The 7 best compression socks for runners, seniors, and anyone looking to improve circulation

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  • Compression socks help speed muscle recovery and potentially improve athletic performance.
  • The garments also improve blood flow for venous or lymphatic issues for pregnant women or the elderly.
  • Our top pick, CEP’s Progressive+ Compression Socks, are incredibly comfortable and won’t sag through the day.

Compression socks are one of those garments that seem gimmicky, but science actually backs up their biggest claimed benefit: Improving your circulation.

“Compression socks help the vascular system move blood and other fluids, which can help manage swelling and inflammation,” Jenelle Deatherage, a physical therapist at the UW Health Sports Rehabilitation Clinic, told Insider.

At its foundation, the garment works by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also helps the flow of lymph fluid, which helps remove cellular waste and circulates bacteria-fighting white blood cells throughout your body.

Deatherage added that several categories of people may benefit from wearing compression socks, including athletes who could look to enhance their workouts. This is especially true for runners.

“There’s not great research on performance, which is what a lot of patients look for, but the good news is that there is some research that shows [compression socks] might help with muscle fatigue and reduce soreness if you wear them during a workout,” she explained.

Because of those inherent benefits, compression socks have become quite popular in recent years – and that popularity has brought with it a surplus of options. To help narrow down what’s available, we tested dozens of styles across brands like Swiftwick, CEP, and Sockwell. Our guide features socks that provide great comfort, are relatively durable, and are fit to wear in a variety of situations.

At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some insight into who Detherage says may benefit most from compression socks, tips on how to shop for them, and the best methods for how to use and wear them.

Here are the best compression socks:

The best overall

compression socks

Whether you are a runner or just someone who wants to relieve lower leg ailments, the CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 provides all-day comfort.

Pros: Incredibly comfortable, thinner, won’t sag over the course of the day

Cons: Expensive, sizing can be tricky so be sure to measure before ordering

The CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 (available in men’s and women’s sizes) stand out from the other socks on our list due in large part to the fact they offer unparalleled comfort — and should be considered by anyone, despite a steep price tag. 

The brand’s parent company, Medi, has been producing medical compression products for over 70 years. The founder of CEP, who is an Ironman competitor, leveraged Medi’s technical knowledge and designs for athletes.

Made of polyamide and nylon (60%), elastane (25%), and polypropylene (15%), CEP’s socks offer precise 20-30mmHg graduated and consistent compression so they won’t sag as the day goes on.

The Progressive+ 2.0 Socks also feature a halo top band that lands right below the knee. This keeps your socks in place and the front ribbing allows air to flow through to cool your skin’s surface. Per CEP’s website, the company offers a six-month guarantee that covers wearing the socks up to 150 times before the compression lessens. 

These socks are recommended for anyone who suffers from shin splints, Achilles issues, or plantar fasciitis. They’re also great for runners looking to rehab their leg after a long run or workout. 

The best on a budget

compression socks

The SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are the least expensive pair in our guide, yet they stay up and provide reliable comfort.

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Available in just two sizes

Though the SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are about one-fifth the price of our top pick, they rival it in performance. These socks have a graduated compression rating of 15-20mmHg, which is slightly less than the CEP socks but still supplies sufficient compression for blood circulation.

The socks are made of breathable and lightweight spandex and nylon, which helps to wick away sweat and moisture from your feet. SB Sox come in 11 different colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Though they seem thinner and lighter than other picks on this list, SB Sox socks hold up well through numerous wears and washes. Plus, they provide a snug fit that doesn’t feel too constricting. More sizing options would be welcome, though.

The best for circulation

sockwell

If you experience circulation problems due to chronic health issues, the Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks may be your best bet for achieving leg comfort.

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

Cons: The top of the sock might warp over time, only comes in two sizes

For people with venous or lymphatic issues in their legs, compression therapy can help move blood through the veins and tissue better, which in turn promotes healing and prevents ulcers and other issues. Compression stockings are one of the easier options to put on and less cumbersome than medical bandages, says a 2014 study in CMAJ.

The Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks (available in men’s and women’s sizes) are made in the United States using bamboo rayon (31%), merino wool (31%), stretch nylon (30%), and spandex (8%). This combination helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control.

What’s more, these are one of the firmer pairs from Sockwell offering compression of 20-30mmHg. A 2019 study analysis in BMC Geriatrics found elderly folks with chronic blood flow issues (venous insufficiency) and swollen legs who wore class 2 compression stockings (pressure between 20 and 30 mmHg) regularly were less likely to have leg ulcers come back compared to wearing lower compression class 1 stockings (pressure below 20 mmHg).

These Sockwell socks have four zones of graduated compression beginning at the ankles and moving up. Since the compression starts at the ankles, the toes remain comfortable. There are four colors for men to choose from and eight in the women’s style.

