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What are compression socks for? Well, that depends on who you talk to, as athletes, medical workers, and those who are pregnant or suffering from foot conditions can benefit from wearing them. "Some may use them for leg ulcers, others to improve circulation, while others still can even use them to prevent thrombosis during and after a long-haul flight," says Dr. Marion Yau, a podiatrist based in the UK. Compression stockings put gentle pressure on your lower legs and feet, which can help encourage blood flow to the area. The result? Reduced swelling and relief from various other discomforts of the lower extremities.
This type of hosiery comes in varying materials, styles, and lengths (including knee-high, crew, and ankle). Compression socks are sometimes prescribed by healthcare providers, but there are tons of stellar over-the-counter options. And just because they might be serving a medical purpose doesn't mean they can't be cute.
With that said, these are today's best compression socks for stylish support.
Best Overall: Bombas Women's Everyday Compression Socks
Made with extra-long staple cotton
Strategic zone cushioning
One pair donated for every purchase
Too thick for some shoes
Ever since its 2013 launch, Bombas has amassed a well-deserved cult following. The sock maker's expanded offerings include the Everyday Compression Socks, which boast medium (15–20 mmHg) compression for a not-too-tight yet pleasantly snug feel.
Woven from a blend of extra-long-staple cotton and synthetic fibers with a Y-stitched heel and a seamless toe, they're as durable as they are comfortable. These compression socks have the brand's signature honeycomb arch supports and strategic zone cushioning. What's more, for every pair purchased, another is donated to someone in need.
Material: Cotton, polyester, nylon, spandex | Size Range: S–L | Colors: Pink, purple, blue, navy, green, multi
Best Budget: CHARMKING Compression Socks
Pack of three
Compression socks can be expensive, but they don't have to be. Case in point: Charmking. With light pressure and 360-degree stretch, these nylon stockings come in packs of three and are available in a range of colors and prints.
Material: Nylon | Size Range: S/M–L/XL | Colors: Various
Best Lightweight: Burton Women's Performance Ultralight Compression Socks
You don't have to be hitting the slopes to reap the benefits of Burton Performance Socks. Woven from a brilliant blend of merino wool and nylon, these mid-rise compression stockings are stretchy, supportive, and toasty-warm.
Material: Nylon, merino wool, polyamide nanoglide, acrylic, polypropylene, elastane | Size Range: S/M–M/L | Colors: Various multi
Best for Fitness: Sockwell Pulse Firm Women's Compression Socks
May be too warm for year-round use
Designed for performance, Sockwell's Pulse Firm line flaunts anti-fatigue technology and full arch support, plus graduated compression (20–30 mmHg) up the calf. Fitness aficionados will also appreciate the lightly cushioned soles and seamless toe closures.
Material: Merino wool, nylon, rayon, spandex | Size Range: S/M–M/L | Colors: Black, green, purple
Best for Athletes: Physix Gear Sport Physix Gear Compression Socks
Won't slip down
Whether you're a distance runner, cyclist, obstacle course racer, or downhill skier, you can count on Physix for below-the-knee support. Made with serious athletes in mind, these double-stitched compression socks help increase circulation for improved performance. And thanks to a stretchy band around the tops, they won't slip down.
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: SM, L/XL, XXL | Colors: Black, white, beige
Best for Recovery: CEP Women's Tall Compression Socks 3.0
When your overworked muscles crave TLC, slip into a pair of CEP 3.0 socks. The knit structure provides ample support and graduated compression (20–30 mmHg) from toe to knee, while HeiQ Smart Temp technology ensures you stay comfortably cool.
Material: Polyamide, spandex | Size Range: 2, 3, 4 (based on shoe sizes) | Colors: Various
Best for Pregnancy: Belly Bandit Compression Socks
Good for pregnancy
With prenatal bodies in mind, these knee-highs from Belly Bandit are designed to maximize circulation and minimize swelling in your feet, ankles, and calves. Not only that, but the silver-infused heathered knit helps keep foot odors under control.
Material: Polyester, nylon, spandex, cotton | Size Range: 1–2 (based on shoe size) | Colors: Black, white, brown, gray
Best for Medical Workers: Figs Burgundy Pill Compression Socks
Known for stylish scrubs that flatter all figures, medical workers can count on Figs for head-to-toe work attire. The brand's exceedingly soft and breathable compression socks are designed to alleviate the aches and pains associated with being on your feet all day.
