Wearing compression socks for travel used to be something you’d associate with the elderly or someone with a medical condition. However, many people stuck in their seats for 4, 6, or 8+ hours get decreased circulation in their legs and find themselves with swollen feet and sore legs. Compression socks can help.
If you’ve ever taken off your shoes on a long flight and found you had trouble putting them back on before the flight lands, you’ve experienced a little bit of what is called economy class syndrome. Put yourself on a 10+ hour flight and you might really see the symptoms -swollen legs and ankles, aching or sore legs, and heavy or tight legs.
While none of these things is a serious problem and will subside after you land and start moving again, they can be uncomfortable and even very painful for some people. This is where travel compression socks work their magic. They can keep the swelling at bay even on the longest of flights.
Compression socks are also believed to help prevent DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, which can be a serious medical problem and in extreme cases even cause death. While according to one study, risks are low to most travelers, the risk doubles for longer flights of 4+ hours. We’ll talk more about DVT in a bit.
If you plan on doing a lot of walking once you reach your destination, compression socks may also provide support and keep your legs feeling fresh as you spend a day taking in all the sights.
Below is our list of the best compression socks for travel. We’ve looked at dozens of options and selected those that rated the highest among actual customers.
WHAT ARE COMPRESSION SOCKS
Graduated compression socks help to improve blood flow and circulation in the legs by gently applying pressure. They are used to treat a variety of circulatory problems in the legs and are often prescribed for travelers who are at risk of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Compression socks come in a variety of strengths. Generally, the higher the compression rating, the more severe the ailment they are treating. For travel, the typical suggested compression level is 15-20 mm HG. This level offers support for prevention of minor swelling in the ankles and legs and tired and aching legs. You will find compression socks are used to help with a variety of ailments from diabetes to varicose veins, not just travel.
ECONOMY CLASS SYNDROME AND DVT
Economy Leg Syndrome is the common term to describe some of the side effects of sitting for long periods of time (4+) without moving on an airplane flight. Some of the symptoms include swelling in the legs and ankles, leg pain, and heavy legs. While none of these symptoms are dangerous, they can be uncomfortable. Some people get swelling so bad that it is painful to walk.
While Economy Class Syndrome may not be critical, sitting for a long period of time, especially on long haul flights of 8+ hours, can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis which is serious and can become life threatening. DVT, is a clot in the leg that if it becomes dislodged and finds its way to the lungs can cause a pulmonary embolism, which can cause serious health problems even death.
If you are at risk of DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, you should seek the advice of your doctor before travel.
SHOULD YOU WEAR COMPRESSION SOCKS ON LONG HAUL FLIGHTS?
You can purchase compression socks without a prescription, and many people do, but it is still best to seek the advice of a doctor as to whether you need them and have him prescribe the right amount of compression for you.
With that disclaimer in mind, there are a lot of people who find wearing compression socks on long flights provide a lot of comfort and reduce fatigue in their legs. If you have trouble with swelling in the legs and ankles during your flights, then compression socks may help.
BEST COMPRESSION SOCKS FOR LONG HAUL AIR TRAVEL
It is nice to see that compression socks have caught up with the times and are now available in designs and colors that you don’t have to be embarrassed to wear. They come in men’s, women’s, and unisex models.
One of only two compression socks we could find purposely made for air travel. They are made of 80% cotton for comfort and easy on and off. True graduated compression – 25-30 mm Hg at the ankle, 15-20 mm Hg at calf, and 10-15 mm Hg at the cuff.
The second sock we could find specifically designed for travel. The TS1000 is made mainly from CoolMax wich wicks moisture away from your feet keeping them cool and dry. Travelsox also makes a few other types including Egyptian cotton. The socks are unisex and come in a selection of neutral colors. These socks offer light support good for preventative measures. Compression: 10-18 mm Hg
Known for being comfortable and durable. These unisex socks are available in three colors: black/blue, black/grey, and black/pink. The socks are made of a moisture wicking, anti-bacterial, and breathable spandex/lycra material. Compression: 20-30 mm Hg
These travel socks by Go2 are popular and highly rated. They are made from a blended nylon fabric that is constructed to fight order and bacteria. These are unisex socks that come in a large variety of colors and patterns that are great for both men and women. Compression: 20-30 mm Hg
These colorful socks come in fun and vibrant patterns. While they are advertised as unisex, these colors and patterns will most likely appeal to more women than Men. They come in a six pack. The socks are made from a 48% cotton blend. Compression: 15-20 mm Hg
HOW TO PREVENT LEG AND ANKLE SWELLING AND DVT ON A LONG FLIGHT
There are several things you can do to help prevent swelling while on a long flight. Sitting for two long is the biggest culprit, so movement is key.
- Get up and Move. Take a walk around the cabin, stand for a while. A little movement every few hours will help keep your circulation going
- Exercises. Do some foot and ankle exercise regularly when seated. Heel toe raises, circles with your feet, and flexing your feet. Most airlines that are on a long-haul route have some information on one of the cards in the seat back.
- Stay Hydrated. This is just a good overall travel advice. It is easy to get dehydrated on a plane flight, drink plenty of water, regularly, on your journey.
- What Are The Drawbacks?
The biggest issue is making sure you get socks that fit properly and have the right compression level for your needs. Having the wrong compression level can actually have negative effects. Higher compression levels are meant for more serious conditions. If you have questions, you should consult your doctor.
Something else to look out for is the type of material the socks are made from. You’ll be wearing these for long hours and want something that is breathable and comfortable.
Another thing you’ll find is that due to the compression, these socks are a little harder to put on at first compared to regular socks. You’ll also want to be careful putting them on and taking them off so you don’t stretch out and ruin the compression.
Some people feel that the socks are too tight when they first wear them. While they are supposed to be tighter than your regular socks, they are not meant to be uncomfortable. It is important to pay attention to the sizing chart when picking out your socks so that you get ones that fit well and are comfortable to wear on those long flights.
DISCLAIMER – GET YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE
While some people are looking for flight socks to be more comfortable during and after their flight, if you are concerned about any symptoms or worry you may be at risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis, consult your doctor.
You don’t need a medical prescription to buy compression socks, but they are often prescribed by doctors to treat a wide variety of circulation and leg problems. This guide is for informational purposes and isn’t meant to be a substitute for seeking medical advice from a doctor, which is something you should definitely do. They can provide a proper diagnosis and prescribe the correct compression for you.