot in the deep vein), post-thrombotic syndrome (a complication of deep vein thrombosis) and chronic venous insufficiency (when circulation of blood in the leg veins is impaired).

“Compression stockings are really important, especially for people with swelling in their legs,” says Jessica Kalender-Rich, M.D., the post-acute medical director for the continuum of care with the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas. “Chronic swelling in legs can lead to debility and decline in the ability to walk because the leg can get heavy. In addition, it can lead to wounds on the legs, which is then harder to heal because swelling is the enemy of healing.”

Shifting fluid around the body can be problematic for people with heart failure or liver disease. Additionally, compression generally isn’t a good idea for those with active infections, and people with peripheral arterial disease shouldn’t restrict blood flow with compression.

You don’t need a prescription to buy socks with relatively low levels of compression. Higher levels of compression, though, do require a prescription from your doctor, as certain contraindications may put you at risk. A prescription can help you find the right type of sock for your specific needs.

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Types of Compression Socks and Their Benefits

In general, compression stockings are made of elastic fabric. But different styles are designed to meet different needs.

“It’s a good idea to consult with your physician or advanced practice provider to make sure they agree with the kind of compression stocking you’re choosing,” says Dr. Kalender-Rich. “It’s good to know your goal.”

There are several kinds of compression stockings:

Graduated Compression Stockings

These stockings are tighter at the bottom (at the ankle) and help push fluid up the leg. If the goal is to get rid of swelling and prevent it from coming back, Dr. Kalender-Rich says graduated compression stockings are your best bet. You’ll take them off nightly before bed and put them on in the morning after bathing.

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TED Hose

Thromboembolism-deterrent (TED) hoses are often used by patients after they’ve undergone surgery, including heart surgery. They’re designed to push blood up the leg, toward the heart. The idea is to avoid blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. You generally take them off daily when you bathe, but talk to your doctor about whether or not you should wear them while you sleep.

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Non-Medical Support Hosiery

Tired, heavy and aching legs can often find relief from nonmedical support hose. These socks provide less compression than other options and the compression is consistent throughout the length of the sock. You can purchase non-medical support hosiery without a prescription. They don’t meet the medical and technical specifications of other compression hosiery, but might be beneficial for people who are pregnant, people who take long and frequent flights or people who are on their feet all day for work.

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Features to Consider When Buying Compression Socks

Talk to your doctor to see what specific elements you should look for in a compression sock so you are directed to the features best suited to your needs. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:


Tension in compression stockings is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). In general, pressure of less than 20 mmHg is considered low compression while 20 to 30 mmHg is medium compression. Pressure that exceeds 30 mmHg is deemed high compression. Some studies show low pressure is just as effective as medium pressure for general swelling[1]Lim CS, Davies AH. Graduated compression stockings. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2014;186(10);E391-E398. .

Low pressure can help mild swelling and aching legs or feet, while medium compression can treat varicose veins and sports injuries. Seniors often find compression in the 20 to 30 mmHg range to be helpful. High compression is used for conditions like severe edema, deep vein thrombosis, serious wounds and lymphedema, and anything over 30 mmHg typically requires a prescription, so talk to your doctor.


You can find compression stockings in knee-high, thigh-high and full-length styles. Most people find that knee-high socks are easier to put on. The length that works best for you will depend on your needs. In general, though, most common leg conditions can benefit from knee-high compression socks, while thigh-high compression socks are typically used to treat severe varicose veins and other conditions that extend above the knee.

Fit and Comfort

Compression socks should feel secure, but not too tight.

“You don’t want them to feel like they’re cutting into your leg,” says Dr. Kalender-Rich. “More than that, you don’t want any creases or pushing into the top of the leg. These can put you at risk for wounds.”

And remember—the best compression sock is the one you’ll wear.

“This is not a time to seek perfection if it means not doing anything,” says Dr. Kalender-Rich. “Sometimes, we have to choose the stocking that is perhaps less beneficial medically but will actually get worn.”

How Much Do Compression Socks Cost?

You can find compression stockings at several price points. Expect to spend at least $10 a pair. Higher-compression and more specialized stockings (such as ones that include unique grip tops or are made of fashionable fabric) can exceed $100. You can find compression socks at online retailers, pharmacies, medical supply stores and stores that focus on comfort footwear.

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Does Insurance Cover Compression Socks?

Generally, insurance will cover the cost of compression stockings if they’re part of a diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to check with your insurance provider on what your coverage includes. You might be able to use health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) funds to pay for prescription compression socks, so be sure to ask your provider.

How to Use Compression Stockings

Compression socks can be trickier to put on and require a little more TLC than a standard pair of socks.

