What are graduated compression socks?

Graduated compression socks or stockings which are tightest around the ankle and gradually becomes less as we move up towards the calves, provide a funnel effect to push fluid back up towards the lungs and heart for increased circulation. The proper compression ratios can help squeeze and decrease the diameter of the veins to reduce venous stasis and trapping of the blood. Fitting of the compression sock is therefore important and is usually measured at the calf and ankle areas for knee high compression socks. The quality of the orthotic is important to maintain the precise compression ratios yet providing optimal comfort to the patient. Therefore it is much more than a normal sock but an important medical device for your legs.

How do compression socks work?

To answer this question, we must know the mechanism of our veins and how graduated compression socks can help improve blood circulation, lymph drainage and reduce risk of thromboembolism (i.g. blood clots).

Our leg muscles and organs need oxygenated blood and nutrients. Our leg veins are special due to them having various one-way valves to help circulate and push blood up towards the body and back to the heart. However, these one-way valves can weaken due to the pressure of gravity overtime and can cause venous reflux causing stasis (pooling) of blood in veins. In more simple terms, this means due to gravity sometimes the blood remains trapped in the veins below the leg valve and don’t get circulated up and so it doesn’t go back towards the heart and lungs where it can get oxygen and nutrients again. This extra trapped blood in the veins can lead to venous hypertension which can potentially cause pain, edema, inflammation, deep vein thrombosis and skin changes that can lead to ulcers.

Picking the right pair of compression socks for your work and lifestyle needs

Picking a pair of compression socks with specific pressure and levels measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) is important and helps treat and prevent certain diseases. Some compression socks with higher quality materials deliver more accurate pressure ratios and increase the lifetime of the product. The compression sock should also fit your work and lifestyle needs in terms of moisture-wicking for people with moist feet and even overall style! Style does matter because some may not like the look of a glossy shear like typical department store hosiery. One of the most important factors for compliance with compression sock is comfort, therefore the importance of this cannot be stressed more. Needless to say, finding a pair of comfortable, fitting and correct pair of compression sock requires a trained professional. Which is why most insurance plans can only cover medical compression socks prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a qualified fitter.

For example, a nurse that is primarily indoor at the hospital would be better finding a pair of comfortable compression socks made with natural fiber materials like cotton to fancier synthetic blends such as Lycra. Also find compression socks that isn’t as thick that would trap heat to cause sweaty feet and/or heavy to cause tired achy legs (remember you must be on your feet most the time already).

Speak to one of our qualified fitters at the MYOMED clinic to find the perfect pair of compression socks for you.


Lim, C. S., & Davies, A. H. (2014). Graduated compression stockings. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(10), E391–E398. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.131281

Varicose veins and compression socks