You have probably already heard about compression socks and their uses in long flights, running, or even professions like nurses. But are you still wondering if you need them and what their benefits are?… We will answer your questions and advise you about the best compression socks for flying and traveling.
What are compression socks?
Compression socks are made of elastic fabric to compress the surface of your limbs’ veins, arteries, and muscles. Graduated compression socks are tightest at the ankles and gradually become less tight on the knees or thighs.
Are compression socks for travel good?
And why is that good?… Well, compression socks help your veins in the task of carrying deoxygenated blood to the heart.
Due to diverse causes, our veins tend to distend, and the valves that prevent the backflow of blood aren’t able to function well. Compressing the veins, arteries, and muscles, compression socks narrow the size of veins, increasing the pressure and thus promoting the blood’s return to the heart. In addition, they help veins regain their right shape enabling the main valves to function properly, preventing backflow.
Compression socks also prevent the formation of blood clots, Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is caused by stenosis of the blood in the legs. These clots can even potentiate a life-threatening condition, pulmonary embolism.
So yes, compression socks are good for you and sometimes even essential.
Are compression socks for travel really necessary?
Well, yes, especially in certain people and situations. As we said before, compression socks increase blood flow and valve effectiveness. And these aspects are important in people with a tendency for bad circulation and fluid retention. People feel their legs heavy or tired at the end of the day. And people that have spider veins and venose insufficiencies.
Plus, in situations that involve prolonged sitting, like long airplane flights, prolonged standing, or static positions.
They are mainly necessary for people at risk of DVT, as described below.
Why do you need compression socks for long flights?
During long-haul flights, there is an increased risk of DVT due to the restriction of movement, gravity, and the traveler’s inactivity for seven or more hours. This condition is known as the “Economy class stroke syndrome.”
According to the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) guidelines of 2012, DVT or a pulmonary embolism caused by a long-distance flight is generally unlikely but has increased risk when you have one or more risk factors.
The same guideline didn’t find evidence to support that traveling in economy class increases the risk of developing blood clots. However, remaining immobile for an extended period does. These guidelines recommend using graduate below-the-knee compression stockings on long-haul flights, especially if you have risk factors.
In conclusion, using compression socks during a long flight is advised, especially if you have a risk factor for DVT. Even if you don’t but have bad circulation or a tendency to edemas and feel your legs heavy, wearing compression socks is well-considered.
How to choose compression socks for travel
|Compression Socks||Compression Rate||Ideal||Material||Rate||Price|
|Sockwell circulator||15-20 mmHg|
Cushioned toes, heel
|Vital sox VT1211||12-20 mmHg|
|SB Sox Lit||15- 20 mmHg|
Cushioned toes, heel
|Truform||15- 20 mmHg|
Silky, trouser socks
|Danish Endurance||18- 21 mmHg|
|Physix Gear||20- 30 mmHg|
The main feature of compression socks is their ability to compress gradually. The compression factor in socks varies from 15 mmHg to 40 mmHg. Compression socks with higher pressure (from 20 mmHg to 40 mmHg) can only be worn with medical advice and a prescription.
Low-pressure socks (15-20 mmHg) can be purchased without a prescription. You will find plenty of sites selling (and suggesting) compression socks with high-pressure rates, but we only advise you to buy them if your doctor recommends them.
Therefore, this article only recommends socks with a compression rating of 15-20 mmHg.
When buying compression socks, be aware of the ideal size for you. The size of the sock influences the compression rate. If the socks are too big, they won’t offer any compression. If they are too small, they will block the blood flow. Below we explain how to measure your legs so that you choose the right sock size. We also mention and explain all other factors to consider when choosing compression socks.
Best flying compression socks for (long flights)
Sockwell circulator compression socks have four zones of graduated compression with a gradient of 15-20 mmHg. They are made of Spandex, Nylon, Wool, and Bamboo Ragon, which absorb moisture, so it helps you keep your feet dry. Sockwell socks have two cool features they have non-abrasive seamless toe closure so the seam won’t irritate your toes. Also, they have a cushioned sole providing support to the foot arch. The other advantage is that they are machine washable. On the downside, they may be hot in summer, so be aware if you are using them in hot climates, though it won’t be a problem if you use them in airplanes.
Vitalsox VT1211 Silver DryStat
The Vitalsox compression socks have an optimal system of graduate compression varying between 12- 20 mmHg. Moreover, these socks have an exclusive type of material Silver Drystat, which promotes quick-drying, repels bacteria, and diminishes the odor. Its material also has the advantage of stretching in different directions, making it easier to put on. They are ideal for traveling, running, hiking, and even during work. Plus, you can choose the color that suits you better as they have various colors. On the downside, these socks tend to be warm, so they are not ideal for hot weather. But, again, if you are using them only during long-haul travel, this won’t be a significant problem.
SB Sox Lit
SB Sox Lit compression socks are graduated with a 15 – 20 mmHg compression rate. They are made of a breathable and lightweight fabric, nylon, and Spandex, which is ideal for traveling. Plus, they wick moisture away, stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi, and are anti-odor. The best part of these socks is that they are cushioned in the toe and heel, so they reduce the shock on your foot while walking or running. The downside of these socks is that they can be scratchy.