The best for post-workout

compression socks 1

After running countless miles, slipping on a pair of Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks can decrease soreness and help your muscles recover.

Pros: Great for easing muscle soreness, cushioned bottom, durable, 4 sizes, 14 colors

Cons: Might not be tight enough for everyone’s needs, long drying time

The Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks come in four sizes, which is helpful for ensuring you get the right fit — the appropriate sock size gives you the appropriate level of pressure. Constructed of 82% polyamide and 18% elastane, these socks feature ultra-zone ribbing which targets ankle and arch stabilization, which is ideal for runners with weaknesses in these areas.

The 200 needle count construction is designed to make the socks denser, durable, and reduce stretching over time. They’re sweat-wicking, too, but don’t tend to dry out very quicky, so are best worn in cooler weather. Zensah offers the socks in 14 colors, including Black, Heather Grey, and Neon Pink. 

The best for runners

Aspire Socks

Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve help relieve muscle soreness and prevent or relieve shin splints — something any runner can appreciate.

Pros: Offers comfortable compression for runners, promotes blood flow, helps relieve shin splints, and wicks away moisture

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

Swiftwick’s compression socks run the gamut of everything from knee-high versions for those looking for full leg relief to no-show options for golfers. For runners, its Aspire Twelve socks are an excellent option to help relieve muscle soreness, prevent or care for shin splints, and provide stability and comfort. 

Comprised of a blend of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, the Aspire Twelves don’t just offer the benefits of compression but also help wick away moisture to keep your feet dry. They work well to keep on even after your run as you’ll continue to reap the benefits of compression as you recover. 

The best for standing all-day

compression socks

If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day, give your lower legs a break with Sockwell’s Circulator Graduated Compression Socks.

Pros: Good for reducing foot and ankle swelling, incredibly comfortable, inexpensive

Cons: Concerns about durability, socks may only come up to mid-calf in taller people

The Sockwell Circulator Graduated Compression Socks have a lot of the same features as our pick for best circulation, the Sockwell Elevation socks. They both have four zones of graduated compression from the ankle on up, which keeps the toes feeling comfortable, and each is made of a combination of spandex, bamboo rayon, stretch nylon, and merino wool.

But the main differences are that the Circulator socks have moderate compression (15-20mmHg) and cost a bit less ($30 per pair).

The Circulator socks only come in two sizes. but there are nine colors to choose from, including Black Stripe, Charcoal, Black Solid, and Port. Regardless of the size, the socks aren’t very long, so they’re best used for people with shorter builds. 

The best patterned

Vim Vigr socks

Vim & Vigr combines form and function with its fashion-forward compression socks that you’ll just love to be seen in.

Pros: Stylish, comfortable, available for both men and women

Cons: Can get expensive

First and foremost, Vim & Vigr compression socks work. After all, no amount of aesthetic creativity would be able to make up for compression socks that don’t do much by way of compressing. Luckily, that’s not the case with these.

I’m particularly fond of Vim & Vigr’s medical-grade compression level, which are designed with a Gradient Knitting Technology to help promote circulation in your calves. The socks feature a structured leg but a flexible toe and heel so that you’re supported where you need it but still able to move. These socks offer moderate to firm compression, with somewhere between 20 and 30 mmHg depending on the style.

Regardless of your selection, however, you’ll find that Vim & Vigr helps to prevent swelling in your legs, and alleviates pain and achiness. I found that these socks were just as helpful during runs as they were during HIIT workouts — especially as the weather gets colder and circulation becomes increasingly important.

What sets Vim & Vigr apart are its fun, unique designs. Not only is there a wide range of colors to choose from but the brand also offers several interesting patterns. I’m a fan of the color block options, as well as a Rugby Stripe pattern for men.

Vim & Vigr offers wide calf versions of all their socks for both men and women, so you don’t have to be uncomfortable even when donning a tight pair of socks. If you don’t need medical-grade compression, you can always opt for the brand’s moisture-wicking nylon material, or the remarkably warm merino wool composition. You could also check out Vim & Vigr sleeves, which compress your calves without encasing your feet.

Who should wear compression socks?

Anyone can wear compression socks but they do figure to benefit some groups more than others. This predominantly includes athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people, though anyone who sits or stands for long periods of time at work should consider them as well.

Deatherage suggested that if you work out in the morning before sitting at a desk or standing all day, where your calves and ankles stay at the bottom of the gravity chain, it’s smart to wear compression socks post-workout. This helps with swelling and gets blood back to the heart.

Conversely, if you sit all day and prefer to work out at night, wearing compression socks while exercising after work may allow for less fatigue in the lower legs and can help enhance circulation.

Athletes

Concerning the exact impact of compression socks on athletes, Deatherage told Insider that their effectiveness is still somewhat undecided. There is some research that confirms that wearing compression garments helps improve running endurance or cycling sprints, while others say it doesn’t change a thing.

