Best Compression Socks For Hiking FAQ
What are hiking compression socks?
Compression socks are tight, extra-stretchy socks that gently apply pressure to your legs and feet. Unlike regular socks, they are designed to sort of ‘squeeze’ your body, stimulating blood flow and circulation.
What types of compression socks are there?
Compression socks come in all shapes and sizes, though the most common are over-the-knee, under-the-knee, crew-style, and ankle-socks. The longer type (over-the-knee and under-the-knee) compression socks generally feature graduated compression technology. This means they are tightest around the ankle and get ‘looser’ as they move up your leg. Don’t be fooled: knee-high compression socks should never slouch. With looser we mean the material applies slightly less pressure, but the fit is still snug from toe to knee.
Variations on compression socks are compression sleeves and tights. A compression sleeve is simply the tube part (from the ankle to the knee), without a sock-foot attached. A compression tight covers your entire lower-torso from hip to toe, but this style is mostly only used for medical reasons.
What are the benefits of wearing compression socks?
Wearing compression socks can prevent your legs and feet from getting tired, achy, and swollen. They can also provide extra arch support and stability of the feet, plus reduce the risk of blood clots, spider veins, varicose veins. And also lower your chances of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). For most hikers, the benefit of experiencing less swelling, aches, and leg fatigue will be most noticeable after a long day of walking. And make the biggest difference to their hiking and/or backpacking experience.
How do hiking compression socks work?
Okay, we’ll try to explain this as simply as we can, without all the difficult medical terminology. It’s all got to do with blood flow and circulation. When you’re on your feet all day, the veins and blood vessels in your legs have to work extra hard, fighting natural gravity, to pump your blood back to your heart. When you ‘overwork’ these veins and vessels, or suffer from poor circulation, it can cause your blood to pool. This, in turn, may lead to swelling, fatigue, discomfort, and pain.
This is where compression socks come in. By applying pressure on your feet and legs, compressions socks can stimulate the blood flow and circulation back to your heart. This also enables more oxygen-rich blood to flow through your body, relieving fatigue and soreness, and allowing your veins to ‘relax’. So, in short, compressions socks help ‘push’ the blood back up, which leads to better circulation, which reduces the risk of swelling, pain, blood clots, spider veins, and more.
What is an mmHg compression rating?
The mmHg (millimeters of mercury) rating of a sock refers to the level of pressure it applies to your leg. The lower the mmHg rating, the more gentle the pressure. The higher the mmHg rating, the more intense the effect.
Generally, the mmHG rating of compression socks can be divided into 3 ranges:
Low: less than 15 mmHg
Moderate: between 15 – 25 mmHg (the most common range for hiking socks)
High: over 25 mmHg (medical-grade/medical aid)
For the regular hikers without specific health problems, compression socks with a rating between 15 – 25 mmHg is ideal. These socks are tight enough to reap the benefits of compression, but not too tight that they become uncomfortable.
We’d recommend avoiding compression socks in the low range (less than 15 mm Hg) as you might as well just buy a pair of regular hiking socks as the effects are minimal. We’d also advise against socks with a rating over 25 mmHg unless prescribed to you by a doctor, as these are mostly aimed for post-surgery recovery and medical reasons.