Compression stockings are medical grade devices designed to move blood flow.
Support compression stockings are made available in multiple compression support levels. Most commonly compression support stockings come in mild (8-15 mmHg), Medium (15-20 mmHg), Firm (20-30 mmHg), X-Firm (30-40 mmHg) gradient compression levels.
If you’re new to the world of compression or have yet to find the right sock for yourself, it can be tough to determine which compression choice is right for you before making your purchase. Today there are countless options when choosing the best product for you. The many brands now offer numerous selections with copper, cotton, merino wool, and even bamboo. This has made shopping become time consuming and even confusing for newcomers. That’s why we’re here to take you through the decision-making process to help determine the best product for you.
The first and most important step is consulting with your doctor about wearing medical grade (20 mmHg of compression or more) compression therapy garments. The amount of compression is important to determine prior to purchase, because your body may need more pressure on veins and valves to pump blood back to the heart and decrease pooling. Also, there is a big important word called contraindications, meaning drugs, products, and procedures could affect you negatively. Therefore, your physician should perform an ABI (ankle brachial index) test to ensure safety of compression therapy. After this step your doctor will have determined your prescription of which compression range (20-30mmHg, 30-40mmHg, etc.) and style of garment – calf, thigh, or panty length.
The second stage of choosing your garment is considering your lifestyle. Are you outside quite often? Getting decent exercise or mostly staying indoors? Whatever it may be, your most common footwear is a good indication for choosing which style product you need. Are you more of a formal dresser for the office or do you have a job requiring work boots? It may not seem like it, but there is an important relationship between footwear and your compression garment. For example, some stockings come with open toe options to allow for wearing sandals and other open toe shoes. Most likely, you spend time in a variety of footwear and will need a full collection of compression products to suit those needs.
What is the difference between compression stockings and compression socks?
Next you have to consider which style of compression you need and like. Stockings are generally products that resemble traditional hosiery garments. Each stocking comes in a variety of compression levels, styles, colors, and materials. Most commonly stockings are paired with lifestyles and dresswear that are on the formal side. They are made with more lightweight materials and designed for formal footwear or be paired with a “cover” sock when used with other shoes.
On the other hand, compression socks are made with heavier yarns and with a different knitting structure. This provides you with a thicker foot that fits and performs better in most athletic footwear and work boots. Most often, compression socks come in calf length styles. Also, compression socks usually cover the therapeutic and medical grade compression’s and come in a rainbow of fun colors and patterns. Compression socks are actually the fastest growing segment of compression as there is a trend towards more casual footwear. This explosive growth has brought new technology and creativity to the entire compression category.
How to choose the right compression sock?
The following list contains options for specific needs of your compression and lifestyle.
- Quality knit structure is important for delivering optimal long-lasting compression as well as satisfactory comfort with a smooth and soft feel. The sock should appear to have a consistent stitch pattern that provides durability to the sock and provides strong compression therapy. Some fabrics that have this type of solid, yet moveable, knit structure are nylon and spandex. To identify if the socks have quality knit structure when shopping online, most quality manufacturers provide clear images that will allow you to zoom in to the product to see the detail of the socks.
- Attention to detail using elastic yet strong yarns is important for long-lasting socks with soothing comfort. You’ll know if your choice of sock has good attention to detail from a close look of the knit structure in the product imaging. You can see from the images below, a quality yarn looks smooth and strong. If the sock material looks to be loosely knit then the quality of the fibers on the sock may not be made from a long lasting material. Materials that have great yarns are usually made form nylon and spandex. Cotton is not as durable of a fiber, because it absorbs moisture and is susceptible to loosening yarns.
- Precise finishing on all seams is important for all day comfort and will not irritate the legs or skin. You want to purchase a product with a flat seem versus a ropey looking seam. This ensures the seam won’t rub against your feet for comfort while walking. Materials that have an uncomfortable seam can be made of polyester and cotton which aren’t as easy to create a precise finish with machine techniques. Flat seems are created by quality machine techniques that are used by market leading and trusted manufacturers.
- It is also important to make sure your sock is breathable with excellent moisture regulation for all temperatures. Having the ability to see the open mesh pattern between seams and knits on the product while shopping online is important to know if the product will be breathable or not. Some feature lists also describe knit fabrics which may be breathable like nylon and spandex. These types of fabrics are more expensive for brands to use, but create the perfect sock with all around comfort. They have quality yarn that helps wick moisture which allows the sock to evaporate excess dampness. This process would not be as successful in a thicker material sock like cotton.
- Look for a soft padded foot for all day comfort. Take a look at the product online to see if there is a good amount of thickness for foot support. If the image doesn’t quite show it, there may be a description below the product describing the detail for the foot of the sock.
Soft padded foot of the Mediven Active
The Mediven Active checks all the boxes for an elite compression sock. Available in gray, black and white as well as two compression levels, 15-20 mmHg and 20-30 mmHg. The quality of this product shines through providing tremendous value that should outlast its 6-month warranty. Perfect for healthcare professionals, teachers or anyone who spends long hours on their feet. All Medi products come with a 30-day comfort wearing guarantee to ensure 100% customer satisfaction.
This blog was written by guest contributor Kelsey Berens.