In addition to treating and preventing medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins, compression socks have become increasingly popular in the sports and fitness world in recent years.
They have been observed to reduce lactic acid levels, increase muscle stability, improve recovery time, reduce cramping, and improve speed and strength results in athletes of all levels.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a pair of compression socks, including how they fit, the quality of the material, the activity you plan to use them for, and the price.
With that in mind, we made our top picks in five different categories of compression socks.
- Best Overall: Vitalsox Graduated Compression Circulation Socks
- Best Value: SB SOX Lite Compression Socks
- Best for Workouts: CEP Men’s Compression Socks
- Best for Recovery: 2XU Compression Socks for Recovery
- Best for
Everyday: Sockwell Men’s Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock
Best Overall: Vitalsox Graduated Compression Circulation Socks
Price: $13.00 to $34.50
Why they’re great: Italian company Vitalsox has been making quality compression gear since 1998. These compression socks offer a great combination of high performance at an affordable price point. Vitalsox has a patented design, with compression starting mid-foot rather than at the ankle like most compression socks.
The graduated compression ranges from 12-20 mmHg, making them suitable for a wide range of activities, from a long plane ride to a long run. They are designed with arch and ankle support, a ventilation channel, and a flat toe seam.
These socks are also infused with silver fibers, which are meant to combat bacteria and fungus growth to prevent odor. Customers are generally impressed with the comfort and durability of Vitalsox.
Drawbacks: Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but one potential drawback is that these don’t have a seamless toe like some other models.
- 70% Silver Drystat, 10% Spandex, 10% Lycra, 10% Nylon
- Graduated compression (12-20 mmHg)
Best Value: SB SOX Lite Compression Socks
Price: $6.95 to $11.95
Why they’re great: SB Sox has only been in business since 2016, but in that short time they’ve built a strong reputation for offering quality products at an affordable price. Their Lite Compression Socks are no exception, available for as low as $6.95 on Amazon.
Their low level of graduated compression makes these socks a versatile option suitable for a wide range of activities, from playing sports to traveling. They are made from a soft, comfortable material, and have a no-slip cuff at the top that is designed to keep them in place and fitting properly.
Drawbacks: While the customer reviews for SB Socks are overwhelmingly positive, there are some people who have complained that the seam in the toe of the socks is uncomfortable to them.
- Graduated compression (15-20mmHg)
- Reinforced heel
- Breathable, anti-odor fabric
Best for Workouts: CEP Men’s Compression Socks
Price: $37.55 to $68.00
Why they’re great: German-manufactured CEP Compression socks are considered by many to be some of the most comfortable and high-quality socks on the market. CEP Compression is a division of medi, a company that has a long history of manufacturing medical compression apparel.
These socks feature an asymmetrical toe box designed to fit the natural shape of the foot. A ribbed pattern in the front of the socks allows air to flow through, keeping you cool. The socks also have a seamless toe for additional comfort.
With graduated compression of 20-30mmHg, these compression socks can help prevent shin splints, reduce muscle soreness, and prevent injuries, and they are suitable for a wide variety of physical activities. They come in several colors and offer three sizes to accommodate different body types.
Drawbacks: Customer reviews of these socks are overwhelmingly positive, but some people did report difficulty finding a size that worked for them. Additionally, they are among the more expensive options on the market.
- Graduated compression (20-30mmHg)
- 85% polyamide, 15% spandex
- HeiQ Smart Temp technology fabric
- Seamless toe box
Best for Recovery: 2XU Compression Socks for Recovery
Price: $14.60 to $49.99
Why they’re great: 2XU is an Australian company that specializes in manufacturing high-quality compression gear. They offer a number of different products, but their recovery socks are designed specifically to promote recovery following workouts and other activities. The arch positioning of these socks is designed to support the foot during sedentary use, and the padding makes them comfortable to wear while sitting or lying down for extended periods of time.
These recovery socks offer graduated compression designed to increase circulation and help reduce swelling, fatigue, and soreness. They can easily pass for dress socks and be worn in the office, and you can even sleep in them. The fabric features anti-moisture and anti-bacterial capabilities, and their anatomical design makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Drawbacks: The customer reviews for these socks are mostly positive, but some people did express dissatisfaction with the fit for wide feet. They are also on the higher end of the price spectrum.
