If you’re planning on jetting away to far-flung shores sometime soon, be sure to pack your compression socks. These lightweight, over-the-calf socks help reduce fluid retention, swelling, and even the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Long-haul flights require many hours of sitting and restricted movement through minimal foot space. Keep yourself safe and comfortable by arming yourself with a pair of compression socks and simple leg exercises to improve circulation.
What Are Compression Socks?
Compression socks are socks or stockings that are specifically designed to reduce the risk of developing painful swelling or fluid retention when you fly, as well as dramatically reduce the risk of developing DVT.
Why Do I Need Compression Socks?
You need compression socks because nobody needs to arrive at their destination with swollen feet or a case of DVT.
DVT is a type of blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the lower leg. It’s is a painful condition that, if left untreated, could lead to significant problems with your circulation and require medical attention.
In extreme cases, DVT can result in a pulmonary embolism, where the blood clot enters your lung, which requires immediate medical attention.
Compression socks help to improve the blood flow in your legs, lessen the risk of DVT, and reduce fluid retention in your legs. They’re especially useful on long-haul flights where sitting down for extended periods can increase the chance of swelling and blood clots in the lower extremities.
Bottom Line: Many travelers choose to wear compression socks when they fly to reduce their risk for DVT and lower fluid retention.
The Benefits of Compression Socks
Compression socks offer a range of benefits for frequent flyers and first-time travelers alike. These include:
- Promote Circulation — Flight attendants and pilots swear by them, and you should, too. Compression socks can help the blood flow from your feet back to your heart, promoting good circulation even when you’re sitting still for long periods.
- Reduce Pain and Discomfort — Compression socks can also keep your legs from feeling tired and achy. Some studies suggest that they also prevent spider or varicose veins from forming.
- Reduce Odor and Sweat — A surprisingly pleasant side effect of wearing your compression socks during a long flight is that they’re moisture-wicking and full of odor-reducing, anti-microbial properties.
- Add Extra Comfort — Compression socks aren’t just designed for flyers, they have many practical applications on the ground, too. You can wear them to help reduce pain and discomfort when you’re running, hiking, sightseeing, or even just strolling around your chosen destination.
Bottom Line: With health, hygiene, and comfort benefits, there really isn’t a good reason not to invest in a pair of travel compression socks.
How Do Compression Socks Work?
The blood in our veins has to work against gravity to flow back to the heart from our extremities. This process can be impeded by a lack of movement, resulting in the blood pooling in the veins of the lower legs and feet, leading to painful aches and noticeable swelling.
By squeezing the leg tissues and walls of the veins, compression stockings can help blood in the veins return to the heart, as well as improve the flow of fluid that can help reduce tissue swelling.
What To Look for in Travel Compression Socks
Compression socks are designed to be stretchy, while still being strong enough to provide the pressure needed to assist with blood flow. Many are made from Lycra, nylon, or polyester.
Many have additional technology integrated into their designs to help fight odor and to wick away moisture.
Compression socks and stockings offer varying degrees of pressure or tightness. These are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and relate to the amount of pressure they’ll put on your legs.
They’re rated as:
- Light: 10-15 mmHg
- Mild: 15-20 mmHg
- Moderate: 20-30 mmHg
- Firm: 30-40 mmHg
Light (under 15 mmHg) is for healthy people who stand all day, mild (15-20 mmHg) is the starting grade that prevents DVT in airline passengers, while moderate (over 20 mmHg) is medical-grade compression used for varicose veins, edema, and preventing blood clots post-surgery. Firm (30-40 mmHg) is usually used for chronic illness, post-surgery, or prescribed by a doctor.
Bottom Line: For travel, the minimum pressure rating would need to be in the region of 15-20 mmHg. For passengers with a high risk of DVT, you may want to opt for a higher rating. Either way, it’s best to speak to a physician to address your individual needs.
Some compression socks offer a consistent level of compression across all areas of your feet and legs, while others provide graduated compression to increase efficiency.
Graduated compression socks are designed to apply a higher level of pressure at the ankle, while the pressure decreases the further the sock rises up the leg, making swelling less likely.
Size and Fit
Compression socks need to fit well for them to work effectively. Each manufacturer will provide a sizing guide on the packaging, making it easy for you to find the perfect fit.