Material: Nylon, lycra | Size Range: S–L | Colors: Burgundy
Best Knee-High: Comrad Knee-High Compression Socks
Wide sizes available
May shrink in the wash
Comrad's effortlessly cool Ombre Compression Socks offer medium (15–25 mmHg) support to increase circulation, reduce swelling, and aid in muscle recovery. The knee-high design is also infused with silver ions to keep foot odors at bay.
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: S–L | Colors: Pink, black, yellow, blue, coral
Best Crew: Champion Women's Compression Sport Crew Socks
Champion Sport Crew Socks deliver graduated support from the toes up to the mid-calf. The compressive design is enhanced even further with ultra-comfy memory-cushioned soles.
Material: Polyester, cotton, nylon, spandex | Size Range: One size | Colors: White
Best Ankle: Thorlo Experia Compression Low Cut Sock
Stabilizing ankle wrap
Ventilated toe boxes
Sometimes all you need is a little support for your feet, which is why we love the low-cut Thorlo Experia Socks. Loomed from copper-infused polyester with stabilizing ankle wraps, midfoot compression, and ventilated toe boxes, they pull out all the stops to keep your puppies comfy and cool.
Material: Copper-infused polyester, nylon, elastic | Size Range: S–L | Colors: Various
Best Copper: BlueenJoy Copper Compression Socks
Pack of six
Won't slip down
Wear down quickly
Copper-infused fabrics are thought to help increase circulation while minimizing bacteria-causing odors. In addition to progressive support up the calf, these copper compression socks have wide toe boxes and a non-slip cuff.
Material: Copper-infused polyester | Size Range: S/M–L/XL | Colors: Various
The best option overall is undoubtedly Bombas Everyday Compression Socks, which offer medium compression for a pleasantly snug but not-too-tight feel. They also have arch supports and strategic zone cushioning, plus one pair is donated for every pair purchased. If you're on a budget, go with Charmking Compression Socks, which come in packs of three and boast uber-comfortable, 360-degree stretch.
What to Look For in Compression Socks
In order to deliver the supportive stretch you're after, compression socks are typically made with synthetic materials, such as nylon, polyester, lycra, or spandex. For added breathability and durability, some are woven with cotton, merino wool, and other natural fibers.
When shopping around for compression socks, you'll often see an mmHg rating. This unit of measurement is short for "millimeters of mercury" and indicates the compression level range. For instance, socks with 15–25 mmHg would offer at least 15 and no more than 25 millimeters of mercury of pressure.
Compression socks are typically knee-high, offering increased circulation and supportive benefits from the knees down to the toes. However, you can also get shorter styles, such as crew socks or ankle socks.
Compression socks vary in terms of their care instructions. Many recommend hand-washing or at least air-drying, so be sure to check the tag or product description before cleaning them. If you prefer low-maintenance socks, look for a machine-washable pair.
What do compression socks do?
Compression socks are a relatively thick and tightly woven type of hosiery designed to increase circulation by putting light pressure on the lower legs, ankles, and feet. This can help reduce swelling, alleviate tension, and potentially aid in recovery from a strenuous workout or injury.
"Generally, compression stockings are not useful for painful conditions, but elastic stockings and tubigrips have been reported to help with sprained ankles," Dr. Yau says. "Compression socks can also be of benefit for plantar fasciopathy (aka plantar fasciitis)."
How long should you wear compression socks?
You can wear compression socks all day or for shorter periods. Medical workers and others who spend most of the day on their feet may opt for extended wear, while athletes might wear them only during or after physical activity.
Bear in mind, though, that it's generally not recommended to wear compression socks while sleeping, as you don't want to inhibit blood flow to other parts of the body.
How tight should compression socks be?
Compression socks don't have to be exceedingly tight to offer therapeutic benefits. "Make sure they do not feel too tight, as this can lead to more harm than help by restricting circulation, impairing healing, and causing more foot pain," says Dr. Yau.
The stockings should be snug but not uncomfortably tight, ideally with graduated compression that's tighter on the toes and slightly more forgiving up the calf. If your socks leave a deep indent or red marks on your legs, they're probably too tight.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in fitness, pregnancy, and lifestyle. For this story, she interviewed a podiatrist, pored over user reviews, and researched the general purpose, benefits, and various uses for compression socks. She looked at styles from a wide range of brands and carefully considered the material, length, price, and mmHg ratings before making her final selections. From the brands on this list, she has tried and loved Bombas, Thorlo, Belly Bandit, and Champion. Theresa is a regular contributor at Byrdie, where she covers workout apparel, at-home therapeutic devices, and cosmetics.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Marion Yau (aka Miss Foot Fixer) is an award-winning celebrity podiatrist and YouTuber based in the United Kingdom.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any compression socks from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.