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What are Compression Socks and Why do you Need Them?

Compression socks are tight fitting, spandex-stretchy knee-high socks. You probably associate them with nurses or grocery store clerks. And, as usual, those nurses know what they are doing. Compression socks for travel are a leg’s best friend.

It seems a little counterintuitive, but super tight socks actually help the circulation in your legs. The compression helps boost your blood back to your heart. For people on long plane rides, it helps to keep your blood from pooling in your feet, and some studies show that it can aid in relieving jet lag.

These socks could even save your life, or so I’ve been told. Blood clots can form in your legs while on a long flight and travel to your brain. Scary! Compression socks prevent clots.

The benefits continue off of the plane. Many people walk far more when traveling, and stand for long periods of time in museums or museum bathroom lines. The compression socks will help here by aiding circulation, keeping you energetic all day. Many athletes are wearing these kind of socks because they aid in recovery from exercise. So many uses!

As a side note, women over 45-ish tend to get itchy rashes on their legs while traveling. I see it all the time, it’s apparently due to blood settling in the legs when standing or walking for long periods of time. These magical socks will keep that from happening. What’s next? Can they walk the dog?

Which are the best Compression Socks for flying and travel in general?

Athletes need compression socks and stockings, and even wear them on their arms. I don’t know how physical and aggressive you are in your tourism, but I think the knee-high socks work just fine for my needs. Elbow pads in the Sistine Chapel might be nice, though.

I’ve tried a number of brands to find what works for me. Actually, I asked for compression socks for Christmas and absolutely everyone bought some for me, so I have a few pairs. Let me warn you, these can get expensive. Here are some suggestions of socks to consider:

Copperfit Compression Socks- $11

You’ve seen the commercials, I know you have. My kids bought these for me because they have the “magic of copper”, whatever that means. The copper part of it all seems like a bunch of hooey, but I do like these socks. They are well made and have nice contours built into the heel and calf, which means they evenly squeeze my leg, like a pleasant hug. They are my favorite, or maybe that’s the copper poisoning talking.

Physix Gear Compression Socks- $20

Coming in at twice the price, these lack the magic of copper but seem more durable. I’d liken these to professional level socks, if that’s a thing. If you’ve decided you like compression socks, up your game with these ones.

Sockwell Circulator Compression Socks- $25

These are the Rolls-Royce of compression socks. They claim to have some juju in their design that makes the blood circulate even better. What sets them apart, for me, is the material and colors. Instead of the normal blend of poly fibers, these come in a luxurious Merino wool and bamboo blend, mixing soft coziness with durability. They are also adorable. The patterns are all super cute. I want one of each. This would be the best pick for women that like to wear funky socks with skirts, or for people like me with feet that are freezing, even in a desert.

Compression Socks for the Skeptical – $7

Are you suspicious that this is some kind of snake oil or black magic? $20 is a crazy amount to pay for socks, and these can get much higher than even that. Try these cheapies I found on Amazon. They aren’t anything special, but will give you the idea if wearing tight socks is the thing for you.

Sarah’s Opinion of Compression Socks

I am a skeptic. This seems like some kind of hype to me. But after receiving a bunch of these for Christmas, I can report that they seem to work. I have long legs, and I get lightheaded on planes if I don’t move occasionally. My legs also twitch after a while and I need to stretch them. I don’t have that problem when wearing compression socks on plane. My legs feel happy and cozy in their sausage casings. I didn’t suffer from much jet-lag on arrival as well. This could absolutely be a placebo effect, but I’ll take it. Anything that makes long-haul flights more cozy and bearable is worth it. The Sockwell pair are the best fitting, most comfortable, and warmest. Well worth the money, I’ll never fly without them again.

As for wearing them in museums and on long walks, I can report that they seem to help. I have a wee varicose vein that is attempting to become a problem, and wearing these regularly has helped to keep it to a dull roar.

Overall assessment, I give compression socks for travel a big thumbs up. Even if it’s a placebo effect.

My Facebook page has more tips and travel ideas, come along and follow the adventure!

Sarah Murdoch

This post was written by Sarah Murdoch, founder and director of Adventures of Sarah. Sarah has been guiding around the world for 20+ years, after catching the travel bug while studying in Italy in 1995. Between guiding she is also a journalist, travel guidebook writer, occasional architect, and full-time mom to Nicola and Lucca. Click here to find out more about Sarah.

81 Comments

  • Kristin Slyne says:

    I’d love to try these on long flights!

