Compression socks are the unseen heroes of the footwear world. They might look like normal socks, but these little bits of fabric are helping everyone, from office workers, to nurses to professional athletes.
Many of us think of them as something you use when you’re pregnant or you have a medical condition, but compression socks have a whole host of everyday uses. They provide increased leg stability, improve circulation and can stop swelling in your legs, ankles and feet. Some of them can even give you softer, healthier skin.
In this extensive buyers’ guide, we’ll cover the essential features you need to look out for when looking at compression socks and provide our top 10 product recommendations to help you find the perfect pair for your needs!
- How do compression socks work?
- Features to Consider in Good Compression Socks for Women
- Top 10 Best Compression Socks for Women 2021
- 1. Best Overall Compression Socks for Women: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
- 2. Best Compression Socks for Women with Swollen Feet: QUXIANG Copper Compression Socks (8 Pairs)
- 3. Best Compression Socks for Women Standing All Day: SB SOX Compression Socks
- 4. Best Premium Compression Socks for Women: Sockwell Women’s Circulator Compression Socks
- 5. Best Budget Compression Socks for Women: Laite Hebe Compression Socks
- 6. Most Stylish Compression Socks for Women: CHARMKING Compression Socks
- 7. Best Anti-Fungal Compression Socks for Women: FuelMeFoot Copper Compression Socks
- 8. Most Durable Compression Socks: ACTINPUT Compression Socks – 8 Pairs
- 9. Lightest Compression Socks for Women: Rymora Compression Socks
- 10. Best Cushioned Compression Socks for Women: SB SOX Lite Compression Socks
- Guide to Buying the Best Compression Socks for Women
How do compression socks work?
Before we dive into the features of great compression socks, it’s important to understand how they actually work. Many of us know that they help improve circulation and can stop you from getting sore feet and legs, but few of us understand how they achieve these miraculous effects.
It all comes down to how blood circulates through your body. It starts when your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through your arteries. Once the blood reaches its destination and becomes oxygen-depleted, it then needs to be carried back by your veins. This is where things become a little more difficult, especially in the lower parts of your body, as they have to work against gravity to get back to your heart.
This is where compression socks come in. They push blood up your legs and stop it from pooling in your feet. This in turn helps reduce swelling and fatigue, and is especially useful if you’re going to be sitting in the same place for long periods of time.
They do this by creating a lot of pressure at the bottom of your legs, which steadily decreases as the socks go up. This is called graduated compression, and is an essential part of a good compression sock. All the products in this guide use graduated pressure, which is represented by a scale in mmHg—millimeters of mercury, a unit defined by the pressure generated by a column of mercury one millimeter high.
Features to Consider in Good Compression Socks for Women
As we already covered, compression socks work by applying pressure to your legs, feet and ankles. In good compression socks, this level gradually decreases as the sock moves up your leg. We’ll go into the different compression levels in more detail later, but the most important thing to note is that a higher compression level will be less comfortable but more well-suited for use with medical conditions, while a lower (but not overly low) level will be best for general purpose usage.
The material used can make a big difference when it comes to compression socks. You want to find a pair that is capable of providing excellent support while still being both comfortable and breathable. This is normally achieved by blending several materials together, with the most common being nylon and spandex.
If you’re already a fan of activewear, these materials will be pretty well known to you. Spandex adds a lot of stretch to any blend it’s in, which allows the sock to fit snugly and applies pressure consistently across a range of foot shapes and sizes. It also does a decent job of letting your skin breathe, which is essential if your feet are going to get sweaty.
Nylon is terrible at letting your skin breathe, but amazing at wicking away sweat. This means that it brings sweat to the surface of the material, allowing it to evaporate in the air. For activewear, this is a big plus, but here it’s a lot less useful as your feet won’t be exposed to air. This means the sweat will just be wicked to the lining of your shoes/ If you’re wearing lightweight, breathable shoes, this isn’t much of an issue. If you’re in boots or tight work shoes, however, it becomes a bigger problem, as it can make the lining damp and uncomfortable.
