Typically, doctors don’t prescribe you clothes. But a rare exception is made when it comes to compression socks—snug, stretchy socks that gently apply pressure to the feet and calves to improve blood circulation—that are often recommended by health professionals to people who have pain and discomfort in their legs while sitting or standing due to certain health conditions.
That said, compression stockings and socks can be worn by anyone, not just by those on doctor’s orders. Athletes wear them, people who take long flights wear them, and people who spend a lot of time on their feet (including doctors and nurses) wear them, too. Interested in adding yourself to that list? We tested a whole bunch of knee-high socks and found the best compression socks are Figs(available at Figs for $28.00). They are worthy of your sock drawer thanks to their even compression, comfortable material, and variety of colors and patterns. If our top pick isn't your cup of tea, don't worry, we've got plenty of other options.
These are the best compression socks we tested ranked, in order:
Vim & Vigr
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Figs is a direct-to-consumer company that sells gear targeted at medical professionals, including scrubs, lab coats, and compression socks. Based on this specificity, we’re not surprised that the brand’s compression socks are the best we tested. They are easy to pull on and have a grip that provides firm pressure at 20-30 mmHg (explanation coming), yet, barely left marks on the skin and felt as great in the evening as they did in the morning. They are made of thin but not flimsy nylon and lycra material that wicks sweat and keeps the feet at a nice temperature.
Also, Figs look great—you can imagine these socks poking out of a pair of boots just as well as you can picture them lurking under a pair of scrubs. They come in plain, striped, holiday, and Star Wars patterns—you know, just in case that’s something you’re interested in—and have quotes like “100% Awesome” or “Just Go For It” on the soles. This could be corny, but it works for these fun and functional socks.
Figs come in men’s and women’s sizes small to large and fit most.
I was already familiar with the Physix brand, having been gifted a pair to counter the side effects of long plane rides. To my surprise, they did not end up on top after the tests. That said, I think they’re pretty great, particularly for their lower-than-most price. The nylon and spandex fabric offers 20-30 mmHg of compression, on par with top pick Figs, which makes them feel nice and tight, but not restrictive. They also feel similar to sport socks, without any gaudy, garish design that can sometimes show up on socks aimed toward athletes (although they are available in a few different colors), so they could work for professional and athletic settings alike.
My main complaint, after comparing them to other brands, is that the actual foot part is a little loose, and the cuff up top is thicker and tighter than other parts of the sock. This prevents them from slipping down but also makes them feel just a little too constrictive around the upper part of the lower leg.
Before starting this piece, I reached out to someone I knew had firsthand (er, foot) experience with compression socks: One of my best friends from college, who is now a nurse practitioner and works 12-hour hospital shifts. Her contention: The Sockwell brand is the way to go. “They’re the only kind I buy,” she told me. “I’m sure there are others that are popular, but those are my favorites.”
They are really good. The merino wool, nylon, rayon, and spandex material offers lighter compression(15-20 mmHg) than the Figs, which means they feel more like an extra-clingy pair of regular socks than tight, medical-grade socks. Some testers were under enthused with their low-pressure powers, but if you want a lighter pair of compression socks, Sockwells are a great option. The lighter compression option is most popular, but you can also get the socks in 20-30 mmHg and a few different patterns and colors.
My name is Sara Hendricks, and I am a staff writer covering “emerging categories” at Reviewed. (What does this mean? No one is totally certain, but it involves writing about period underwear, indestructible tights, and Baby Yoda.) Even before diving into tests for this piece, I had long been a proud compression sock enthusiast—my mom once gave me my first pair of Physix for a flight to Paris, and I haven’t taken a long journey without my legs compressively ensconced since. I didn’t know much about the multitude of podiatric health claims made by health professionals (or the compression sock companies themselves), but I did know that my feet felt less puffy after that seven-hour flight than they had on long-haul flights I’d taken before.
I knew I loved compression socks in general—but was there one brand that could rise above the rest? With the help of Reviewed’s senior scientist Julia MacDougall, I embarked on some tests to find out.
There are important points of comparison that helped us reach our ultimate choice—namely, some are easier to put on than others, some look better than others, some feel better over longer periods, and some are cheaper, for stocking up. But the good news is, if you go for most of the pairs on this list, you should be generally satisfied.