A recently-published analysis in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 21 studies and found that a small number do show that wearing compression socks during exercise improved performance. Mostly, though, the studies showed wearing the special socks during a grueling workout helped fit folks feel like their leg muscles were firing better, fatiguing less, and, after the workout, less sore.

Even if it’s just a placebo effect, those training hard, particularly for long endurance events like a marathon, wearing compression socks during workouts and after for recovery may help make training easier.

“When looking at the cost-benefit ratio and considering what research is out there, it’s not a bad idea,” Deatherage said. “And it’s an easy thing to do.”

Pregnant women

Besides runners, Deatherage says pregnant women may benefit from compression socks, as they’re more prone to swelling. Venous issues are also particularly high for pregnant women as they have a larger volume of blood pumping through their bodies. 

Some 40% of pregnant women develop varicose veins, while the risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is four- to five-fold higher for moms-to-be compared to non-pregnant women. Wearing compression socks or stockings during pregnancy can potentially help reduce swelling and discomfort, improve circulation, and minimize varicose veins.

Seniors

Elderly people with deep vein thrombosis, those who just had surgery on their legs, or anyone trying to minimize varicose veins or blood clot concerns, might also benefit from compression socks. The catch is here is that these more serious vascular issues, including varicose veins, would benefit more from medical grade compression socks, Deatherage added, which requires a doctor prescription and are often more expensive.

How to shop for compression socks

If you’re simply looking for workout recovery or want relief from more minor issues of swelling or soreness, say on long flights or during long work shifts on your feet (like nurses), you may see advantages from more moderate compression socks, Deatherage said. This includes socks with ratings of about 10-20mmHg, which stands for millimeters of mercury (a measurement of pressure).

When shopping around for compression socks, Deatherage said that besides a sock’s mmHg rating, the most important thing to look for is comfort, saying that “compression socks only work if you wear them.”

Look for a pair in which the material feels comfortable against your skin, and a set that feels snug but not too tight — you don’t want to restrict your movement. If you can find a pair that offers customization for your size, that’s even better.

Compression sock ratings

As noted above, the compression in the stockings is measured in mm Hg. Specifically, compression socks are rated based on blood pressure. The majority of compression socks either have a moderate pressure rating of 10 to 20 mmHg or a firm rating of 20 to 30 mmHg.

None of the socks we reviewed have a rating above 30 mm Hg, but there are specialty shops where you can find these if needed. Graduated compression socks, the most common type, are tighter near the ankle than at the calf to avoid cutting off circulation.

Fabrics used

Most compression socks are made from a blend of synthetic fabrics that provide a snug and stretchy fit. In the reviews that follow, we let you know what materials are used in the construction of the socks but unless you have an issue with a specific material, you should let performance be your main guide in choosing the best compression socks.

How best to use compression socks

There is a bit of a paradox associated with wearing compression socks. You may have purchased them to deal with leg swelling. Yet, this same swelling makes it hard for you to put them on. So, what can you do? There are countless resources on the web to help you out, plus we’ve compiled a few tips here, as well: 

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 8 best running socks for marathon training, blister prevention, and cold-weather runs

  • Running socks manage moisture and provide cushioning to prevent blisters and hot spots on long runs.
  • A quality sock is made of sweat-wicking materials, has targeted cushioning, and lasts through dozens of washes.
  • Our top pick, the Rockay Accelerate Running Socks, is durable, comfortable, and wicks moisture.

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Running doesn’t require much equipment. While fancy gear might make runs more enjoyable, some would argue all you need is a quality pair of runners. However, there’s another key piece that shouldn’t be forgotten: a reliable pair of running socks.

These two pieces of running apparel work in tandem to keep your feet happy from heel to toe and as most runners know, happy feet make for a much more enjoyable run. You may think any old pair of socks might do but we strongly encourage you to try out a pair of running-specific socks instead.

We all tend to have strong opinions on which brands are best but it’s important to note what works for one runner may not work for another. That’s why we tried a variety of options perfect for a variety of runners. At the end of this guide, we lay out what to look for in a pair of quality running socks and how we tested here:

Best running socks overall

Rockay socks

The Rockay Accelerate running socks are comfortable, moisture-wicking, and made from durable, high-quality materials with a focus on sustainability.

Pros: Comfortable, durable, moisture-wicking, made from thoughtfully sourced materials, provide support where you need it most

Cons: Expensive

Socks were the first product to be released from the Danish running company, Rockay, and after testing a pair of its Accelerate, I was immediately impressed. They’re incredibly comfortable thanks to a blend of organic merino wool, polyamide, and elastane, and I appreciated the seamless construction. Its focus on using eco-friendly methods and materials is a nice touch, too. 

The blend of materials allows for impressive moisture-wicking capabilities to help prevent blisters. My first test run was on an unseasonably warm day but my feet never felt overheated and stayed dry throughout the run. 