Women’s, Men’s or Unisex
Many buyers looking for compression socks seek out an item that’s been made specifically for their gender. That makes a lot of sense, as common men’s and women’s socks do quite often have differences, mainly with the cut and the thickness of the material used.
With compression socks though, the cut and thickness are both very specific factors that manufacturers won’t change. As a result, the difference between most men and women’s compression socks is largely just branding. Underneath the marketing hype and color options, they’re essentially the same thing. For this reason, the vast majority of the socks on this list are unisex.
Top 10 Best Compression Socks for Women 2021
These socks use a premium blend of nylon and spandex that makes them perfect for anyone who finds that they have sweaty feet or wants to work out in their compression socks. The 30-percent spandex content is higher than you’ll find in other socks, which makes them much more breathable and an ideal choice for sports and other physical activities.
The socks are stitched together in a way that keeps seam lines out of places that would normally experience too much pressure. Anyone that’s had a pair of compression socks with seams on the heel or right on the toe will tell you how uncomfortable they can be over time, especially when you’re running or playing sports.
These socks are designed to be machine washable without losing much compression or becoming too loose. When washed in cold water, they’ll keep all their benefits even after being cleaned multiple times. Again, this is essential for anyone doing physical activities that will cause them to be sweaty.
A higher percentage of spandex in the blend also helps them to last longer than other compression socks. Spandex helps to give the nylon elasticity, which means these socks can be stretched for hours at a time, then spring right back into shape again when you take them off. They’ll keep delivering this great performance for a considerable amount of time, even with regular wear.
These socks are a little more expensive than some of their competitors, but they don’t retail at a premium rate. They’re well worth the money, as you’re paying for extra quality in the materials and design.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
This sock opt for a blend of polyester, copper and nylon, which is an interesting mix. The lack of spandex does hurt the elasticity a little, and we would have liked to have seen some included. The touch of polyester is great, though, and should add some excellent levels of comfort and structure to the socks. Expect them to keep their shape, even across long-term use.
The inclusion of the copper in these socks is a really nice feature to have, as it makes them adept at staying odor and fungus free, all while feeling great on your feet. Socks that include copper are also some of the very best compression socks for swelling as well. They might even make your skin feel softer and help prevent blisters.
Quxiang has included a number of other features to ensure that you stay comfortable. A reinforced toe combines nicely with the copper to prevent friction and blisters, and a reinforced heel provides comfort and support. A design that incorporates arch support will help anyone who is suffering from plantar fasciitis, and there’s even a strong, no-slip cuff to help keep them on during exercise.
An eight-pack for the same price that many are charging for two pairs of socks is an excellent value for your money. Having a lot of backups is definitely a plus for an item like socks, since having to wear the same pair again because you forgot to wash them is not a pleasant experience.
They even come in a range of styles and colors. There’s something for everyone, and if you can’t decide, you can just choose a mixed pack and get a whole range of choices.
Compression Level: 20-30 mmHg
SB SOX has gone for a blend that includes very little spandex, as they’re dependent on their many sizing options to help the socks to fit your foot, rather than elasticity. That’s a perfectly valid choice that works well enough, but we would have still liked to have seen some spandex to help breathability.
Having compression socks that fit perfectly is essential. Too loose, and you won’t see the benefits. Too tight, and they can be incredibly uncomfortable, hard to put on and even dangerous. That’s why SB SOX has put a lot of effort into making sure that their range of socks offers a great fit for everyone.
Each option covers not only a different range of foot sizes, but also a different range of thigh circumferences, too. This makes it easier to find the perfect fit for your foot and leg, without having to compromise on comfort or effectiveness.
A big benefit of having a perfect fit is that these socks will stay up even during physical activity. There’s no use in having compression socks on when you run or play football if you’re going to need to adjust them every few minutes because they keep slipping, and that won’t be a problem with this pair.
Cheaper brands will often use a tight elastic band at the top of the socks to prevent them from slipping. This will often make them so tight that they leave painful, red rings on your calves that can become extremely uncomfortable over time.
These socks are affordable and offer excellent value for their price. Cheaper socks rarely fit as well as these do.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
These socks are made from a blend that’s unlike any other on this list, primarily merino wool, nylon and bamboo, with a little spandex thrown in. Merino wool is something of a miracle material that keeps your skin dry and even repels odors. It’s a favorite for exercise wear and winter-wear due to its ability to keep you feeling warm without making you sweaty.