  • CMN says:

    This post cracked me up — totally fun and funny! I have to admit that I’m a fan of Sockwell’s compression socks. I actually don’t buy anything else anymore — even for every day socks. After all my years of road warrior living and long-haul flights, I can really tell the difference. Plus, love all the patterns and colors. 🙂

  • Donna says:

    I’ve debated getting these but love hearing about your plane experiences as I also get twitchy legs. Thanks for all of your good information.

  • Compression socks are a must-have on long flights for anyone with a medical condition that might make them prone to blood clotting. I’ve worn them for years when flying transatlantic thanks to my lupus, but don’t particularly like the ones I have. Thanks for the suggestions of some new ones to try!

  • Cathy C says:

    True fact. On my last trip to Italy, I forgot my compression socks. The way over was fine but the way home was terrible and my legs were achy for days afterward! I just use AS Roma athletic socks, I have them in 3 colors and can show my team pride ^_^

  • CCM says:

    My doctor recommended the Sockwell socks for my trip to Europe next spring. Love the merino wool for breathability and moisture management, warming and cooling properties, plus the patterns are so cute!!!Shared

  • Katie Ippensen says:

    Great for long plane rides! That is it…once at my destination…they are off!!

  • Terry Miller says:

    I could sure use a pair! I have never tried them. We leave for Rome on October 31st. I printed your Rome guide and I am currently condensing my conditioner on a plate as I watched your adorable son do in a video. I’m a big Adventures With Sarah fan!

  • Paula says:

    I’ve used compressions socks for long flights and they definitely seem to help my legs feel better and my feet don’t swell as much. I’ve not tried wearing them around while touring, however — great idea! I’ll keep that in mind for my next trip, as long as the weather isn’t too hot.

  • Pat Milhous says:

    Hubbie has had chronically aching feet since he was a teen. Learning that much-younger members of his family used them routinely convinced him to try some on our last trip. He wore them everyday without fail, and without reminding. Bought them in the pharmacy section of Walmart-didn’t want a huge outlay for something he had not tested. Can use more; appreciate the opportunity to win some. Also, really enjoy your blog!

  • Jackie mullins says:

    I love compression stockings. They really do help prevent swollen ankles on long flights and bus rides. Now, if only pretty, light weight ones were possible!

  • Jackie Mullins says:

    Great for long days of travelling, plane rides, bus rides. They really do help prevent swollen ankles and legs. Love your blog, Sarah. We keep hoping that you will be our guide some time.

  • Fran Chuba says:

    I’ve never used compression socks – but the idea intrigued me.Thanks

  • Penny Hargrove says:

    My feet stopped swelling up on long flights after I started wearing compression knee socks. It’s never occurred to me to wear them once I’m on the ground, but I may give it a try.Thanks for all your great travel tips!

  • Joanne Zambo says:

    I bought some to use on a flight to Zurich in August. They were great except that the top cut into my leg so hard that it left serious marks. I got the largest size, but may have to lose weight before I try them again.

  • Veronica A Riffle says:

    Love your blog. Thank you for sharing your expertise. Please include my name for the compression socks . I wear them on long flights but hadn’t thought about wearing them when doing museum visits where you stand for long periods.!?

  • Barbara Blizzard says:

    As a breast cancer survivor, I have to wear compression socks on the plane. Always looking for new designs.

  • Kathleen Hart says:

    I don’t have a pair of compression socks and would like to try them. As a senior traveler, I think they would be especially good for the long flight.

  • Nannette Bauers-Chu says:

    You are right, compression socks DO work!

  • Sherrie Hitchcock says:

    On my September trip, I tried compression sleeves rather than compression socks on the recommendation of my brother-in-law, who is an avid soccer player. I found them much more to my liking. Easier to get on and off. I bought Musetech, but there are other similar brands available.

  • Peggy Natoli Duffy says:

    We highly recommend these for flying! Do not feel as tired when we land at our destination and we are able to walk without swollen feet!

  • Ann hultgren-ryan says:

    All I know is that when I don’t wear them on a flight I have elephant ankles for two days! I have big feet so I have been using men’s socks. Yours are much cuter!

  • Kathleen McGinn Smith says:

    Relieving that leg itch sounds like the cherry on top of the benefits that come with the socks.

  • Karen Lach says:

    Would love some comp socks! Had double knee surgery and they really help with standing and / or lots of walking.

  • Stacy Snow says:

    I got a pair of these for a trip to Peru and they were wonderful. I now wear them from time to time during long days at work when I’ll be in meetings all day an unable to move around much. I’m in Rome right now using many of your tips! Thank you for sharing your travel gear! Also shared on Fb. Ciao!

  • Beth says:

    Would love to try these, and avoid the ankle swelling this trip!

  • Kim Hunter says:

    I would love to try a pair!