Durability-wise, these socks wash incredibly well. As with most of my running gear, I try to hang dry everything since heat can damage the synthetic materials often used in athletic clothing. However, there were a few times these socks slipped their way into the dryer and I was pleased to find that their performance was unaffected. If you do have any issues, these socks are guaranteed for life, so you can receive another pair, no questions asked.

Another positive of these socks is the support they offer. They have just the right amount of compression in the arch of the foot, providing a snug fit without being uncomfortable. This fit also prevents them from slipping around in your running shoes, so any rubbing that might cause blisters can be avoided.

The Rockay Accelerate socks are available in multiple colors and range in sizes from extra-small to extra-large. A sizing chart is available to help you find the best fit, too. I felt that they ran just a tad bit smaller than true to size. Keep in mind that these will have a snug fit around the foot because of the compression arch, making them feel smaller than normal socks. While these are on the more expensive end, you’re paying for quality and for socks that will last.

Best for durability

darn tough socks

The Darn Tough Tab No Show Light Cushion socks are durable, have a seamless toe for added comfort, and are a merino wool/nylon blend which wicks away sweat to keep your feet dry.

Pros: Durable, no seams for added comfort, wool and synthetic blend to wick away sweat, resist odor, all-weather appropriate

Cons: Not many colors to choose from, can be expensive

If you run your socks into the ground — or, more accurately, until they’re covered in holes and falling apart at the seams — it’s worth investing in a pair from Darn Tough for its lifetime warranty. True to its name, these durable running socks will last through countless jogs and arduous trail run. But Darn Tough’s warranty policy says if you don’t find its socks to be the most comfortable, best-fitting pair you’ve owned, or if they come apart for any reason other than being chewed by dogs, burned around the campfire, or one being lost to the laundry monster, you can ship back your faulty pair and receive credit for a new pair. 

You probably won’t need to use that great policy, though. All of its socks are thoughtfully designed to withstand some of the toughest sports, and it shows in the attention to detail given to the Tab No Show Light Cushion running socks. It’s a wordy name but these socks live up to it. The no-show style is subtle and the tab provides extra cushion where your running shoe meets the back of your ankle to prevent chafing.

Another winning feature? These socks are seamless, so your toes won’t be subjected to any uncomfortable rubbing.

As far as material goes, you won’t find any cotton here. These Darn Tough socks feature merino wool blended with nylon and lycra spandex. You may think wool is only reserved for cold weather running but not in this case. These are all-weather socks that wick away moisture to keep your feet dry and blister-free. Wool also helps resist odor, so even after a sweaty run, you’ll be far less likely to offend anyone when you take off your runners.

These Darn Tough socks are available in both Men’s and Women’s styles and come in Small, Medium, and Large sizes that correspond with your shoe size.

Best for all-around comfort

running socks

The Balega Hidden Comfort No Show running socks have a seamless design crafted with synthetic materials and elastane throughout to make for a better fit and prevent blisters.

Pros: Synthetic materials keep feet dry, mesh construction for added breathability, heel tab to help prevent slippage, seamless design, multiple colors to choose from

Cons: Some reviewers reported slippage, they don’t have targeted cushioning

Even if you’ve been running for a relatively short amount of time, Balega is likely a brand name you’ve heard. I own a few pairs of these socks myself and can confidently say these are some of the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn.

They’ve seen their fair share of runs but they’ve also been through trips to the grocery store, as well as some intense Netflix binge sessions on the couch. In other words, they’re so comfortable you’ll probably find yourself wearing them even when you aren’t running.

Each pair is carefully crafted to help runners perform at their best. The seamless design of the Hidden Comfort running socks reduces the friction that causes blisters. They have a reinforced heel and toe for increased durability and the top of the sock is constructed with mesh construction for extra breathability and comfort.

These are no-show socks with a heel tab at the opening that makes them easy to slip on. It also reduces chafing and prevents them from slipping down into your shoes. The elastane provides added stretch and comfort, too.

These socks come in sizes ranging from small to extra large. It’s important to size correctly so you get the best fit and minimal slippage. There is also a fun variety of colors to choose from if you like to add a little flair to your running kit.

Best for cold weather

running socks

The Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew socks are designed for cold weather running, with a longer length for extra warmth and a wool blend that keeps your feet toasty and dry.

Pros: Wool and synthetic blend keeps feet dry and blister-free, mid-crew length for extra warmth, 200 needle construction for warmth and cushioning without the bulk

Cons: Not many color choices, expensive

If you live in a location where winters bring cold and snow, yet you don’t call it quits on your running routine, you need a pair of running socks specially designed to keep your feet warm. Smartwool is known for a wide range of specialized socks and its line of cold weather running regularly receives positive reviews from runners who often brave the cold. 

