What is Graduated Compression for Compression Socks?

By: Ray / Published: September 11th, 2016

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A significant factor in a lot of the compression socks and stockings I review on my site is the graduated compression in each product. For most people out there starting in their compression search, they aren’t entirely sure what it is. Or maybe your doctor recommends you to check out these type of products, but you want some further clarification. Whatever boat you’re in, I got you covered. I’ll throw out some technical terms here and there, but I’ll break it down in simpler terms to make it easier to understand.

What is it?

The rough definition of graduated compression is the amount of pressure (compression) that is exerted on your ankles when you wear compression socks/stockings. And that pressure is measured in the units you see following them: mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Millimeters of mercury or mmHg measures the amount of compression your ankles are getting. It becomes less as you go up the leg and less when you go down the leg towards your toes. This usually only applies to compression footwear and isn’t used for things like compression shirts, pants, shorts, etc.

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What Does the mmHg Mean & Do?

I told you what mmHg stands for and what it measures, but now we got to answer what does it mean? Talking in terms of compression gear(socks & stockings) it measures the amount of compression or force on your legs as you perform activities. So essentially the more mmHg, the more pressure. The material used promotes blood circulation by applying force throughout your foot, ankles, and legs. The compression material presses against your skin and pushes blood and forces the muscles and veins to pump blood back to the heart. You got to keep the blood moving to avoid blood clots and swelling pains. The goal with the graduated compression is mainly to get blood back to your heart and not create a buildup in your legs. The more mmHg that is in a compression sock, the more force and pressure that will be applied, and the more force that will be exerted to pump blood back into the heart. It will help in reducing swelling and other leg pains by keeping your blood in constant flow throughout the day.

Which Graduated Compression Range Am I In?

There are, in a sense, three levels of compression when it comes to footwear:

Graduated CompressionFor Regular useFor Recovery Use
10-20 mmHgSedentary Lifestyle/ Light ActivitySoreness, Minor Swelling, Tired, Mild Varicose
20-30 mmHgModerate Activity/AthleteModerate Swelling (Edema), Moderate varicose veins