Here are a few helpful hints from Vascular Cures, a non-profit organization that promotes resources for vascular disease:

  • Put on the socks first thing in the morning, when your leg is less swollen.
  • Pull the socks up your leg gently, smoothing the fabric as you go. Make sure the seams are straight and the heels are in the correct spot.
  • Use talcum powder on your legs to make the socks go on more smoothly. If you use lotion, make sure it’s dry before you put your stockings on.
  • Make sure the socks are smooth, especially at the ankle or behind the knee. Don’t fold the stockings down if they seem too long.

Tools like metal frames, called donners, and nonslip gloves can make it easier to put compression socks on and take them off.

You also need to take extra care whenever you aren’t wearing the socks. “Anytime the compression garment is changed, whether daily or in a doctor’s office every few days, it’s always important to do a skin check,” says Dr. Kalender-Rich. “You want to look for any wounds or rashes. We always want to be doing more good than harm.”

She also recommends having more than one pair of compression socks so you can wash one and wear one simultaneously. Hand washing and air drying help make the elastic last longer.

How to Choose the Best Compression Socks for You

You don’t need fancy compression stockings to reap the benefits. Low and medium-pressure socks are available without a prescription. You can find them online at retailers like Zappos and Bombas. Stores that specialize in comfort footwear are a good place to shop as well. However, you’ll likely need a prescription if you need stockings with compression of 30 mmHg or more.

“If the over-the-counter version is working to keep swelling away, then that’s fine,” says Dr. Kalender-Rich. “Frequently, people get to the point where that no longer works. Then, it’s critical to move to the next strength. Get your doctor involved to prevent long-term problems.”

Start with your primary care physician, but if they are uncomfortable prescribing compression garments, seek out a vein specialist or a vascular doctor.

Find Compression Socks for You

Specially designed to apply pressure to your lower legs, compression socks can improve blood flow and reduce swelling.

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How do I know which compression socks to buy? ›

Choose the correct compression level.
  • Low compression. These provide less than 20 mmHg. ...
  • Medium compression. These provide tightness between 20 and 30 mmHg. ...
  • Moderate to high compression. These provide between 30 and 40 mmHg. ...
  • Firm compression. This type gives between 40 and 50 mmHg.
Feb 21, 2023

Which is better 15 20 mmHg or 20 30 mmHg compression socks? ›

A good rule of thumb to follow is: 15-20 mmHg: Great for daily wear, travel, and sports. They help improve circulation without being too tight. 20-30 mmHg: Great for sports recovery, daily wear, medical recovery, and to manage mild symptoms of varicose and spider veins.

Should elderly wear compression socks? ›

Reduced Swelling in the Feet and Ankles

Sitting for long periods of time can often cause swelling in the feet and ankles. We recommend compression socks for the elderly in order to combat the swelling associated with decreased activity and venous insufficiency.

What does 20 30 mmHg compression socks mean? ›

Compression levels are indicated with a range of numbers like “20-30 mmHg”, which means that the amount of compression will not fall below 20 mmHg and not exceed 30 mmHg. The unit of measurement is called “millimeters of mercury” which is a measurement of pressure, also used in blood pressure.

What is the difference between 8-15 mmHg and 15-20 mmHg compression socks? ›

The higher the mmHg, the more pressure the socks will provide to you. The levels go from mild compression to more intense styles with a chart that works like this: Mild or Everyday: 8-15 mmHg. Medium or Sport: 15-20 mmHg.

How do I know if my compression socks are tight enough? ›

Most people generally find that compression socks should feel snug but not too tight. You should be able to slip a finger under the fabric at the widest part of your calf without much resistance. If you can't do this, the socks are probably too tight and could cut off your circulation.

How tight should 20-30 compression socks be? ›

They should not be too tight as to feel uncomfortable after a while, but not so loose that they feel like any other pair of socks.

Is 20-30 mmHg too much? ›

By “high-level compression,” we mean those that generally range from 20-30 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg; while these strengths are generally safe to wear, certain individuals may be at risk of harm due to contraindications, so the oversight of a doctor is always recommended.

Can you sleep in 15 20 mmHg compression socks? ›

There is no benefit to wearing compression stockings to bed — when the leg is flat in bed, gravity does not affect blood flow,” Kim said. “That being said, it doesn't hurt to wear them to bed if you please. Just keep in mind that wearing them in bed doesn't mean you don't have to wear them during the daytime.

How long should seniors wear compression socks? ›

Your GP will monitor your progress. You should have your legs measured again and your stockings replaced every 3 to 6 months.

Who Cannot wear compression socks? ›

If you have peripheral vascular disease affecting your lower extremities, you should not wear compression socks,” he said. “The pressure provided by compression socks may make ischemic disease worse.