For the tests, I wore each pair we ordered for a full day. I started each day by jumping rope for five minutes (using this jump rope, if you’re curious ) to gauge how they felt during physical activity, which is one use for compression socks. Then I went about my day as usual—I walked to work, sat in an office, and walked home—before taking them off and rating them based on their comfort, style, quality, smell retention, and my overall experience. Next, I washed and dried them, then tried them on again to see how and if the compression was affected by being laundered.
This left us with four top contenders: Figs, Sockwell, Pro Compression, and Smartwool. To settle on our top picks, I had people in the office test out each pair for a few hours, then fill out a survey where they answered similar questions.
What Do Compression Socks Do?
It’s easy to find claims of the benefits of compression socks—especially from the companies that manufacture them. But how true are these claims of increased blood flow, leg and foot comfort, and overall vascular health? To find out, I contacted an impartial expert: Dr. Miguel Cunha, a podiatrist and the founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City.
As it turns out, most of the blood-flow-boosting claims are true. “When worn correctly, compression socks are very beneficial in providing good circulation of the blood flow in the feet and legs,” Cunha says. “The consistent pressure along with the feet and legs [and in response to] movement promotes blood flow up from your ankles through the veins in your legs and back towards your heart.” This, he says, can improve circulation and reduce aches and pains caused by blood flow problems.
Who Should Wear Compression Socks?
According to Cunha, compression socks are great for people who have diagnosed circulation problems such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), varicose veins, blood clots, and diabetes, as well as post-operative patients, pregnant people, people who stand or sit for long periods of time, and athletes, especially those who run for prolonged periods of time. (Some studies show that compressive clothing can slightly improve athletic performance and recovery.) He prescribes compression socks to people with swelling in their lower extremities and associated pain or discomfort resulting from venous insufficiency, lymphatic damage, and/or injury.
Based on these criteria, compression socks may be worn by almost everyone. But to find the right pair, you need to find the proper amount of compression based on your needs.
How Tight Should Compression Socks Be?
Compression socks come in five levels or types of compression, ranging from under 15 to 50 mmHg, or millimeters of mercury, a unit of measurement used to gauge pressure (it’s the same unit that’s used for measuring blood pressure), ranked in classes from I to III. The higher the number, the greater the compression.
Cunha recommends 15-20 mmHg socks for someone who needs mild compression and relief from minor to moderate swelling, aching, and varicose veins, “especially during pregnancy or in people with foot and ankle swelling who travel by plane to help prevent deep vein thrombosis,” he says. Socks of 20-30 mmHg are the most frequently prescribed pressure by physicians, according to Cunha, and are used to provide relief from varicose veins, edema, deep vein thrombosis, and to help recover from vascular surgery. Socks with 30-40 mmHg of pressure are prescribed to provide relief from severe edema, varicose veins, DVTs, and venous stasis ulcers. “Socks of 40-50 mmHg have the highest level of compression available and should only be worn under medical supervision,” Cunha says. “This level is typically used to treat chronic venous insufficiency and DVTs.”
All the socks we tested are either 15-20 mmHg or 20-30 mmHg, according to their manufacturers. You can buy socks with higher compression rates from specialty retailers, but almost all socks that crop up in a casual online search for compression socks are in the 15 to 30 mmHg range.
Other Compression Socks We Tested
Smartwool PhD Pro Mountaineer Socks
The primary fiber in Smartwool’s 20-30 mmHg compression socks is merino wool, which makes them softer, thicker, and warmer than most other pairs of socks. All testers thought they had the right amount of compression, but some didn’t love the texture of the woolen fabric. Still, the inherent warmth may make these a good option for preventing swollen feet and ankles during cold-weather activities, like skiing, hiking, shoveling snow, or even just walking to work in a colder climate.
Our Smartwool socks got a little pilly after five consecutive wash and dryer cycles, but I don’t think this would have been the case had we air-dried them (in the name of expedient testing, I put them through several hot-setting drying sessions).
Vim & Vigr socks, made of nylon and spandex, feel more like a stocking than socks—they’re thin, stretchy, and don’t have a lot of extra padding. They also have only 15-20 mmHg level of compression, which meant I felt the squeeze, but it didn’t feel aggressive. The toe area sagged and slipped around a little throughout the day, especially when I was working out, possibly because of the stocking-like material.
If you’re OK with the thin material, they’re a good choice for plane rides and general comfort—but not for physical activity. Vim & Vigr socks are also available in cotton and nylon and several colors and patterns.