You should ensure that the measurement of the foot matches your shoe size, as well as the measurement for your calves. Your socks must be snug, but not too tight.
The 10 Best Compression Socks for Travel
1. Superior Comfort, Wicking, and Breathability [Our Top Pick]
Swiftwick is an international brand specializing in high-performance socks that can be used in every situation, from running to snow sports and everything in between.
Swiftwick’s extensive product range includes a huge range of socks in 9 different cuff heights, 7 cushion types, a massive range of colors, and 3 types of compression. No matter what your needs, you’ll find the perfect sock.
The ASPIRE range offers a firm level of compression, making them suitable for air travel. For those wanting moderate compression, you can also look at the PURSUIT Twelve.
With excellent wicking ability, high breathability, and made with comfort in mind, this is more than just a sock for flying. You’ll want to wear these for everything.
What We Like
- Thin profile socks with a barely-there feel
What We Don’t Like
- No range of colors in the ASPIRE range
2. The Number 1 Compression Sock on Amazon
Physix Gear Compression Socks for Men and Women (20-30 mmHg)
These durable compression socks are available in an array of sizes and colors and are a solid choice for both travelers and athletes looking to boost circulation.
Unlike some of the stiffer versions on the market, these are made from high-quality Lycra material that helps to wick away moisture and offer support, while remaining soft and supple.
Engineered with the latest arch to calf compression technology, these socks offer targeted foot-to-calf muscle support that has circulation-boosting properties to enhance oxygen blood flow.
These will keep you comfortable while you travel and reduce your risk of developing DVT.
What We Like
- Available in a range of colors
What We Don’t Like
3. Funky Colored Socks That Offer More Than Sheer Looks
NEWZILL Compression Socks (20-30 mmHg) for Men and Women
Offering graduated compression (20-30 mmHg), these compression socks stimulate blood flow to improve the oxygen delivery to your muscles. When sitting on a long-haul flight, keeping the blood pumping around your body is vital to reduce the risk of DVT or other blood clots.
Compression socks like these not only help to prevent cramping, swelling, and circulation issues, they also come in a range of brightly colored, funky designs, too.
Made using NEWZILL’s patented Clima-Pro technology, these socks prevent the growth of bacteria while wicking away moisture to keep your feet both comfortable and clean.
The combination of Lycra, spandex, and nylon offers impressive flexibility, making these socks easy to get on and off, while still providing a substantial level of support and compression.
4. Graduated Compression Technology Infused With Silver
Vitalsox Graduated Compression Socks
Made from a blend of Silver Drystat, spandex, Lycra, and nylon, these compression socks offer 4-way stretch and are beautifully soft and pliable.
Designed using quick-drying polypropylene infused with silver, these exotic-sounding socks can prevent the growth of bacteria while repelling unwanted odors. It’s not just soft, sweet-smelling feet that you will be left with when wearing these, either.
The patented compression system offers plantar ligament and arch support that continues up past the calves, helping to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of painful swelling during long-haul flights and periods of inactivity.
Compression Socks for Men and Women — 30 to 40 mmHg
These medical-grade compression socks are perfect for travelers recovering from injury or suffering from DVT, chronic leg fatigue, and severe swelling, among other medical conditions.
Made from sweat-wicking, breathable nylon spandex, these socks cover the shin and calf muscle to offer a high level of support, while still being soft and supple enough to let you move your feet and legs easily.
Available in a range of smart, contemporary colors, these compression socks do a good job of keeping leg muscles and veins properly compressed to boost circulation and help reduce the risk of DVT and other types of clotting.
6. Graduated Support With a Fuss-free Design
Medical Compression Socks With Open Toes
Made from nylon and Lycra, these unisex, opaque compression socks can help reduce the pain and swelling associated with long-haul flights, as well as lower the risk of developing DVT.
Featuring graduated compression technology, the socks are tighter at the foot and the ankle to help fight the effects of gravity and improve blood flow and circulation.
With a firm 20-30 mmHg compression rating, these socks are made from medical weight material that feels tight to get on but will keep you well-supported in the air.
With a reinforced heel and toe and a comfortable, non-constricting top band to keep your socks in place, these may not be the best-looking compression socks on the market, but they certainly claim to be one of the most effective.