Is there a downside to wearing compression socks? ›

As with any treatment option, there are some potential risks of wearing compression socks. Compression socks can cause: Discomfort: At higher pressures, compression socks can feel really tight and uncomfortable. Skin irritation or damage: Signs of irritation may include tingling, itching, redness, or bruising.

Do you need a prescription for 20 30 mmHg compression socks? ›

Medical Grade 20 mmHg to 30 mmHg and 30 mmHg to 40 mmHg

Compression stockings of 20 mmHg or higher need to be prescribed by a physician. They are used for the treatment of various medical conditions, and should be used under the supervision of a doctor. The prescription for them needs to be renewed on an annual basis.

What is 30-40 mmHg compression socks? ›

30-40 mmHg compression socks, also known as Class II compression, are used to treat a variety of moderate to severe medical conditions including edema, lymphedema, venous stasis ulcers, deep vein thrombosis and venous insufficiency.

What does 15 20 mean on compression socks? ›

Common levels for compression socks include; 8-15mmHg, 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg and 30-40 mmHg. Compression socks provide graduated compression so mmHg is listed as a range. The higher number in the range is the amount of pressure at the foot while the lower number is the amount at the top of the sock.

Should you wear compression socks if you have high blood pressure? ›

Compression stockings have also been reported efficacious for treating orthostatic hypotension 12, 13, 14or hypertension [15]. However, no systematic study has been conducted as to whether these stockings might influence blood pressure (BP) of normotensive subjects and if they might reduce orthostatic changes in BP.

Do light compression socks work? ›

Because compression socks look a lot like ordinary socks, people assume they don't work. This is far from the truth! Compression socks can significantly reduce the progression of some conditions by improving blood flow in the legs. The body's blood flows from the heart to the rest of the body and back again.

Why do my legs swell when I wear compression socks? ›

The most common side effect is that they can cause your feet and ankles to swell. This is because the compression stockings are putting pressure on your veins, which impedes the flow of blood. In some cases, compression stockings can also cause skin irritation.

Why do my legs hurt after wearing compression socks? ›

Compression socks can aggravate skin irritation and also cause itching. When compression socks are improperly fitted, redness and temporary dents in your skin may appear on your legs at the edge of the sock's fabric.

Is it better to size up or down in compression socks? ›

In the event that you still can't decide between sizes, opt for the smallest size that fits your measurements. After all, you're looking to receive all of the benefits of compression, so make sure that the sock fits snugly.

Is it normal for socks to leave indentations? ›

Sock marks on your legs are very common. Most socks contain elastic to keep them from slipping down. Pressure from the elastic leaves a mark. The marks may be more noticeable if the soft tissue in your legs is swollen with fluid.

Is there a difference between medical compression socks and regular compression socks? ›

The biggest difference between OTC and Medical Grade is the amount of pressure the garment provides. The amount of pressure aids in the preferred outcome of your compression garments. Compression garments are measured by pressure, in mmHg, which means millimeters of mercury (also used in blood pressure measurements).

What level of compression socks do I need for standing all day? ›

Consider graduated compression socks with light to medium pressure. The right compression socks for every day, non-medical needs should be 15-20 mmHg or 20-30 mmHg if you have a job that requires standing all day.

How long does it take for compression socks to work? ›

In general, you may begin to feel the benefits of compression stockings immediately after putting them on, such as reduced swelling and increased comfort. However, it may take several days or weeks of regular use before you see significant improvement in your symptoms.

Do footless compression socks work? ›

Footless compression sleeves do not offer the same ankle support as either closed- or open-toe options, so we do not recommend them. Both open- and closed-toe styles have benefits, so you'll have to consider your lifestyle and how you'll be wearing the socks or stockings as you make your decision.

What pressure should medical compression socks be? ›

Moderate compression = 30-40 mmHg: These stockings are typically used in people with more severe symptoms that are not controlled by stockings in the 20-30 mmHg range. Firm compression = 40-50 mmHg: These stockings are used in people with severe PTS or other vein problems, such as those with a history of venous ulcers.

Can compression socks help with neuropathy? ›

Compression socks improve nerve sensitivity if you suffer from nerve damage or neuropathy. Because compression socks help hinder excess swelling and inflammation, utilizing them can decrease swelling and, therefore, lessen the risk of infection.

How do you wash compression socks? ›

Wash your compression stockings separately or with garments of the same colour in the washing machine at a temperature of 30 or 40 degrees. Please wash them on a gentle wash cycle. Use a simple colour detergent without brighteners. Never use fabric softeners.

Can you walk around in compression socks? ›

Walking & Hiking Compression Socks

Compression socks help you to keep going for longer - and to be less tired when you get there. They're particularly good for walkers with varicose veins or other circulation issues and quality wicking materials means they'll keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.

