Yes, you should be wearing compression socks when you travel. These are the most stylish and comfortable pairs.
If you’ve ever struggled with swollen feet during a long flight or car ride—or worse, suffered deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—you know wearing compression socks is a must when traveling.
After long periods of sitting still, like on a plane or in a car, DVT can occur when a blood clot forms in “one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs,” according to the Mayo Clinic. If one of these blood clots breaks loose and travels through your bloodstream to your lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be life threatening.
It’s important to get up and move around during a flight or make frequent pit stops on road trips, but wearing compression socks while traveling is beneficial for everyone because they can improve circulation and prevent swelling in your feet and legs.
As you get older, your doctor may recommend you wear compression socks after surgery or before you fly. However, people of any age and fitness levels can benefit from them while traveling.
How do compression socks work?
Compression socks typically look like regular knee-high socks but have various compression levels built in from the toe to just under the knee that gently squeeze your ankles and calves to keep blood flowing toward your upper leg.
What should you look for in a compression sock?
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You’ll first want to look for the level of compression—or mmHg—they provide. The higher the number, the more pressure you’ll feel on your legs. If you go too tight, it can be a struggle to get them on and off, plus they can pinch after wearing them for just a few hours causing the dreaded “leg sausage” sensation.
Mild levels of compression—between 8–15 mmHg and 15–20 mmHg—will provide light amounts of pressure to your leg and are great for long travel days. Higher levels of compression, like 20–30 mmHg to 30–40 mmHg, are generally the levels doctors will prescribe. (If your doctor prescribes them, be sure to get the compression level he or she recommends.)
After compression levels, you should also look for what kind of material the socks are made with (cotton and bamboo tend to be softer than cheap nylon versions) and also fun colors, if you don’t want to look like you’re wearing boring medical socks. Here are a few of our favorite compression socks that outpace other brands in sheer comfort and style.
Ostrichpillow Bamboo Compression Socks
- Preorder Now: $29, ostrichpillow.com
- MmHg level: 8–15 mmHg
- Materials: 50 percent bamboo, 25 percent recycled polyester, 10 percent recycled nylon, 15 percent spandex
Ostrichpillow is known for its ultra-comfy travel pillows, but its first pairs of compression socks for travelers are currently available for preorder and are expected to ship in mid-November. Made from an ecofiber blend of soft bamboo and recycled polyester and nylon, these unisex socks come in two sizes and colors.
The S–M is EU size 36–41 (approximately suited for U.S. women’s sizes 5–9), while the L–XL is best for EU size 41–46 (approximately U.S. men’s 9–14). Both sizes are available in two colors—a mismatched blue and yellow combo and a red and muted green combo.
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In addition to being sustainable, the bamboo material these socks are made with have antimicrobial properties that help ward off bad smells. Other thoughtful details include cushioned soles for comfort, plus reinforced heels and toes for durability.
Bombas Compression Socks
- Buy Now: Women’s Compression Socks, $24, bombas.com; Men’s Compression Socks, $24, bombas.com
- MmHg level: 15–20 mmHg
- Materials: 64 percent cotton, 17 percent polyester, 13 percent nylon, 6 percent spandex
In addition to mild 15–20 mmHg compression levels, Bombas makes its compression socks with a special honeycomb knit arch support system (great for people with high arches), as well as a seamless toe, a Y-stitched heel, and above-the-heel cushioning that extends to the toe. All of these small details make them some of the most comfortable compression socks on the market.
Both the men’s and women’s socks come in three different sizes. A women’s small fits U.S. shoe size 4–7.5, medium covers 8–10.5, and large fits size 11–13. The men’s medium fits U.S. shoe size 6–9, large fits 9.5–13, and extra large fits 13.5–16. Both men’s and women’s socks come in eight different colors, including basic black, white, and tan, as well as brighter options like red, “Wine,” “Carnation,” and “Blackberry.”
As with all other Bombas sock purchases, for every pair of socks purchased it will donate another pair to a homeless shelter or other community organization.
Comrad Knee-High Compression Socks
- Buy Now: $29, comradsocks.com
- MmHg level: 15–25 mmHg
- Materials: 91 percent nylon, 9 percent spandex
If you like fun colors and patterns, look to L.A.-based Comrad for your compression sock needs. Its knee-high compression socks come in seemingly endless colorways and patterns: You can shop socks in basic black and white, bright purple amethyst, cheerful bubblegum pink with electric blue stripes, or refined navy and red color blocking, just to name a few options.
Comrad socks come in unisex sizing. Small fits U.S. women’s size 4–6, medium is for women’s 6–10 (men’s 4-9), large is for men’s 9–12 (women’s 10+), and extra large is for men’s 12–15. Comrad socks also have extended calf sizes (both medium wide and large wide provide an additional two inches).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Comrad is also donating a pair of socks to local hospitals for every purchase because compression socks can also prevent leg fatigue and blood clots in hospital workers who stand for hours on end during long shifts. So far, it has donated $300,000 worth of socks to 100 hospitals.
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