7. Value Pack for Frequent Flyers or Large Families
Compression Socks for Women and Men 7 Pack
If you’re a frequent flyer or are looking to keep all the members of your family protected against DVT on your next vacation, this great value pack of 7 pairs of compression socks could be right for you.
Offering 360-degrees of stretch for greater flexibility and durability, these compression socks are designed to promote blood circulation and oxygen flow to help reduce pain, cramping, and swelling. Made from high-quality fabric, they’ll also help to fight off odors, bacteria, and unwanted moisture while offering premium support and comfort.
8. 4-Pack Compression Socks for Women Who Fly Long-haul
Women’s Compression Socks
Available in a range of attractive designs, these 20-30 mmHg compression socks are perfect for women on the go. With graduated compression, they offer varying levels of support to help improve blood flow and reduce the risk of developing DVT on long-haul flights and other journeys.
Made from extra comfortable, super-stretchy material, these socks will feel good, look great, and dramatically reduce the discomfort you might feel from sitting for a long period.
9. Plus-size Compression Socks That Pack a Punch
Plain Jane Wide Calf Compression Sock
Uniquely designed for wider calves, these little beauties comfortably fit ankle circumferences between 10 and 13 inches and calf circumferences between 14 and 24 inches.
Designed for all-day comfort, these plus-size compression socks provide effective stability for your ankles and calves, while the non-binding top stays put to prevent your socks from falling down.
Offering a graduated 15-25 mmHg compression level from the ankle upward, these compression socks do an excellent job of promoting better blood flow to reduce swollen feet, leg cramps, and most importantly, to help reduce the risk of DVT.
10. Graduated Compression Socks Designed by an Olympic Athlete
Danish Endurance Graduated Compression Socks
Made using Swiss medical stocking technology, these compression socks are made from top-quality materials and are breathable, sweat-wicking, and incredibly easy to get on and off.
Developed by a Danish Olympic medalist, they offer stylish good looks combined with unique technical features to keep you well-protected while you fly.
The 21-26 mmHg graduated compression level will comfortably aid circulation to help prevent the pain of cramps and swelling, while also assisting with the treatment of varicose veins, and help to reduce the risk of developing DVT while you fly.
The 4 Best Compression Sock Alternatives
1. Thigh-high Support for Long-haul Journeys
JOBST Relief Thigh High 15-20 mmHg Compression Stockings
Compression stockings provide a full-length alternative to socks and are often recommended by doctors to help treat symptoms commonly associated with vein disease. They’re an option if you want superior protection from DVT on long-haul flights and other journeys.
Designed using a woven 3-D knit structure using air-covered spandex yarn, they’re surprisingly comfortable to wear and the breathable material helps to prevent odor while also keeping your legs cool.
The silicone dot band also does an impressive job of keeping the stocking held firm on the thigh, preventing them from rolling down.
2. Full-length Pantyhose With Compression and Contouring
Medical Compression Pantyhose for Women & Men
These full-length pantyhose with open toes are especially useful for preventing the development of DVT on long-haul flights or in other lengthy periods of inactivity.
Made from nylon and spandex, they can also help to alleviate the pain and symptoms associated with varicose veins, edema, and shin splints.
These tights are designed to remove excess fluids through specially-designed, graduated compression. Not only will they help to keep you pain- and symptom-free while you fly, but they’ll also help to stimulate your circulation to prevent swelling in your lower legs and ankles.
Finally, this compression hose can also help to hone your silhouette, leaving you feeling good and looking even better.
3. Pantyhose for Ultimate Support and Protection
BriteLeafs Opaque Compression Stocking Pantyhose 20-30 mmHg
These full-length compression pantyhose feature a graduated level of compression, starting with medical-grade 20-30 mmHg firm support around the ankle.
Their full-length design assures a higher level of support and protection that runs through the legs and the thighs, creating a contour effect and high-level compression.
For long-haul flights or even daily wear, these pantyhose are great for treating the discomfort of spider veins, leg and ankle swelling, edema, and even just tired aching legs from being on your feet all day.
Latex-free and made from spandex and nylon, they have a soft, microfiber-feel, making them both comfortable to wear and effective against the risk of developing DVT.
4. Top Compression Tights With Slimming Properties
Graduated Compression Leggings with Control Top
These footless compression leggings have a control top and graduated 20-30 mmHg firm support to keep you comfortable and reduce the risk of DVT.