Do compression socks restrict blood flow? ›

For people on their feet all day at work, compression socks can help reduce fatigue, pain or swelling by increasing blood and oxygen flow in the legs and feet.

What is an alternative to compression therapy? ›

Velcro wraps

An alternative option to compression bandages and hosiery kits is Velcro wrap garments. These are rigid in nature and use similar principles to inelastic compression bandaging in that they are high stiffness systems (low resting pressure and a high working pressure).

What happens if you wear the wrong compression socks? ›

While a lifesaver for many people, choosing compression stockings that don't fit properly, wearing or caring for them incorrectly can cause issues such as poor circulation, itchiness, skin irritations, redness, breaks in the skin, and necrosis of the skin.

Do compression socks prevent blood clots? ›

Compression socks may help. Whether you find yourself on a flight or a long car ride to visit family, compression garments for the legs can help prevent swelling, potential blood clots, and the general discomfort that comes from extended travel.

What does 15-20 mmHg compression socks mean? ›

Common levels for compression socks include; 8-15mmHg, 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg and 30-40 mmHg. Compression socks provide graduated compression so mmHg is listed as a range. The higher number in the range is the amount of pressure at the foot while the lower number is the amount at the top of the sock.

What is 15-20 mmHg compression socks? ›

The 15-20 mmHg support level offers mild graduated compression for mild ankle and leg swelling, mild discomfort, minor spider and varicose veins, and tired, achy legs. Commonly used for travel, mild edema, pregnancy, spider veins & mild varicose veins, 15-20 mmHg offers a great “starting point” for first time wearers.

What size compression stockings do I wear? ›

Use Our Compression Sock Size Chart to Find Your Size.
Wide Calf S/M5 - 83.5 - 6.5
M/L8.5 - 11.57 - 10
Wide Calf M/L8.5 - 11.57 - 10
L/XL12 - 1510.5 - 13.5
2 more rows
Apr 26, 2022

How do I know how many mmHg compression socks to get? ›

What level of compression socks do I need?
  1. Flying on an airplane - 8-15 mmHg.
  2. General everyday wear - 8-15 mmHg.
  3. Pregnancy or varicose veins - 15-20 mmHg.
  4. Standing long hours at work - 20-30 mmHg.
  5. Long endurance athletics - 20-30 mmHg.
  6. Doctor recommended or post-surgical - 30-40 mmHg.
Mar 22, 2021

How tight should 20 30 compression socks be? ›

They should not be too tight as to feel uncomfortable after a while, but not so loose that they feel like any other pair of socks.

What does 10 15 mmHg mean for compression socks? ›

Class 1: 10-15 mmHg (Very light compression) Class 2: 15-20 mmHg (Light compression) Class 3: 20-36 mmHg (Moderate compression) Class 4: 36+ mmHg (Strong compression)

What is 30 40 mmHg compression socks? ›

30-40 mmHg compression socks, also known as Class II compression, are used to treat a variety of moderate to severe medical conditions including edema, lymphedema, venous stasis ulcers, deep vein thrombosis and venous insufficiency.

Can compression socks be too tight? ›

It may happen that medical compression stockings are too tight on the thigh, slip or pinch, form wrinkles or cut into the hollow of the knee or the crook of the arm. It may be the wrong size or length.

When should you not wear compression stockings? ›

A compression garment should not be worn in the case of circulation disorders in leg arteries or for those with serious heart conditions. Caution is also recommended in the case of sensory impairments due to diabetes and neuropathy (nerve damage).

Should you size up or down in compression socks? ›

You could size up or down, depending how shoes normally fit you. Remember to select your sock based on your calf measurement, as well. In the event that you still can't decide between sizes, opt for the smallest size that fits your measurements.

What does 15 to 25 mmHg mean? ›

If you're talking about blood pressure, 15-25 mmHg would be a low measurement. 15-25 mmHG would be an extremely low measurement for atmospheric pressure (which is normally around 760 mmHg), and one that would put us all in considerable danger.

What are the side effects of compression stockings? ›

Compression socks can cause:
  • Discomfort: At higher pressures, compression socks can feel really tight and uncomfortable.
  • Skin irritation or damage: Signs of irritation may include tingling, itching, redness, or bruising.
  • Poor circulation: Ill-fitting compression socks can cause decreased blood flow.
Feb 28, 2022

How many hours a day should you wear compression stockings? ›

You should wear your compression stockings during the day and take them off before going to bed. Put them on again first thing in the morning. You should be given at least 2 stockings, or 2 pairs if you're wearing them on both legs. This means you can wear 1 stocking (or pair) while the other is being washed and dried.


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