How Do Ankle Compression Socks Work?

Compression ankle socks are the great-great-granddaughter of some very serious stockings invented to keep people from dying after surgery. Thanks to those stockings, you have some comfortable socks that can help your feet feel great, even if you have to work overtime.

History of Compression Socks

Before there were ankle compression socks, there were compression stockings. These socks usually come up to your knee. They were a little tight, and they provided invigorating compression to the calves, ankles, and feet. You can still get these great socks in a lot of stores. They give your legs support, allowing you to work hard and still come home without having swollen ankles. They also prevent varicose veins and spider veins.

They come in compression ratings that start at 15 -20 mm/Hg and go up incrementally to 20-30 mm/Hg and 30-40 mm/Hg. If you need more compression than that, you need to get a prescription first! Luckily, 15-20 mm/Hg is a excellent amount of compression for preventing spider veins, swollen feet and helping your feet feel good after a long, active day.

The first compression hose were thigh highs and had to be prescribed by doctors to keep people from developing blood clots after surgery or because they needed to be on bed rest. That kind of elastic stocking, called TED hose, worked so well at keeping legs from swelling and developing varicose veins that nurses started borrowing them from their patients and wearing them to work.

Luckily, someone designed some compression stockings made just for working in because those were not ideal for that purpose. They worked great at making legs feel better after working long shifts on your feet, but they weren’t designed for that reason. TED hose provided too much compression in places that ambulatory (walking around) people didn’t need. Plus, they only held high compression for about three months before they needed to be replaced. Compression socks designed just for working people keep their compression for six months easier on the wallets of working people everywhere.

How To Wear Compression Socks

Compression socks do not need to be fitted, like TED hose. Ankle compression socks only provide a nice, firm squeeze to the feet and ankles. Wearing ankle socks really doesn’t require much of a how-to lesson. That said, compression socks usually come in different levels of compression, just like their ancestors at the hospital did. If you think you would like your socks to provide more compression than 15-20 mm/Hg, then try out 20-30 mm/Hg. As the number gets higher, the level of compression, or squeeze, will get more and more.

This squeeze should provide your feet with a sort of constant massage, supporting your tissues, taking down any swelling, and helping the leg to prevent issues that might lead to spider veins or varicose veins. Most of all, it will hopefully make your feet feel better after a long day in a way that regular socks can never do.

Things To Think About

It’s doubtful that ankle socks could get so tight that they could hurt you, but you just can’t be too careful. If your toes begin to feel numb or tingly, remove your socks and see if that sensation improves (the tingling or numbness goes away, and your toes feel normal). If that happens, you should probably get a pair of socks with less compression or in a larger size for your foot. Other things to look for are if your toenail beds look white or pale instead of their usual color (like they might not be getting enough blood). In that case, get a pair of socks with less compression, or that fits you better.

Now that you know how they should fit, just remember: the compression will begin to be less effective after six months or so of wear and tear. At this point, get some new compression socks if you want to have the same kind of extra care from your work socks. After all, you work hard, so why shouldn’t your work socks work hard for you, too?

About Jacob Maslow

Jacob Maslow is a father of 5, editorial specialist and health enthusiast.

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