Read more: The best winter running shoes

These socks are mid-crew height, perfect for wearing under your running tights for added warmth, and preventing the cold ankles that often result from wearing no-show socks. It may sound silly but when it comes to running in the cold, every bit of skin coverage makes a difference.

These Smartwool socks are made of 55% merino wool for warmth, nylon for breathability, and elastane for flexibility for stretch. They’ll wick away moisture to help keep your feet dry and free of blisters. If you’re afraid that warmth equates to added bulk, you won’t have to worry in this case. The 200 needle construction allows for high-density cushioning while keeping these socks lightweight.

Smartwool designed the PhD cold weather socks in both men’s and women’s styles for a better fit and they come in small, medium, and large sizes. Unfortunately, you won’t have many colors to choose from but in this case, comfort and warmth will likely be more important than style as you brave those chilly weather conditions.

Best on a budget

saucony socks

The six-pack of Saucony Performance No-Show socks gives you the most value for your money and keeps your feet dry and comfortable.

Pros: Affordable, synthetic fabric to keep feet dry and blister-free, heel tab to prevent slippage, arch compression for added support, comes in multiple colors

Cons: Can’t be bought in single pairs, non-specific sizing

You’ve likely heard of Saucony, a brand known for its well-made running shoes. However, like many running shoe brands, Saucony also makes athletic socks geared towards runners. If you’ve just splurged on a new pair of running shoes and want to save some bucks, or you simply don’t want to spend a lot on socks, these are a great option.

For less than $20, you can get six pairs of socks, and having more socks means you’ll be less likely to run out before having to do laundry. These socks come in plenty of fun color combinations and are available in both men’s and women’s styles. Unlike most others on this list, these don’t come in multiple sizes but men’s will fit an 8-12 shoe size and women’s will fit a 5-10 shoe size.

A heel tab helps prevent slippage and arch compression provides extra support. You won’t find any cotton here, either, with all synthetic materials for sweat-wicking and comfort, and mesh construction for added breathability. These are all features found in a more expensive running sock, for a fraction of the price.

As a more lightweight sock, these aren’t recommended for winter running but otherwise, they’ll do just fine at the gym, on the road, or on the trails.

If you are looking for just one pair to try, you’ll be out of luck as these only come in six-packs. However, for such an affordable price, it’s worth it to try them for yourself.

Best for preventing blisters

toe socks

With a place for each toe, a breathable mesh upper, and sweat-wicking materials, the Injinji 2.0 Lightweight No-Show toe socks are a great option if you’re prone to blisters.

Pros: Individual toe coverage helps prevent blisters, Synthetic fabric to keep feet dry and comfortable, mesh upper for breathability, heel tab to help prevent slippage, come in multiple colors

Cons: Can be tricky to put on, some reviewers couldn’t get used to the individual toe style

These toe socks may look a little odd but as they say, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Having a place for each individual toe prevents them from rubbing together — one of the main causes of blisters.

Injinji is a California-based company, with its roots in wanting to develop a seamless sock that allowed for more natural foot movement and toe splay. From this, the patented five-toe sock was born.

In addition to preventing any skin-to-skin friction that causes blisters, the Injinji 2.0 is made from synthetic materials to wick away sweat and keep feet dry and comfortable. A mesh top also allows for more breathability. If you prefer the minimalist style of running toe shoes like Vibram’s FiveFingers shoes, these socks also make a great liner for additional comfort. These socks perform just as well in traditional running shoes, too.

The Injinji 2.0 is a unisex sock but it comes in four sizes: small, medium, large, and extra-large. Sizing is important here since these conform to every contour of your foot — toes included. 

While they may not be for everyone, if you’ve been in a standoff with stubborn reoccurring blisters, these socks may be just what you need.

Best for compression

Aspire Socks

If you experience muscle soreness or shin splints after your runs, Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve compressions socks help reduce the pain.

Pros: Promote blood flow and help reduce muscle soreness, olefin wicks sweat to keep your feet dry

Cons: Expensive, hard to put on 

Swiftwick is a mainstay in the compression sock industry and its Aspire Twelve knee-high socks are perfect for the runner looking for more than just muscle relief, but shin relief as well. Made of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, not only do they offer supreme compression and a snug fit, but they wick sweat away, as well. This is especially useful for hot and humid summer runs.

Running in these socks provides response lower leg support thanks to its minimal cushioning. They also function well to help recover after a long run or whenever you feel the muscles in your legs start to tighten up and feel sore. 

It’s worth pointing out that these socks (as well as many similar compressions socks) aren’t always the easiest to put on. We recommend reaching into the sock and pulling out the heel before putting your foot in and pulling the rest of the sock on. They’re made to be really snug on your lower leg, so this isn’t something that just needs to be broken in either. 