  • Teresa Donohue says:

    I already bought the wool socks you recommended. I’ll have to try compression ones too.

  • Candace Smith says:

    I am “all in” on compression socks for travel. I tried them for the first time on a direct flight from Amsterdam to Seattle. They actually did make a difference, so I am pleased to toss my name in the hat for an extra pair.

  • Cathy says:

    Compression socks sound like a great idea. Thanks, Sarah!

  • BB says:

    As a fellow tall woman with big feet (?) I was wondering if any of these brands mentioned seem to fit better for long legs? I tried a pair once, but they were too short – only coming to mid-calf – so were REALLY uncomfortable. I couldn’t wear them.

  • Marilyn Franklin says:

    I’ve never used compression Sox before but I think it’s a good idea.

  • Clare Helling says:

    I’ve been debating on getting some of these. I would love your cast offs to try them out for my next big trip! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Virginia Eide says:

    My daughter (age 27), who flies a lot for work, has started using compression socks and swears by them! After a long flight to Italy a year ago, her feet were swollen for days. Uses compression socks now and no problems.

  • Mary Boggs says:

    I just started wearing compression socks on our last 2 trips to Europe and love them . I normally have the twitchy leg thing on long flights and this took care of that issue.Haven’t tried for museum mainly since I’ve been wearing capris and they would look weird but will they them with long pants.I just bought a cheap pair at CVS but will now try some that you recommend.

  • Beth Lillis says:

    Would love to try out a pair of your socks on our next trip

  • Katheryne McEuen says:

    After watching a friend battle a blood clot (likely caused by long haul flights) I’m convinced compression socks are the way to go.

  • Janna Ellingson says:

    I enjoy traveling with you vicariously and have used many of your travel tips.

  • Grier Whitney says:

    Hi Sarah, Is the Sockwell pair itchy? I am sensitive to wool next to my skin but am interested in getting a pair of compression socks before my flight to Australia in February. Your post is very timely for me! Thank you!

  • Barbara Mahr says:

    I bought a pair of the Sockwell l last year before my trip to Italy (VFR) and loved them. Can’t say I know they helped, but my legs felt better and I didn’t get ‘crazy legs’ on the marathon flights. So I’m a convert! Would be a great gift if you pick me, Thursday is my birthday! :)Regardless, thanks for your posts and happy travels.

  • Debbie Dacy says:

    Would love a pair for overseas flights.

  • Kristin says:

    We got compression socks for a trip to AU & NZ. Wore them on our way to & from our Rick Steves Ireland tour a few weeks ago. I had no idea they could help with twitchy legs. I have mild RLS, so I might just see if they work for that at home!

  • Nancy Chaffin says:

    I always learn something from you Sarah! I hope to put it all to good use next fall on a Rick Steves trip to Italy!

  • Terri Kenny says:

    So glad you are rerunning this. Husband and I were booked on a trip to Ireland on Oct 3. Two days before leaving I had a stroke. no flying for 21 days. I now have a neurogist and a cardiolgist plus an implanted heart monitor. I purchased the trip insurance for my accident prone husband. Never thought I would need it for me. Going through the paperwork for the claim. I will have to get some of these socks.

  • Crystal says:

    Would love to try this company’s socks. I have several different ones but none of these !

  • JLM says:

    I’m a believer in compression socks. I forgot to wear them on a long flight to Egypt, and my legs looked like sausages for 2 days. Love the blog.

  • Priscilla says:

    I have tried compression socks on two long trips and they were not comfortable. I think it is because I have cheap ones. The ones you have posted look better and certainly more fashionable than mine! I’m game to try a more expensive pair for my next trip. I do think they are important to prevent blood clots and if they help with jet lag so much the better. Thank you for your review and assessment. I love your blog!

  • Patty says:

    My mother-in-law advised me to wear compression socks on flights to Europe. I have never tried it.I did see some compression leg sleeves at REI this week and was intrigued.

  • Darlene Smith says:

    I’m traveling to Zürich next month and have wondered about the 11 hour flight. Need to check these out. Thanks for the great information.

  • Adrian says:

    “waiting in museum bathroom lines” — sad, but true.

  • Annette says:

    Snake oil or not, I am a firm believer in compression socks. I wore them when walking the Camino de Santiago (500 miles) and absolutely swear they kept me going and without blisters. I still wear them and am convinced that I walk further and longer before tiring when I have them on. The Sockwells do have great patterns and I don’t need anyone to help pull them off like I do with another brand. Your giveaway is exciting.

  • Karen Ellis says:

    I’ve never tried compression socks but have been interested in trying them out.

