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The Ultimate Guide to Compression Socks 2023

What are compression socks?

At Sockwell, we like to say compression socks are the best thing to happen to your feet and legs. We may be a little biased, but we have a few facts to back up our claim. First of all, in the medical field, compression socks have a great reputation because of their many benefits for both patients and the hardworking medical professionals who are on their feet all day.

what are graduated compression socks and how do compression socks work

When you’re wearing a Sockwell compression sock, you’ll notice the sock is a bit tighter around the foot and ankle, and then relaxes slightly up through the calf of the sock. This is an intentional fit. This lessening of compression up the leg is called graduated compression, and it gently massages your muscles and helps to keep the blood flowing through your legs.

Certain activities (like prolonged sitting, being on your feet all day, or sports and other strenuous physical activity) can disrupt the normal blood flow through your legs, which can result in discomfort, swelling, and fatigue in your legs and feet. Compression socks help minimize that disruption, helping to prevent the discomfort and fatigue it can cause.

Compression socks are known by many other names: compression hose, support hose, pressure socks, therapeutic socks, and compression stockings. At Sockwell, we like to call our compression styles “superheroes of the sock world.”

Why should I wear compression socks?

Many people wear compression socks for medical reasons, like varicose veins, post-surgical recovery, or poor circulation. Doctors recommend compression socks for women and men for many medical or therapeutic reasons, but almost everyone can benefit from wearing compression socks—and no one needs a prescription to purchase Sockwell socks.

We like to compare wearing compression socks to everyday wellness activities like taking your vitamins and daily exercise. Even if you don’t have medical issues that require you to wear compression socks, wearing compression socks can help improve your everyday wellness and prevent potential future issues. For example, plenty of people start going to yoga because they’re experiencing back pain and the gentle stretching and strengthening helps relieve that pain—but even without back pain, yoga is a fantastic practice that can improve your physical health and well-being.

In the same way, Sockwell compression socks can be worn for sports or lifestyle purposes. As everyday wear, compression socks can help ease fatigue and reduce swelling. They are perfect for a range of situations: spending hours at a time sitting or standing, pregnancy, and travel. As athleticwear, compression socks are an essential tool to enhance recovery and performance. They are great for running and fitness activities, as well as for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and snow sports.

What is graduated compression?

Graduated compression means the socks are tighter around the foot and ankle, and the compression gradually relaxes as you move up the calf. This construction is designed to help facilitate natural blood flow, which helps to reduce fatigue and swelling in your feet and legs.

How do I know what size compression socks to buy?

At Sockwell, we make sizing as simple as possible. We make compression socks for men and women, and sizing is based on your shoe size. We’ve designed every sock we make with spandex from top to toe, so we can ensure a great fit without having to offer lots of sizes. Women’s sizes come in S/M and M/L. Men’s sizes come in M/L, L/XL, and XXL in select popular men’s styles.

Find your shoe size in the chart below. If you’re in between sizes, we recommend sizing up.



4 - 7.5 35 - 38
M/L 8 - 11 7 - 10 39 - 43
L/XL 10.5 - 13 44 - 47
XXL 13.5 - 16 48 - 50


Women’s Wide Calf Compression Socks

If you have a fuller calf and find that most compression socks are a bit too tight around your calf, you’ll love our Wide Calf Fit collection. The foot sizing runs the same as our other styles, but the circumference around the calf includes a more generous stretch to fit about 15% to 20% wider than our regular fit. Our Wide Calf Fit socks are denoted with a Wide Calf icon in our Lifestyle Compression collection.

What compression level should I get?

We generally recommend people to start with our moderate (15-20mmHg) compression socks, and then graduate to our firm (20-30mmHg) compression once they’ve gotten used to the experience of wearing compression socks. (Note: This advice is for people looking to start wearing compression socks for everyday wellness. If you have specific medical concerns you hope to address with compression socks, we advise that you speak with your doctor or healthcare provider for recommendations based on your specific healthcare situation.)

What are the differences in compression sock heights?

Sockwell offers over-the-calf (also called “knee high”), crew, quarter (often referred to as “ankle socks”), and micro compression socks.

If you’re interested in the circulatory benefits of compression socks, you need to wear the over-the-calf and crew socks. These styles feature the multiple zones of graduated compression needed to help facilitate the natural flow of blood from your feet and ankles up your calves and legs. Crew socks feature only the first three zones of graduated compression, but they still provide much of the circulatory benefits of over-the-calf compression socks.

For our quarter and micro compression socks, which we feature specifically in our Sport Compression collection socks, it’s important to know that these heights of compression fit socks do not provide the circulatory benefits of taller graduated compression socks.

When designing our Sport Compression micro and quarter socks, we took inspiration from athletic taping. The compression fit around the foot and ankle helps stabilize the muscles and tendons, minimizing fatigue while active, as well as helping to prevent potential issues with plantar fasciitis. It also provides an exceptional fit, which helps prevents the sock from sliding and bunching; combined with the moisture management of merino wool, it also helps prevent blisters.