Combined with the highly breathable bamboo, the result is a sock that’s light, breathable, comfortable and sweat-wicking. That little bit of spandex does a lot of work here, and keeps the whole thing nicely elasticated and tight.
Sockwell packs in all the features you’d want in a sock: a discrete band to keep them in position, padded heels and toes to help with blistering and even a little arch support to help keep your feet feeling great.
They’ve also gone with a subtle approach to design, with a number of styles that would blend nicely into pretty much any outfit. They’re simple, clean and classy, and it’s very hard to tell them apart from ordinary socks at a glance.
There is a downside to all of this, though, which is that these are very much premium-priced socks compared to their competition. A single pair costs the same as half a dozen of many of the cheaper brands, which can be quite off-putting—but you get what you pay for, with these being some of the best compression socks money can buy.
Compression Level: 20-30 mmHG
These socks use a high-nylon blend in their base, to be as thin and unobtrusive as possible. They’ll slide into pretty much any shoe that an ordinary sock would fit in, and don’t create a cushioned feeling. This is important if you’re planning to run or hike in them, as that cushioned sensation from thick socks can make it harder to feel the terrain beneath you and keep your balance. This blend doesn’t breathe well, though, so you’ll need shoes with breathability to make up for the lack of lycra!
Some brands that offer the same value have socks that lose their elasticity during repeated washes, but not Laite Hebe. As socks naturally get smelly, and elasticity is vital to keeping the right amount of pressure, this is a definite advantage. They’ll keep delivering the same support, so long as you take proper care of them and wash according to instructions.
If you’re not sure these are the socks for you, you’ll be relieved to hear that they offer an exchange or refund program. You can put your mind to rest, knowing that if these socks don’t work out for you, Laite Hebe will gladly give you your money back.
These socks only come in an eight-pack. Once you see the price, you’ll see what really makes these socks stand out, as eight pairs of these costs hardly more than one pair of some competing brands. This leaves you with plenty of spare socks, in case you forget to wash them or for once some pairs begin to lose their full compression.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
An 85 percent nylon blend offers a nice mix of flexibility, lightness and elasticity. These socks are decently breathable and would be suitable for light exercise, and they should keep their shape and compression for some time. Unfortunately, the stitching on the more colorful designs doesn’t seem to stretch that well, which can cause some friction with the skin.
We love that Charmking offers socks in a wide range of styles and colors. Although discreet black socks are great, it’s nice to have some cute women’s socks that look good instead of just trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
There’s a lot of variety to choose from, and they should have something to suit pretty much everyone’s tastes. You can even pick up a mixed pack if you want to have a nice selection of different socks: perfect if you need to wear compression socks every day and don’t want to stick with one style.
These socks offer extremely good value for their price. Many of them are available in multipacks at the same price you’d pay for a single pair of other compression socks. If you’re someone that needs to wear these socks a lot, perhaps even every day, you’ll really appreciate having this many pairs.
This is especially true because compression socks should be washed carefully in cold water to keep their elasticity. This often means that they’ll have to go in the wash with other delicates or even on their own, so washing the same pair or two every couple of days can be quite a chore.
Charmking is also kind enough to offer a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not pleased with your purchase. This is always a great factor for your peace of mind: if you find you don’t like the socks, you can simply return them for a refund.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
Copper is a metal that has a long term history of health benefits. The ancient Greeks realized its power to disinfect, and it has been used in medical treatments ever since. Weaving it into clothing is a relatively new trend, but one that many swear by.
It helps to stimulate blood vessels in the skin, which creates softer skin that is less likely to blister and callus. If you’re planning to wear these socks regularly, especially for long periods, you’ll really appreciate that. They’ve also been seamed in places that don’t directly place pressure on your feet, which will again help cut down on blisters.
The combination of copper and nylon helps make these socks durable and long-lasting. You can easily get a few months of wear out of each pair before they start to lose their compression.