- Graduated compression
- Seamless toe cage
- Vented toe panel
Best for Everyday: Sockwell Men’s Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock
Why it’s great: Sockwell is a U.S.-based company that specializes in making a variety of socks. Their Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock is a great option for people looking for a compression sock to wear all day during their daily activities. Sockwell recommends this model especially for long days of travel, pregnant women, and people who stand for long periods of time at work, such as nurses, retail workers, and construction workers.
These socks offer four zones of moderate, graduated compression (15-20 mmHg). The fabric has temperature and odor control technology, and the seamless toe box is designed to maximize comfort. There are multiple colors and two sizes available. They are also affordably priced for a high-quality compression sock.
Drawbacks: Some taller customers said that the socks do not reach very far up their calves.
- 32% Merino Wool, 31% Rayon from Bamboo, 32% Stretch Nylon, 5% Spandex
- Graduated compression (15-20 mmHg)
- Seamless toe
How did we choose these socks?
With the enormous number of options available in the compression gear category, choosing the best products can be extremely challenging. To put together this list, we looked at a number of important factors including the type of compression, the quality of the material, the specific use and associated benefits, and the cost. Unlike other types of compression gear, compression socks are also often used for medical purposes, adding another layer to consider.
Beyond those criteria, we researched brands, their approach to compression wear, and their reputation with customers. We looked not only at how the product was designed and marketed, but how it performs for real people. We analyzed product reviews from across the web to find both positive and negative trends until we were confident that each product selected will effectively serve the needs of our readers.
What to consider when choosing compression socks for yourself
Our recommendations will hopefully serve as a useful jumping off point for you in your search for the perfect compression gear. Since each person’s wants and needs will vary, you’ll need to find what’s best for you. To this end, there are a few things to consider. Most important, is how you’ll be using your compression socks. Ask yourself:
- Are you using compression socks for medical, lifestyle, or fitness purposes?
- If they are for fitness, do you mostly do cardio or strength training?
- If you are a runner, how often and how far do you typically run?
- For sports like basketball or soccer, how often do you play and at what level?
- Do you generally perform your activities inside or outside?
- Do you
workoutor play in cold weather or warm weather?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what type of compression socks are best for you. For runners, graduated compression and more durable material are a great choice. Those who prefer strength training may benefit more from targeted compression that supports the muscle groups being used most. There are also socks designed specifically to treat or prevent conditions like varicose veins.
What are the benefits of compression socks?
Compression socks are often used to prevent or treat medical conditions. While compression gear is not designed specifically to cure any medical conditions, it is recognized as an effective tool in both treating uncomfortable symptoms and preventing further damage. In a medical setting, compression gear has been found to:
- Decrease the painful symptoms of varicose veins
- Prevent swelling of the extremities
- Lower the risk of blood clots during long flights, post-surgery, and during pregnancy
- Reduce post-surgical swelling following cosmetic and other procedures
They also offer a number of benefits both during and after workouts. While the direct performance benefits of compression in general have been difficult to definitively prove, several studies have shown excellent results when it comes to muscle recovery.
The recovery benefits of compression work in two ways – short-term and long-term – both of which also indirectly impact performance. These benefits are the result of the improved circulation and increased blood flow provided by compression clothing.
- When worn during workouts, compression produces short-term results by more efficiently removing lactic acid from the muscles. Lactic acid build up is what causes you to feel that familiar burn when stretching your muscles to their limit. By speeding the movement of oxygen to the muscles and lactic acid away from them, compression allows you to bounce back more quickly between sets and reach your goals faster.
- When worn during and after a workout, compression eliminates or reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the result of inflammation caused by tiny tears in our muscles. While the repair of these tears is, in part, responsible for muscle growth, DOMS can leave us immobilized in the days following a tough workout. By enhancing the movement of oxygen and other anti-inflammatory agents to the muscles, compression helps muscles heal faster, reducing pain so you can get back to the gym or on the road sooner.
What is Compression Gear?
At the most basic level, compression gear is a category of clothing and other accessories designed to fit tightly around the skin.
Compression gear has a wide variety of applications including, medical, fitness, and personal uses such as fashion and travel. It continues to grow in popularity as athletes, doctors, patients, and regular people find more creative ways to benefit from these products.
Check out our What is Compression Gear? article to get a bigger picture of how compression work, its many benefits, and the role it plays in Fitness, Health, Travel, and Fashion.