What materials are Sockwell socks made from?

Sockwell socks are all made with American-grown fine merino wool blends that have been spun with either bamboo rayon or alpaca for additional benefits.

What are the benefits of merino wool?

Merino wool is a multitasking super-fiber. It provides exceptional moisture management by constantly absorbing and evaporating moisture from your feet, which helps to keep them dry, regulates temperature, and acts as a natural odor control. Because merino wool is a natural fiber, it is biodegradable and renewable. Lastly, our fine merino wool is soft and comfortable to wear, especially when spun with bamboo rayon or alpaca to enhance its natural feel and performance!

How do compression socks work?

Compression socks are so much more than ordinary socks. In some applications, they’re considered therapeutic socks. The Cleveland Clinic discusses how graduated compression socks are designed to gently squeeze your legs to provide the following benefits to regular wearers:

  • Encourage blood flow in the legs
  • Support vein health
  • Prevent blood from “pooling” in lower legs and feet, an issue typically characterized by swelling in feet and ankles
  • Reduce or even prevent issues like orthostatic hypotension, venous ulcers, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins and the pain associated with this condition, and venous hypertension
  • Improve lymphatic drainage

So, how do they perform these amazing feats? Compression socks use a system of graduated pressure measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. The higher the number, the stronger the compression. The areas of strongest compression will be where the sock feels tightest: at the foot and ankle. The compression decreases as you move up through the ankle, calf, and top of the sock. This construction helps to gently squeeze your legs to move blood up your legs.

What are the benefits of compression socks?

There are so many benefits to wearing compression socks, including benefits that are practical and useful for everyday life. Some of the primary benefits include:

  • Reduces fatigue by stabilizing muscles
  • Reducing swelling in your feet and legs
  • Supports, revitalizes, and minimizes varicose veins

But the benefits don’t stop there! The Cleveland Clinic attests to these additional benefits of compression socks:

  • Prevents blood from pooling in the legs
  • Decreases the chances of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, or DVT (a major reason why you should wear compression socks while flying)
  • Helps prevent, minimize, or recover from varicose veins
  • Relieves joint pain
  • Aids in recovery after surgery
  • Enhances recovery after training, sport competitions, or events
  • Revitalizes legs during long periods of standing or sitting

Who wears compression socks?

Compression socks can be worn by anyone who wants to feel better! This simple solution is great for people who work long hours sitting or standing, such as airline personnel, nurses and medical professionals, teachers, retail workers, beauty professionals, drivers, office workers, and construction workers, to name a few.

Compression socks are also extremely beneficial to athletes, from novices to professionals. They're ideal for running, going to the gym, hiking, skiing or snowboarding, or travel.

Compression socks can also be useful for people who have a variety of health conditions, including issues during pregnancy and struggles with plantar fasciitis.

Compression socks are not only used for assisting with health conditions or pain management, they can also be beneficial for everyday wear:

Nurses and Doctors: Nurses and medical professionals who spend all day on their feet wear compression socks to ease muscle fatigue and reduce swelling in their feet, ankles, and legs.
Moms-to-Be: Pregnant women enjoy compression socks for addressing ankle and foot swelling.
Runners, Joggers, and Hikers: Our line of Sport Compression socks is great for runners, marathoners, CrossFitters, trail-runners, hikers, and even professional athletes to help enhance performance while active and recovery on rest days.
People with Plantar Fasciitis: Specially designed plantar fasciitis socks provide firm compression and cushioning support the achilles tendon and plantar fascia to help relieve plantar fasciitis pain.
People with Varicose Veins: Patients who suffer from varicose veins, among other health conditions, find the use of compression socks to be beneficial on a daily basis.
Travelers: Those frequently on-the-go wear compression socks to avoid leg pain and swelling which typically occurs after long hours spent sitting on a plane or in a vehicle.
Patients in Recovery: Post-surgical patients can benefit from compression socks as they help reduce swelling and prevent blood clots while patients are spending their recovery time in a sitting or lying position.

Why merino wool compression socks?

Merino wool is the natural option for wellness. At Sockwell, we believe merino wool is the best fiber available for overall foot health due to its incredible performance benefits.

Why merino wool? This truly incredible fiber keeps your feet dry and comfortable by absorbing and evaporating moisture throughout the day. In fact, wool can hold up to 30% of its weight in moisture, but unlike cotton which tends to hold on to moisture, wool allows the absorbed moisture to evaporate freely, keeping you dry and your feet cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Keeping feet dry also helps prevent the growth of bacteria as well as general discomfort while wearing socks. Because this moisture control also prevents the growth of bacteria, merino wool socks can also help prevent foot odor. Additionally, merino wool regulates body temperature by creating a dry, comfortable microclimate around your feet no matter what your activity.

Can you show me how to put on compression socks?