Copper is a powerful antifungal agent, which should reduce the chance of anything nasty growing on your feet. Anyone who has had athlete’s foot will appreciate why that is a great feature to have in any sock!
As well as helping to keep your feet healthy, antibacterial and antifungal properties ensure that your socks don’t get quite as smelly. Professionals who are on their feet all day, like nurses or retail workers, will really like that, as will anyone sharing a living space with them!
These socks are right in the middle of the road in terms of value. They don’t quite offer the same quality as some premium socks, and the three-pack they provide isn’t quite as generous as what’s on offer from the competition. But, if you’re looking to recover from or ward off fungal infections, they’re as good as it gets.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
These socks use polyester in their blend, which has a number of benefits. First, it adds a little extra comfort and firmness to the feel of the socks. Second, it’s non-absorbent and combines with the lycra and nylon to create a sock that’s very good at wicking away sweat.
Finally, it helps add some extra durability to your socks. You’ll find that they last longer and don’t suffer as badly from wear and tear, even with regular use. That’s a big plus for professionals who rely on compression socks to keep their legs happy and healthy every day.
These socks are easy to wash and dry. They’re machine washable, so long as you’re using cold water. They’re not able to be machined-dried, but all 3 materials used in the weave air dry very quickly, so this isn’t too much of a hassle.
The extra structure from the polyester will also help them keep their shape, use after use. This is a great feature to have if you’re planning on using them regularly.
These socks are available in plain, subtle colors great for blending in with smart business wear for work. Or, you can get funky and choose from a cool selection of colors and patterns. They come in a great value eight-pack, so you can even go with a variety if you want a sock for every occasion!
Value is definitely a strong point here. ACTINPUT offers a good number of socks for a great price.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
These socks use pure nylon to ensure that they’re as unobtrusive as possible. They’re thin and light, making them the perfect choice for anyone who finds a bulkier compression sock to be irritating and difficult to wear. It also makes them a good choice for tight-fitting shoes that can only fit a very slender sock.
On paper, these socks look ideal for sports. The problem is that they’re pure nylon: as we mentioned earlier, that means they’re going to wick sweat away from your feet and straight into the lining of your shoes. If you have an extremely breathable shoe, this won’t be the end of the world but if you’re using a heavier work shoe or even a runner lined with GORE-TEX, it’s easy to end up with damp shoes and feet.
The Rymora compression socks have a couple of great little features that will really improve your experience. The seams on this sock, for example, have been strategically placed away from the toe to ensure that there’s minimal friction between your foot and the sock. There’s also support for your all the way up your Achilles tendon and down to the sole too, ensuring an overall comfortable fit. And, with a discreet non-slip band, you won’t have to worry about them falling down, either.
These socks retail at a price that makes them one of the more expensive items in this guide. If you really need something thin, it’s worth paying for, but if not then you might want to consider going for a multipack or paying a little extra to get a truly premium pair of socks.
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHG
SB Sox is using an antibacterial, anti-odor and antistatic material here to create a pair of socks that are resistant to many of the most common issues found in compression socks. You’ll have no complaints about slipping while walking with them on carpet or stinking out your laundry basket, thanks to these small additions. There’s also less chance of something nasty growing on your feet.
These socks are available in 4 different sizes. This makes it easy to find a pair that perfectly fit both your feet and your calves, as well as keeping yourself comfortable. You’ll even find options for extra-large sizes, which is a welcome relief for anyone with big feet. There are things you can squeeze yourself into, but compression socks are not one of them!
The reinforced cushioned toe and heel really take comfort to the next level. Friction is often a concern with such tight socks if you’re wearing loose sneakers, as they can rub up against the lining of the shoe. Here, the little bit of extra cushioning helps to ease these stress points that might otherwise cause uncomfortable rubbing.
Thankfully, the padding isn’t too thick. This is good because it doesn’t feel unnatural or force your foot into an uncomfortable arch. It is also not quite thick enough to stop your feet from fitting in a relatively tight shoe.
These socks offer excellent value for their price. They pack in plenty of features and a great array of sizing, all for a price that’s competitive and affordable.