Once they’re on the feet, Pro Compression’s 20-30 mmHg socks feel really great, with a tight—yet not oppressive—grip that testers loved. “They brought my dead feet back to life,” one tester says. They are also, however, really hard to wrangle into. “Definitely the most difficult socks to put on out of all that I tested,” another tester says. “They were pretty easy to get off, but others were far easier.”
Also, at $50 a pair, they are the most expensive option we tried. They feel fantastic—seriously, once they’re on, I doubt anyone would regret their choice to buy them—but you can get a similar experience with less expensive socks that are also less difficult to pull on.
These socks have 20-30 mmHg of compression, but I thought they felt tighter than other socks with similar numbers. They’re also pretty thick, but somehow don’t offer a ton of support in the arches, so they took up a lot of room in shoes without a tangible benefit. Still, they had good things to offer—despite being tighter than other socks, they didn’t dig in as much. They also weren’t easy to put on, but they were easier than some other pairs.
Charmking socks are the cheapest option we tested —a pack of eight goes for about $30— and it shows. They’re made of a thin material with a white ribbed fabric that showed up beneath the sock’s patterns.
They still work pretty well, though. They have 15-20 mmHg of compression, come in a ton of different colors and patterns, and I thought they felt nice, both during my workout and throughout the day. I don’t feel great about their ability to maintain compression after several washes, because they seemed to get thinner and looser after each of our five launderings. But at their price, and the quantity in which you receive them, wearing out faster might not be as much of an issue. On the flipside: You may not want several pairs of compression socks, and with the Charmking socks, which come in packs of three or eight, that’s the only option.
2XU’s nylon and elastane socks are tight—the brand doesn’t give a pressure measurement, but I’d guess they’re in the 20-30 mmHg range—but still pretty comfy, and hold up well to exercise. They don’t look great to me—similar to socks you’d wear over shin guards, which is weird if they peek out over a pair of boots. And, at $49 a pair, they are much more expensive than other socks that reside in the same looks and feel range.
2XU socks come in sizes small to XL for men and women and fit most.
Tommie Copper Core Everyday Over the Calf Compression Sock
Tommie Copper socks are made of a soft, luxurious-feeling fabric that makes them easy to slide on and extremely comfortable—for a regular pair of socks. Though they are described as compression socks, Tommie Copper doesn’t list a mmHg measurement on its website, and when I reached out to them, they told me this: “While our products do offer ‘comfortable compression,’ they are not medical compression and are not assigned a ‘medical grade.’”
Which makes sense: My experience with them was fine, but compared to other compression socks, the Tommie Copper ones offer little noticeable compression. The socks also hit at a weird part of my leg—mid-calf, rather than below the knee, where the brand says they are supposed to reach—so they slipped down the leg during the day, and, if they had offered much compression, probably would have been pretty uncomfortable.
I became aware of Comrad compression socks through Karlie Kloss’ Instagram, when the model/TV host/coding entrepreneur posted a photo of her Comrad sock-covered feet hanging out of a window that overlooked the New York City skyline. Effectively influenced, I put in a rush order for some Comrad socks to test out.
Unfortunately, Karlie led me (somewhat) astray. The nylon and spandex socks look cool—they come in a wide array of colors and patterns, like stripes and ombre—and hit at a nice spot right below the knee. But they’re also hard to pull on and felt much tighter than other socks I tried, despite having a light 15-25 mmHg measurement.
When you first take the CEP socks out of their package, they look alarmingly tiny—like, socks made for a small child or doll. They then stretch to fit the feet, but it takes some effort to yank them up over the ankles. They’re also really tight (rated at 20-30 mmHg and made of polyamide and spandex), which I found uncomfortable after a few hours. They’re designed for wear during running, so they’re probably OK to wear for periods of intense physical activity, if that’s what you’re looking for. But for all-day wear, there are better options out there.
CEP socks come in three sizes for men and women that fit most.
Despite their lighter 15-20 mmHg compression, the Zensah polyamide and elastane socks are difficult to pull on and off, especially after being washed. I felt fine when I wore them, but when I pulled them off, I had large red welts on my calves. I experienced some kind of skin depression with all the socks I tried, but this was the most extreme—so, like the CEP socks, they could be fine for exercise (which is how they are marketed), but aren’t a great bet for all-day wear.
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