  • Amy Crikelair says:

    Thanks for all of your blogging! You helped us travel to Europe with 12 pound bags and no checked luggage!I will definitely try the compression sock thing. – Thanks.

  • Dixie says:

    I’d love to try a pair of compression socks!

  • Linda Hayes says:

    Thanks for the comment about them helping with itchy rashes while touring a lot. I use them on the plane but will get more now to wear touring too!And shared!

  • Michelle OM says:

    Pick me! I want the socks! 🙂

  • Michelle OM says:

    Shared.

  • pam white says:

    I am going to London in December so would love a pair of socks. Love your blog and great ideas. Thanks of all Ithe info!! Even I do not get picked I will be evaluating your suggestions and buy some. My ankles swell so probably need compression socks!

  • Mary says:

    I will be traveling to Spain in May and will definetly try a pair. I like the Sockwell wool ones. I always wear wool socks so I am glad they have these available. Thanks for the information. Love tour blog.

  • Mary says:

    I have never used compression socks but would love to try a pair. Thanks for great information

  • Judy Klinck says:

    Sarah, I would love to have a pair of your compression socks! They have medical credibility for blood clots, but I would like to see if they help jet lag! In any case my feet are beginning to swell a little on long flights!

  • Terri says:

    I wore them once but did not like them but willing to try again. thanks

  • Pam Reynolds says:

    I did thik this was a lot of hooey, but now that you’ve given them positive reviews, I’d love to try them. Sounds like they’d be good for any experience with lots of standing.

  • Michelle OM says:

    I’d love to try one of these ? I stand a lot at work and have been considering trying these out!

  • Shelbe Hiller says:

    Ooooooh, I would love to try a pair of compression socks. I too, am skeptical and would like to try for myself.Love your packing posts.

  • Suzanne says:

    Oh my. I broke my ankle and DVT formed ( blood clot) they say not to wear these if you already have a clot. I have a prescription that I never filled. Did not fly often, 2-4 hour flights twice a year. Once clot is gone I’m going to invest in these. Ive even been told to wear them at a desk job but can’t come to grips with that. I’d rather get up and move, walk. I also do that on a flight. Never lightheaded but would probably help with jet lag. I have large feet size 11. Hope they sell my size.. I’m glad you are using them for flights.

  • Bambi Anderson says:

    I am a registered nurse. We use these for patient with congestive heart failure to promote circulation, prevent swelling and even blood clots. There is science behind why they help and it’s definitely not a hoax….not sure about the copper though :-).

  • Thanks for the advice. I’ve had them on in the hospital. Not fun. But I believe you. I’m ready to try them out in any color but white. Soon to hit the travel circuit.

  • Shannon S says:

    Shared!! I am enjoying all your traveling wisdom!!

  • Patricia says:

    I bought and wore a pair of compression socks on my trip to Italy (I’ve just returned). They were expensive; I paid $24 for them on sale. But my legs felt great on the plane–and both the trips over and back were long and tedious because of re-routing, late departures and arrivals, and even included an overnight stay in a chair in Newark Airport. I wore the socks for 3 days on the trip over, because my luggage didn’t make the tight connection in Paris and I had to wait for the suitcase to be delivered (I had several changes of clothing in my carryon, but neglected to include socks). the socks were great! I bought the brand I got because they have a wide-calf size–which I need. I’ll be getting another pair for future trips so that I can switch them on and off.

  • KB says:

    This was great information! Shared. ?

  • I have never used compression socks for travel, but I wondered about wearing them last year when I went to Scotland. I did walk way more than usual and also a lot of walking carrying my back pack…thanks to you, though, that pack only weighed 15.2 pounds! At 70, and going solo, I was pretty pleased with myself.I live in Florida but have considered compression socks for my morning 5k Walk. Thanks for this article!

  • Claire Armer says:

    Thank you for the great information on travel. I enjoy all that you share. I wore compression socks for my flights over to Italy and the UK. However, I did experience the leg rash this past summer trip to UK. I thought it was heat rash. They were having a heat wave and the thought of wearing any socks wasn’t happening!

  • Laurie says:

    I am a registered nurse and these are great, both in the hospital and when traveling. There’s a trick to applying them. You can either put them on when you first wake up and before you get up from the bed or you can lie down for a few minutes with your feet higher than your heart to help reduce any swelling in your feet. If you put them on after standing up you trap fluid in your feet and lose some of the benefit of the compression socks.

  • Peg says:

    My husband’s vascular surgeon said my husband had to wear them when we flew across country shortly after he had had surgery. They really help. I finally read the instructions on a new pair. Scrunch them down until you can pull the heel out toward you. Stretch out to put over foot. Very good. Now I have to buy some Sockwell ones for a trip to South Africa.

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