Guide to Buying the Best Compression Socks for Women
Now you’ve seen a selection of the best compression socks available, it’s time to make a decision about which one to buy! For us, it all comes down to four things: comfort, support, style and fit.
The first and most essential question you need to ask yourself is: what will I be doing in these socks? It makes a whole world of difference, and the best compression socks for travel probably wouldn’t be much good for running a marathon. To help you find the perfect socks, we’re going to divide your use of them into two categories: active and non-active.
Socks best for active use are recommended for sports or for jobs that require you to move around a lot. Non-active socks are best for use at your desk, on an airplane or for other situations where you’re not expecting to be doing much physical activity.
For active users, you want to ensure that your sock has a high percentage of spandex in its blend, like the Physix Gear socks. As we previously mentioned, spandex will help your feet to breathe, as will the merino wool in the Sockwell. This will stop all the sweat from just getting wicked to the lining of your shoe. Non-active users can get away with a lower blend of spandex as your feet will be sweating less.
If you have a breathable running shoe, sweat on the lining isn’t the end of the world. If you’re using a heavier shoe like a work boot or dress shoes, however, this will not only be uncomfortable but will quickly make your feet stink!
Level of Support Needed
Picking between the two common levels of compression can be a confusing experience, but it doesn’t have to be. It once again comes down to what you’ll be doing when you’re wearing the socks.
This is relatively mild level of compression that’s commonly used to relieve the soreness and swelling associated with sitting in one place for a long time. If you’re planning to spend all day sitting down, you might want to opt for 15-20 mmHg, which provides excellent relief from swelling and discomfort without being too tight. Runners and athletes tend to prefer 15-20 mmHg as well, but for totally different reasons. They find it offers the best balance of stability, support and circulation, without impairing movement or causing chafing.
A medium level of compression provides excellent relief from soreness, while also being used to treat a variety of mild medical conditions such as deep vein thrombosis and plantar fasciitis. Those that spend long shifts standing up will want to opt for a higher level of compression. 20-30 mmHg is a great choice for nurses, those working in retail and those suffering from mild cases of varicose veins.
You also need to consider your own personal preferences. If you’re someone that is used to wearing loose cotton socks all day, switching to a 20-30 mmHg compression sock is going to be quite a change for you. Though compression socks should never cause you pain, this sudden change in sensation on your legs and feet might be uncomfortable.
There are also 3 levels of compression that you won’t see nearly as often:
The lowest form of compression sock commonly available, it’s used to slightly enhance circulation and reduce swelling, but lacks the compression needed for more noticeable effects. These are too light for most people to bother with, so we didn’t include any socks in this range on this list.
30-40 mmHg & 40-50 mmHg
These socks are commonly prescribed to help medical conditions and provide relief. Their compression can be detrimental to your health or even dangerous when used in the wrong circumstances. They’re available from some retailers online, but should only be used when a doctor prescribes them to you.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past where compression socks were purely functional, medical items that looked more like cut-up pantyhose than something you’d choose to wear. Thankfully we’ve moved past the days of ugly socks, and you’re free to be as discreet or stylish with your socks as you want.
If you want something to wear with your everyday clothes, a sleek black pair is almost indistinguishable from normal socks. These are perfect for work, and you can pair them easily with business or formal wear.
For sports and running, choosing something with a colorful accent that matches or complements your shoes or shorts can give you a stylish look.
If you take nothing else away from this guide, you should remember this: your compression socks have to fit well. It’s important. Socks that are too small won’t work as effectively, and can even cause pain! Socks that are too large won’t apply enough pressure, so you won’t see the full benefits. Large socks can also end up going too high on your leg or knee, which can cause issues.
The way that compressions socks are designed to work is to have pressure taper off as the sock goes up your leg. You’ll find that the pressure gradient is less effective if the sock doesn’t fit well,and you ultimately won’t get the full potential benefits from your socks. Not only that, but a sock that goes above the knee can restrict your movement or even cause pain.
Remember, no matter what materials, price or features you choose to prioritize in your compression socks, the one thing you should never be feeling is pain. The wrong compression sock for your body and your needs can cause nothing but pain and discomfort, but if you choose wisely, the right compression sock can make a world of positive difference.