Aside from getting them on, the Aspire Twelve’s perform well work wonders to help with sore muscles. They’re a bit expensive at $30 per pair but most compression socks of this quality are hardly cheap. — Rick Stella

Best for fun ankle patterns

Zensah

With a range of fun patterns to choose from, the Zensah Limited Edition Mini Crew-Length running socks allow you to show off your personal style without sacrificing high-quality performance.

Pros: Tons of fun patterns and colors to choose from, comfortable, light compression for added support, moisture-wicking material to help prevent blisters

Cons: On the expensive side

Just because you’re decked out in running gear doesn’t mean you can’t make a statement. If you want to stand out from the pack, a crazy pair of running socks is the perfect way to do so, and the Zensah Limited Edition running socks rise to the occasion. Don’t be fooled by the limited edition in the name. Whether you want to show some holiday spirit, or share your love for donuts, there are tons of fun prints, patterns, and colors to choose from.

These socks look fun but when it comes to performance and comfort, things get serious. Zensah is a brand known for tight-fitting compression products but even if you aren’t looking for compression, their snug fit keeps them from sliding down during your runs. They also have a seamless toe and a lightly cushioned sole for added comfort, and they’re anatomically designed with a specific left foot and right foot fit.

The nylon, spandex, and polyester blend allow for breathability and help these socks dry quickly, protecting your feet from any blisters. Silver ions in the material help keep any odors at bay.

The mini crew height of these Zensah running heights makes them just tall enough to show off your chosen design, without having them take over your entire calf. They’re available in small, medium, and large sizes that correspond to your shoe size.

How we test

Each pair of running socks featured in this guide went through a series of on-foot tests to see how well they compared across these four categories: Fit and comfort, features, durability, and value. Specifically, here’s how each category factored into what socks ultimately made this guide and what sub-categories we chose to spotlight: 

  • Fit and comfort: Though fit and comfort could be two different categories, they’re very closely related when it comes to running socks. You ideally want your running socks to fit snug enough to not rub inside your shoe (even if they get wet and want to start sliding around). This is as true for no-show socks as it is for both ankle- and shin-high options, too. The more comfortable and well-fitting a running sock is, the more enjoyable your running should be. 
  • Features: Using the term “features” to describe the makeup of a running sock may seem odd but different brands do include a variety of unique traits that make them more well-suited for different types of runners (and their needs). For instance, a brand like Swiftwick specializes in compression while Injinji’s socks are geared toward reducing the development of blisters. 
  • Durability: No matter if you’re a casual running or you’re training for a marathon, your running socks will take a beating — and having to deal with holes forming or a sock tearing at its seams can be especially frustrating as you prepare for a run. Though we didn’t push each pair to its absolute end, we did go on enough runs wearing each featured pair to get a reasonable idea of how long they’d last.
  • Value: Value is the combination of each category above, as well as how a running sock’s actual stick price factors into its worth. We do think that it’s more beneficial to spend a little more on a premium product that’s designed to last than to opt for a poorly-made budget option and have to spend that reduced cost more often. 

How to shop for running socks

Since there are so many options, it’s tricky to wade through what’s available. Luckily we’ve done the legwork for you, rounding up a group of socks outfit with the features you need most.

Before we get into our favorites, we’ve outlined what to pay attention to so your feet can meet their best match.

  • Material: One of the most important things to consider is material. Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and nylon are your best bet because they help wick away moisture and prevent blisters. A wool blend can also be a good choice to keep your feet warm and dry — especially if you’re running in the winter. You’ll want to avoid anything that’s 100% cotton as it will only hold in moisture, making for very sweaty and uncomfortable feet.
  • Cushioning: The cushioning and the thickness you desire in your running socks is a matter of personal choice, and luckily there are all types to choose from. Plenty of running socks are also designed to provide cushioning in places that are more likely to develop blisters.
  • Height: The height of your running socks can be a matter of personal style, but it can also serve a more useful purpose. Maybe you’re tired of chafing the backs of your ankles. Or maybe you’ve noticed that mid-calf ankle socks have roared back into style, rejoining us from the 1980s. Either way, it’s enough reason to try out a pair of crew length running socks. On the other hand, if you prefer a subtler look, no show or quarter-length socks are also available. 
  • Specialized Features: Aside from the basics, there are also socks designed to meet running specific needs and issues. Compression socks are a good option if you want to improve blood flow through your legs and ankles, or you want additional arch support. If you’re especially prone to blisters, some runners swear by toe socks.
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The 7 best compression socks for runners, nurses, and others

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Compression socks are one of those garments that seem gimmicky, but they actually have science behind them to help improve your circulation. At its foundation, the garment works by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also helps the flow of lymph fluid, which helps remove cellular waste and circulate bacteria-fighting white blood cells throughout your body.

There are a few categories of people who might benefit from this improved blood and lymph flow: athletes looking for better performance and/or recovery; folks with venous or lymphatic issues in the legs, like elderly people with deep vein thrombosis or pregnant folks trying to minimize varicose veins; and anyone with blood clot concerns. People also like to wear compression socks to improve circulation on long flights or long work shifts on their feet (like nurses), where the improved circulation may help reduce soreness.