Not only will these help to ease aches and pains associated with leg and ankle swelling and varicose veins, but the control top design and opaque appearance will also help you look and feel slimmer.
Made from a soft, comfortable blend of nylon and spandex with knit-in support, these footless tights provide a beautiful shape, while offering a high level of support for any activity, from long-haul flights to long days on your feet.
These are a stylish and practical alternative to regular compression socks.
Tips To Avoid DVT When You Fly
Flying to faraway destinations, taking long road trips, or embarking on distant train journeys can see travelers sitting idle for hours at a time.
This level of inactivity can increase your risk of DVT, which is why so many travelers choose to wear compression socks every time they travel.
In addition to compression socks, there are other ways you can help to reduce the risk of developing DVT and prevent uncomfortable pain and swelling while you’re on the move.
Consider the following before your next trip:
Wear Compression Socks
Compression socks are designed to aid circulation and help the blood flow from your toes back up to your heart. Although your body is busy pumping blood without you having to even think about it, some circumstances mean it has to work harder to do so.
Sitting down or remaining inactive for hours at a time can impede the flow of blood around the body, causing pain and swelling and increasing the risk of DVT.
Compression socks apply pressure to your lower legs, helping to maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling. They come in a variety of sizes and fabrics and are increasingly popular with plane passengers and travelers.
Dress for Comfort
While your compression socks need to provide enough pressure to assist your circulation, the rest of your clothing should be loose, comfortable, and easy to sit down in.
Skinny jeans, non-stretch fabrics, and tight tops can hinder the natural flow of your blood supply, effectively cutting it off instead of applying pressure at the right points to ease it on its way.
Instead, dress in stretchy fabrics, loose-fitting tops, and anything that will be comfortable to sit in for long periods.
Stay Active With Anti-DVT Exercises
You can help to reduce the risk of developing DVT when you travel by taking regular stretch breaks and trying some simple legs exercises from the comfort of your seat.
Next time you’re sitting for a long time, try out these exercises:
- Start with your feet on the floor.
- Lift your heels while keeping the balls of your feet on the floor, and then hold that pose for just a few seconds.
- Put your heels back on the floor and lift up your toes.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, then lower your foot.
- Repeat the stretch each way a few times.
- Lift your feet off the floor.
- Trace circles with your toes, rotating your foot at the ankle joint.
- Switch direction and draw circles in the opposite direction.
- Repeat both directions for a minute or so.
- Lift your foot off the floor, and straighten your leg as much as you can, while keeping your ankles bent and your toes pointed upward.
- Relax your leg, setting your foot back down on the floor. Repeat on the other leg.
- Alternate each leg a few times.
- Bend your leg and hug your knee as close to your chest as you can.
- Keep your back straight and hold the pose for a few seconds.
- Alternate each side a few times.
Walk Around as Much as Possible
Staying mobile is a great way to help reduce the risk of DVT. As much as possible, aim to stand up and walk around for a few minutes at regular intervals throughout your journey.
Whether you take a short stroll down the aisle of the plane, walk between carriages on the train, or pull over in a rest area for some stretching and walking, make time to move often.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated helps to improve circulation, lowering your risk of developing blood clots. When the body becomes dehydrated, the blood can thicken, making it more likely to clot.
On long journeys, make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid dehydrating liquids such as coffee and alcohol.
Don’t Drink Alcohol or Take Sleeping Pills
While it may be tempting to get into the holiday spirit from the moment you leave the runway, drinking during your flight can leave you dehydrated. This, in turn, can increase your risk for DVT.
Sleeping pills may knock you out, but they’ll prevent you from being able to stretch, walk, or perform simple leg exercises during your journey.
Whether you’re on a long-haul flight or merely looking to alleviate the aches and pains of standing on your feet all day, compression socks offer a simple yet effective way to ease painful swelling and reduce the risk of DVT.
When choosing the right compression socks for your next adventure, be sure that they’re made from stretchy, breathable material.
They not only need to offer excellent levels of support but they should also wick away moisture to keep you comfortable on even the longest of journeys. Proper sizing is key with compression socks as they should be snug but not too tight.
With compression socks on your feet, your next journey will be safer and more comfortable.
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All information and content provided by Upgraded Points is intended as general information and for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice or legal advice. For more information, see our Medical & Legal Disclaimers.