We thought you’d never ask. Putting on a compression sock is fairly simple once you understand the correct way to do it. If you attempt to put on a compression sock like a good old-fashioned tube sock, you end up bunching up all the compression, and it can feel almost impossible to pull on. Not to mention, using this method to put on your compression socks can extend the life of your socks by minimizing the pull and stretch at the heel.

There is an easier way. Regardless of compression level, follow these simple steps for how to put on compression socks the easy way:

  • Step 1: Slip the sock over your hand with the sock facing upward. When the sock is all the way on your hand, the heel of our hand should meet the heel of the sock.
  • Step 2: Pull the leg of the sock inside out and away from you, leaving the foot of the sock in your hand.
  • Step 3: Flip your hand over so that your palm as well as the sole of the sock are facing downward, then carefully slip your foot into the sock.
  • Step 4: Peel the leg of the sock gently up over your heel and calf. If you are a visual learner, we have created a step-by-step tutorial video that will show you exactly how this process works.

    Are Sockwell compression socks made in sustainable ways?

    At Sockwell, we strive to be good stewards of the environment in all aspects of how we operate. This principle of environmental stewardship guides our decisions at every level of our business—from choosing our raw materials and emphasis on ethical US-based producers, to manufacturing and packaging methods and our internal operations. All aspects of Sockwell's footprint and the decisions made by our company are made with an effort to minimize our environmental and social impact and ensure the welfare of the animals farmed for the wool in our socks.

    When we founded this company in 2008, we made it a priority to make decisions in the best interest of the planet. Whether it’s the materials we use, maintaining the most compact carbon footprint possible, or any other area of how we do business, we’re always keeping the needs of our planet in mind.

    At Sockwell, we use fine merino wool sourced right here in America. Our merino, lambswool, and alpaca blends are the ultimate in performance fiber, constantly absorbing and evaporating sweat to keep your foot and your shoes dry. Our blends also naturally help prevent bacteria growth, keeping your feet healthy. This helps prevent blisters, control odors, and regulate temperature for a great experience all-around.

    What makes compression socks better than regular socks?

    Merino wool compression socks offer many more benefits than regular socks. They aid in the increase of blood flow which can help reduce pain, fatigue, and swelling. Compression socks offer benefits to people who are active, spend a lot of time sitting or standing, or who have conditions that affects blood flow and swelling.

    How much do compression socks cost?

    The range of prices for compression socks will vary depending on the brand. Different brands use different materials to create their socks, frequently including cotton or synthetic fibers that lack many of the benefits of our merino wool blends.

    At Sockwell, our compression socks are made primarily from American-farmed, fine merino wool, blended with either rayon from bamboo or alpaca. A pair of Sockwell socks is under $30—one of the most affordable brands of compression socks on the market, and an incredible value for a merino wool sock that combines compression with custom merino wool yarns in beautiful designs and colors.

    When should you wear compression socks?

    Compression socks can be worn in a variety of circumstances, from the workplace to marathons and pickup games, as well as flights across the country or globe. Nurses and other healthcare professionals benefit from compression socks during long days on their feet, flight attendants love them for reducing swelling and preventing DVT, and athletes enjoy wearing them while exercising as well as during recovery.

    You can wear compression socks throughout the day. Many nurses, travelers, and drivers end up wearing their compression socks for 12 to 16 hours at a time to help reduce fatigue and swelling while working or traveling.

    You might be wondering, "Should I wear compression socks while I sleep?" There’s currently not a medical consensus on whether compression socks provide circulatory benefits while you sleep. More research is necessary, and we want to make sure we provide you with the best answers possible. We recommend consulting your medical professional to get their recommendation based on your specific healthcare situation.

    How are compression levels measured?

    Moderate compression is typically defined as 15-20mmHg. Firm compression is typically defined as 20-30mmHg. (In case you’re curious, mmHg stands for “millimeters of mercury,” and it is a scientific measurement of compression within a fluid, such as the blood in your vessels.)

    Would wearing compression socks help me?

    Compression socks offer many benefits, including reduced swelling, pain, and discomfort. Healthcare providers often prescribe compression socks to people who are recovering from surgery or managing circulatory issues or varicose veins. If you are considering compression socks for the above reasons, you should consult your healthcare provider who can provide their recommendation based on your specific healthcare situation.

    But the most interesting thing about compression socks is that they are also beneficial as a health and wellness practice, especially for people who spend a lot of time sitting or standing for work, athletes, and travelers. Improved blood flow is a good thing for everyone!

    Who should not wear compression socks?

    Compression socks can be extremely helpful for many people. In terms of lifestyle, they are often beneficial for athletes, office workers, healthcare professionals, travelers, and hospitality workers. They can also provide relief for people who have certain conditions like varicose veins.

    However, there are certain conditions that may be exacerbated by compression socks. If you have a condition that affects your circulation and lower extremities, we recommend consulting your healthcare provider before using compression socks.

    Our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee

    Being comfortable in your compression socks is important, and we want you to be happy with your selection. If you have any concerns about your Sockwell compression socks, we invite you to explore our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee page. We are serious about wanting you to be pleased with your purchase!

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