Many studies show wearing compression socks can help improve blood flow to your lower limbs, promoting healthier vein functioning and healing. Venous issues are particularly high for pregnant women as they have a larger volume of blood pumping through their body. Some 40% of pregnant women develop varicose veins, while the risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is four- to five-fold higher for moms-to-be compared to non-pregnant women. Wearing compression socks or stockings during pregnancy can potentially help reduce swelling and discomfort, improve circulation, and minimize varicose veins.

When it comes to athletic performance, the jury’s still out on just how effective compression garments, including socks, can be. Some research confirms that wearing compression garments helps improve running endurance or cycling sprints, while others say it doesn’t change a thing.

However, a recently-published analysis in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 21 studies and found that a small number do show wearing compression socks during exercise improved performance. Mostly, though, the studies showed wearing the special socks during a grueling workout helped fit folks feel like their leg muscles were firing better, fatiguing less, and after the workout, less sore. Even if it’s more placebo than anything, for anyone training hard, particularly for long endurance events like a marathon, wearing compression socks during workouts and recovery may help make your training plan easier.

While researching the best compression socks, we tested dozen of styles across brands like Swiftwick, CEP, and Sockwell. Our guide features socks that provide great comfort, are relatively durable, and are fit to wear in a variety of situations.

Here are the best compression socks:

Best compression socks overall

compression socks

Whether you are a runner or just someone who wants to relieve lower leg ailments, the CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 provides all-day comfort.

Pros: Incredibly comfortable, thinner, won’t sag over the course of the day

Cons: Expensive, sizing can be tricky so be sure to measure before ordering

The CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 (available in men’s and women’s sizes) stand out from the other socks on our list due in large part to the fact they offer unparalleled comfort — and should be considered by anyone, despite a steep price tag. 

The brand’s parent company, Medi, has been producing medical compression products for over 70 years. The founder of CEP, who is an Ironman, leveraged Medi’s technical knowledge and designs for athletes.

Made of polyamide/nylon (60%), elastane (25%), and polypropylene (15%), this CEP socks offer precise 20-30mmHg graduated and consistent compression so they won’t sag as the day goes on.

The Progressive+ 2.0 Socks feature a halo top band that lands right below the knee. This keeps your socks in place and the front ribbing allows air to flow through to cool your skin’s surface. Per CEP’s website, the company offers a six-month guarantee that covers wearing the socks up to 150 times before the compression lessens. 

These socks are recommended for anyone who suffers from shin splints, Achilles issues, or plantar fasciitis. They’re also great for runners looking to rehab their leg after a long run or workout. 

Best budget

compression socks

The SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are the least expensive pair in our guide, yet they stay up and provide reliable comfort.

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Only comes in two sizes

Though the SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are about one-fifth the price of our top pick, they rival it in performance. These socks have a graduated compression rating of 15-20mmHg, which is slightly less than the CEP socks but still supplies sufficient compression for blood circulation.

The socks are made of breathable and lightweight spandex and nylon, which helps to wick away sweat and moisture from your feet. SB Sox come in 11 different colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Though they seem thinner and lighter than other picks on this list, SB Sox socks hold up well through numerous wears and washes. Plus, they provide a snug fit that doesn’t feel too constricting. More sizing options would be welcome, though.

Best for circulation

sockwell

If you experience circulation problems due to chronic health issues, the Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks may be your best bet for achieving leg comfort.

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

Cons: The top of the sock might warp over time, only comes in two sizes

For people with venous or lymphatic issues in their legs, compression therapy can help move blood through the veins and tissue better, which in turn promotes healing and prevents ulcers and other issues. Compression stockings are one of the easier options to put on and less cumbersome than medical bandages, says a 2014 study in CMAJ.

The Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks (available in men’s and women’s sizes) are made in the United States using bamboo rayon (31%), merino wool (31%), stretch nylon (30%), and spandex (8%). This combination helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control.

What’s more, these are one of the firmer pairs from Sockwell offering compression of 20-30mmHg. A 2019 study analysis in BMC Geriatrics found elderly folks with chronic blood flow issues (venous insufficiency) and swollen legs who wore class 2 compression stockings (pressure between 20 and 30 mmHg) regularly were less likely to have leg ulcers come back compared to wearing lower compression class 1 stockings (pressure below 20 mmHg).

These Sockwell socks have four zones of graduated compression beginning at the ankles and moving up. Since the compression starts at the ankles, the toes remain comfortable. There are four colors for men to choose from and eight in the women’s style.

Best for post-workout

compression socks 1

After running countless miles, slipping on a pair of Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks can decrease soreness and help your muscles recover.