Best compression socks for pregnancy flying
Truform Compression stocking
Truform compression stocking 1773 promotes a graduated compression of 15-20 mmHg. They are stylish and fashionable. These stockings are designed for women and are ideal for traveling, working, and during pregnancy. They will look great with any outfit, particularly dresses or skirts. With a smooth and breathable material, they are perfect for summer. They are made of nylon and spandex and are available in beige and black. The disadvantage of these socks is that they need to be hand-washed.
Best compression socks for edema
Danish endurance compression socks are graduated with a compression rating of 18-21 mmHg, ideal for people with swollen legs who aren’t used to wearing compression socks. These socks have high-quality stitching, made of Polyamide and Elasthan. They are breathable and absorb moisture with anti-bacterial yarns. The great thing about these socks is that they aren’t too hot and have a padded footbed. You can machine wash them.
Best compression socks for varicose veins (more than 20 mmHg)
Physix Gear Compression Socks
If you already have risk factors, like varicose veins, and your physician advised you to wear compression socks, Physix gear socks are the ones. They have a compression gradient of 20-30 mmHg and are graduated, two factors you need. Plus, they have the bonus of having an Anti-Bacterial fabric reducing bad odors. Physix gear socks don’t have stitches in places where you rub the most. They are made of Nylon and Spandex. They are durable and won’t lose compression with washing. Although they wick away moisture very well, they tend to be warm. Ideal for traveling, running, and day-to-day life. These socks are good value for money.
What to have in consideration when choosing compression socks for travel?
What level of compression socks do I need for flying?
Compression socks are available with several pressure levels, but we only advise you to buy low-pressure socks from 15-20 mmHg. You must be advised by a healthcare professional or your doctor for higher pressure.
Mild compression socks (15-20 mmHg) are indicated for the prevention and relief of minor to moderate varicose veins, relief of tired aching legs, and relief of minor swelling of feet and legs. This is the level of compression socks you need if you don’t have other health issues.
Moderate compression socks (20-30 mmHg) are indicated for the prevention and relief of moderate to severe varicose veins, treatment of moderate to severe lymphedema, and management of active ulcers or post-thrombotic syndrome.
Firm compression socks (30-40 mmHg) are indicated for ulcer management and post-thrombotic syndrome.
The compression of the socks depends on the size of the leg. Thus, it is important to choose the right size. If you feel that the socks cut into the leg, they are too small!
The size of the compression socks
Size is very important, if you buy socks too big for your leg, they don’t offer any compression. If you buy too small, they can provoke a tourniquet effect.
So, for the ideal size, you must measure your leg. The ideal time to measure is in the morning before the swelling occurs. Measure: circumference of your ankle; circumference of your calf; length of your calf (knee to heel sitting with your legs at a 90º angle).
Important note: Pay attention to your toes’ color, temperature, and sensation. If there are differences, seek medical guidance.
If they are graduated Compression socks
Compression socks have to be graduated for the ideal effect, which means they offer more compression at the ankles and gradually become less tight on the knees or thighs. So, be aware if they are graduated when you buy the compression socks.
The material of Compression socks
The quality of the material is crucial. If you want the compression socks to be effective, they have to have the correct compression and be graduated for an extended period of time. If you sacrifice the quality, you will lose their primary function. Thus, buy compression socks of good quality so they won’t fail to give you the compression you need.
In addition, the type of material is essential; one of the disadvantages of compression socks is they can be hot and become itchy. In winter, it is good having hot socks, but in summer, if they are too hot, you will suffer. So, choose the material according to the climate you are traveling to.
Also, choose breathable materials like Nylon, polyester, wool, Cool Max, lycra, and Spandex, that help to maintain your feet dry and comfortable.
The type of compression socks
You will find two types of compression socks: knee-high and thigh-high. Although thigh-high socks are sometimes recommended, normally knee-high socks are more comfortable and easier to use.
The purpose of compression socks
Besides traveling, you can and should use compression socks in your day-to-day life, especially if you have a profession where you stand for long hours. Even for running, plenty of athletes use them for recovering and/or during the practices of the sport.
Although no research supports this, athletes believe that compression socks assist in blood circulation, reduce blood lactate concentration, and control the amount of muscle oscillation.
When choosing compression socks, be aware of the use you will give them. Here we have a guide to the best compression socks for hiking!
How to put on compression socks
It can be difficult to put on compression socks, especially if the compression gradient is high. The easiest way to put the socks on is, first of all, to turn the socks inside out. Then slide your foot in the sock until the heel (make sure it is aligned properly). Next, gradually roll the remaining sock up the leg until the knee. Note that the socks shouldn’t cut into your leg. With time and use, it will become easier, and you will find out what works for you.
Who needs compression socks the most?
The people who need compression socks the most are those at risk of developing DVT (deep vein thrombosis). According to the NHS (National Health Service), “anyone can develop DVT, but there are certain risk factors”:
- Increasing age
- Previous venous thromboembolism
- A family history of thrombosis
- Medical conditions such as cancer and heart failure
- After an operation
- Being overweight or obese
- Estrogen use, including oral contraception
- Long-haul flight
- Window seat
If you have one or more risk factors, you should equate using compression socks, especially during long-haul flights.
Be aware that in certain conditions, you can’t wear compression socks, like when you have peripheral vascular diseases, diabetic patients, heart failure, oozing dermatitis, and peripheral neuropathy. Patients who suffer from these conditions should be advised by their physician.
*Cover photo by PhaisarnWong via Depositphotos
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