I love. I really, really do. I thoroughly enjoy the fact that I can wear pajama pants and a sports bra all day if I want to, although sometimes I like to feel like an actual human and wear real clothes. I like being able to work from my couch, my back porch or my kitchen island. Sometimes, I’m not sure why I have a real desk.
You get the point — I like the. There’s just one problem: I end most days with swollen, tingly calves.
Yes, I could solve this problem by getting up and moving more throughout the day, but that’s not an option on days when I have 4,000 words to plow through. On those days, I turn to a handy (er, leggy) tool called compression socks.
A good pair of compression socks keeps swelling down by preventing fluid from building up in your lower legs. They apply pressure to your calves and ankles, which helps your do their job. The constant pressure prevents blood vessels from expanding and blood from pooling. Acutely, fluid accumulation can cause discomfort in your legs, but over time, chronic pooling can weaken your veins and cause deformities — physical inactivity is a leading cause of varicose veins due to the increased blood pressure in your legs.
After a few weeks of wearing compression socks every day during work, I found my calves to remain their normal size at the end of a long day, which is a very nice revelation. Compression socks also prevent the icky pins-and-needles feeling that comes with fluid build-up.
I’ve tried out more than 15 brands of compression socks, and these seven pairs I think are the ones worth trying.
Out of all the pairs of compression socks I tested, the PRO Compression Marathon socks became my go-tos. In fact, I knew these would become a favorite the instant I put them on — partly because they’re easier to put on than the others I tried, but they still provide just as much support.
The Marathon socks reach just below the knee for full-calf compression. I wore these socks while sitting for hours at a time, doing household chores and yard work, running errands, taking my dog for walks and during workouts. They provided the perfect amount of compression for all activities and I felt comfortable enough to wear them out and about.
These socks come in a countless (seriously, there are so many) styles and in three sizes. You can buy men’s or women’s socks, but they’re really a unisex item. At $50, the Marathon compression socks are hardly a budget buy, but I’d happily pay for a few pairs to get me through a week of work.
For compression socks pretty enough to wear while running errands, going out to eat or doing anything, really, go with a pair from the Lily Trotters Signature Collection. Lily Trotters makes the signature socks with a blend of 93% nylon and 7% spandex, so they have just enough compression to feel noticeably snug.
Designed specifically to make compression socks more attractive, you’ll find no shortage of spunky designs at Lily Trotters. I love the Four Kisses style, which looks classy and elegant, as well as the Over The Moon – Orange for something more colorful.
I will say, Lily Trotters socks — or at least the pair I tried — tend to run tight at the top. If you have larger calves, consider sizing up. I ordered a medium or small-medium in all of the compression socks I tried, and the small-medium from Lily Trotters was the only pair that made significant indentations just below the knee.
I learned about Zensah when I tested face masks for running. I liked the Zensah performance face mask, so I decided to give its compression socks a go, and they didn’t disappoint. These full-length compression socks are made in Italy and feature an 18% elastane content. The high elastane percentage means these socks compress well and don’t stretch out, so they’re perfect for long runs.
The mesh insert is what makes these compression socks great for runners, though. Placed on the calf part of the sock, the mesh component provides ultimate breathability so your socks don’t end up totally sweat-soaked by the end of your run.
The cushioned sole of the sock is a nice touch, too. I noticed these socks felt more supportive in the arch of my foot than the others I tested.
If you specifically deal with poor circulation, try a pair of Sockwell Elevation Compression Socks. These socks provide graduated compression from 20 to 30 mmHg, whereas the majority of compression socks range from 15 to 20 mmHg (mmHg is a medical measurement for pressure).
The compression begins at the ankle and decreases over the course of four “zones” up to the top of your calf. They also feature arch support, a bonus for people whose feet swell in addition to their ankles.
Made of bamboo rayon, merino wool, stretch nylon and spandex, the Elevation Compression Socks feel soft yet durable, and they wick moisture well.
If you want less compression, Sockwell has a lifestyle collection that includes tons of cute styles with 15 to 20 mmHg compression (I love this pair with cat faces).
A second pair of PRO Compression socks made the list because they’re just that good. I’d wear these mid-calf compression socks around all day, just like I’d wear the full-length pair, but for different activities.
I loved wearing the PRO mid-calf socks while running errands and doing home improvement projects. These babies took me through a full day of home renovations including sanding, painting and assembling furniture — and they looked stylish enough to wear on several “Oh shoot, I forgot this” runs to Home Depot.
I also tried out the mid-calf socks for a long day of work, but I didn’t like them as much for that. My calves still swelled, leading to an indent where the sock hem was. I like these a lot, but I’ll stick to wearing them on more active days and during workouts.
All in all, the crew sock style is a great choice for people who want compression localized just to the heel and ankle.
If you’re the type who likes to wear compression socks after your workout rather than during, try these Physix Gear knee-high compression socks. I chose these for best post-workout socks because they reminded me of NormaTec compression when I wore them.
The graduated compression is so effective that you can feel the different pressure levels throughout your calves, especially when you’re walking or moving around. If you really pay attention while wearing these compression socks, you’ll feel a gentle pulsating sensation — you can actually feel the increased blood flow in real time.
I wore the Physix Gear compression socks after a few weightlifting sessions, several long walks and a couple of runs, and even if I can’t say they actually helped my muscles recover faster (it’s hard to tell), I can say they felt soothing after an intense workout.
These compression socks are more affordable than most at around $20 a pair, and the collection includes very laid-back styles you can wear anywhere.
Made from merino wool, these Swiftwick compression socks are designed for all-season activities. They’re part of Swiftwick’s running and snow sports collections, probably because merino wool adapts to the weather thanks to the natural crimps in its fibers.
When it’s warm outside (or any time you sweat), merino wool absorbs moisture into its porous fibers and then wicks it away from your body as a vapor. When it’s cold, the crimped fiber works as an insulator, keeping heat close to your skin.
With 11% spandex, the Aspire 12 compression socks offer plenty of compression for long workouts or full days of outdoor adventure. Though I don’t live near many hiking trails anymore, I know I’ll pack these socks for any road trips to the mountains.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.