Pros: Great for easing muscle soreness, cushioned bottom, durable, 4 sizes, 14 colors

Cons: May not be tight enough for your needs, long drying time

The Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks come in four sizes, which is helpful for ensuring you get the right fit — the appropriate sock size gives you the appropriate level of pressure. Constructed of 82% polyamide and 18% elastane, these socks feature ultra-zone ribbing which targets ankle and arch stabilization, which is ideal for runners with weaknesses in these areas.

The 200 needle count construction is designed to make the socks denser, durable, and reduce stretching over time. They’re sweat-wicking, too, but don’t tend to dry out very quicky, so are best worn in cooler weather. Zensah offers the socks in 14 colors, including Black, Heather Grey, and Neon Pink. 

Best for runners

Aspire Socks

Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve help relieve muscle soreness and prevent or relieve shin splints — something any runner can appreciate.

Pros: Offers comfortable compression for runners, promotes blood flow, helps relieve shin splints, and wicks away moisture

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

Swiftwick’s compression socks run the gamut of everything from knee-high versions for those looking for full leg relief to no-show options for golfers. For runners, its Aspire Twelve socks are an excellent option to help relieve muscle soreness, prevent or care for shin splints, and provide stability and comfort. 

Comprised of a blend of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, the Aspire Twelves don’t just offer the benefits of compression but also help wick away moisture to keep your feet dry. They work well to keep on even after your run as you’ll continue to reap the benefits of compression as you recover. 

Best for standing all-day

compression socks

If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day, give your lower legs a break with Sockwell’s Circulator Graduated Compression Socks.

Pros: Good for reducing foot and ankle swelling, incredibly comfortable, inexpensive

Cons: Concerns about durability, socks may only come up to mid-calf in taller people

The Sockwell Circulator Graduated Compression Socks have a lot of the same features as our pick for best circulation, the Sockwell Elevation socks. They both have four zones of graduated compression from the ankle on up, which keeps the toes feeling comfortable, and each are made of a combination of spandex, bamboo rayon, stretch nylon, and merino wool. But the main differences are that the Circulator socks have moderate compression (15-20mmHg) and cost a bit less ($30 per pair).

The Circulator socks only come in two sizes, though there are nine colors to choose from, including Black Stripe, Charcoal, Black Solid, and Port. Regardless of the size, the socks aren’t very long, so they’re best used for people with shorter builds. 

Best for fun patterns

Vim Vigr socks

Vim & Vigr combines form and function with its fashion-forward compression socks that you’ll just love to be seen in.

Pros: Stylish, comfortable, available for both men and women

Cons: Can get expensive

First and foremost, Vim & Vigr compression socks work. After all, no amount of aesthetic creativity would be able to make up for compression socks that don’t do much by way of compressing. Luckily, that’s not the case with these.

I’m particularly fond of Vim & Vigr’s medical-grade compression level, which are designed with a Gradient Knitting Technology to help promote circulation in your calves. The socks feature a structured leg but a flexible toe and heel so that you’re supported where you need it but still able to move. These socks offer moderate to firm compression, with somewhere between 20 and 30 mmHG depending on the style.

Regardless of your selection, however, you’ll find that Vim & Vigr helps to prevent swelling in your legs, and alleviates pain and achiness. I found that these socks were just as helpful during runs as they were during HIIT workouts — especially as the weather gets colder and circulation becomes increasingly important.

What sets Vim & Vigr apart are its fun, unique designs. Not only is there a wide range of colors to choose from but the brand also offers several interesting patterns. I’m a fan of the colorblock options, as well as Rugby Stripe pattern for men.

Vim & Vigr offers wide calf versions of all their socks for both men and women, so you don’t have to be uncomfortable even when donning a tight pair of socks. If you don’t need medical-grade compression, you can always opt for the brand’s moisture-wicking nylon material, or the remarkably warm merino wool composition. You could also check out Vim & Vigr sleeves, which compress your calves without encasing your feet.

How to shop for compression socks

Compression sock ratings

The compression in the stockings is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Specifically, compression socks are rated based on blood pressure. The majority of compression socks either have a moderate pressure rating of 10 to 20 mmHg or a firm rating of 20 to 30 mmHg.

None of the socks we reviewed have a rating above 30 mm Hg, but there are specialty shops where you can find these if needed. Graduated compression socks, the most common type, are tighter near the ankle than at the calf to avoid cutting off circulation.

Fabrics used

Most compression socks are made from a blend of synthetic fabrics that provide a snug and stretchy fit. In the reviews that follow, we let you know what materials are used in the construction of the socks but unless you have an issue with a specific material, you should let performance be your main guide in choosing the best compression socks.

How best to use compression socks

There is a bit of a paradox associated with wearing compression socks. You may have purchased them to deal with leg swelling. Yet, this same swelling makes it hard for you to put them on. So, what can you do? There are countless resources on the web to help you out, plus we’ve compiled a few tips here, as well: 

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
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