Nursing Compression Socks – Complete Guide (with Pictures!)

illustrated picture showing a nurse in blue uniform performing different duties in hospital, patient care,  emergency room, medication, and consultation to help patients learn how thigh or knee high graduated clothing can help them

Compression socks and stockings are recommended by physicians for various individuals, even nurses, as they help improve blood circulation. Therefore, this article will explain the role, benefits, and types of compression socks for nurses.

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Background on the Nursing Profession


picture of Florence Nightingale treating injured soldiers of the Crimean war

Nursing is one of the most timeless and admirable professions throughout history. The origin of the nursing profession is older than the 19th century and had gained worldwide recognition through the efforts of Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale was an English nurse and social reformer and is remembered as the founder of modern nursing. She was employed in the Crimean war (which was fought between 1853 and 1856) and was the first to define and organize the nursing profession, with the establishment of nursing schools, as well as provide basic principles for nursing and healthcare.

Modern Nursing

picture of medical staff in green uniform with stethoscope and using tablet in hand while wearing graduated knee high clothing to help improve blood circulation

Nursing has expanded beyond caring for injured soldiers on the war grounds and battle fields to modern clinics, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. The current nursing profession includes additional duties and tasks, such as patient care, medicine administration, diet plan adherence, recording vital readings, and tracking the progress of recovery (from disease or accident).

In some countries, nurses are even allowed to prescribe and administer medication after specific advanced certification. Nurses can assist the physicians by accurate reporting of vitals and change in patient’s symptoms.

Challenges Faced by Nurses

Nursing involves caring for patients of any age, gender, and nationality. Nurses have to assess a patient’s needs according to their respective fields; for instance, nurses working in cancer hospitals have a different scope of work as compared to the ones working in burn treatment centers. Similarly, nurses working in emergency, trauma centers, skincare units, imaging centers, laboratories, clinics, and other health care facilities have.

However, in almost all fields, nurses will have to face several physical, mental, and emotional challenges. These include:

1. Long working hours

Work shifts can last up to 12 hours or more. These long shifts can have severe short and long term effects on the human body, including lower concentration, fatigue, stress, and a disturbed sleep cycle.

2. Occupational hazards

picture showing various ways by which a medical worker is harmed by being continuously exposed to certain elements in hospital

Nurses are exposed to germs, viruses, and contaminated or hazardous fluids and materials, as well as having to handle needles, sharp edges tools, and contaminated surgical equipment, which all place risk unto their health.

3. Staff Shortage

Hospitals and healthcare facilities can face shortages of nursing staff, which puts more work burden onto the available staff.

4. Fatigue and Exhaustion

hospital corridor with various healthcare providers wearing knee high hoses

Nurses are likely to experience high levels of fatigue and exhaustion, and are at risk of swollen feet and ankles, due to long hours of standing, sitting, and physical exertion.

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Why Nurses may be Prone to Swelling in Feet or Legs

How Swelling can Occur

painful edema feet

In a healthcare environment, especially in trauma and emergency units of hospitals, nurses have to face a fast pace of work. This can have an effect on their blood circulation.

Various duties, including working on a report, checking vitals, bending over to change the medical aids of a patient, and moving constantly through corridors, can affect. When blood from the legs do not effectively return to the heart, an uncomfortable or painful feeling can develop in the legs, or feet or ankles may swell up.

Symptoms of Swelling

edema feet

Prolonged swelling of the feet and ankles might be a symptom of some other underlying health issue, such as edema, and should be checked by a medical professional.

Symptoms of swelling include:

  • Heaviness and puffiness in toes, feet, ankles or legs
  • Size of lower limbs can be visibly seen to have expanded
  • Fluids start filling the feet or ankles
  • Throbbing

Treatments for Swelling

 Several ways to treat swelling include:

1. Elevating the Lower Body

picture of a man with feet elevated,placed on pillows for relieving swollen feet

Elevating the lower body is a temporary way to reduce puffiness and swelling in the feet by draining the accumulated fluids in the feet towards the core of the body.

Nurses and other healthcare professionals can do this activity during breaks or end of shifts to reduce swelling.

2. Soaking Feet in Epsom Salt

After a long nursing shift, soaking swollen feet into warm water mixed with Epsom salt can help. Epsom salt has high concentrations of magnesium sulfate which can help blood circulation in the feet.

picture of a nurse trying to wear white compression socks

3. Using Compression Socks

The easiest and one of the most effective treatments for swollen feet and ankles is by wearing compression socks.

These socks apply a certain amount of pressure to the feet and ankles which can even prevent fluid accumulation in the lower limbs. These can be bought online or from a local pharmacy.

Want to Stop Leg Swelling Now?

ComproGear Compression Socks are designed to stop swelling instantly!

Click the button below to see the lineup of ComproGear Compression Socks:

Compression Socks for Nurses

The durable, elastic material used in compression socks helps apply pressure to the limbs. This pressure reduces the diameter of veins which, in turn, increases the blood pressure through them, allowing blood to not accumulate in the feet.

Benefits of Compression Socks

Compression socks can be lifesavers for nurses; they can prevent or reduce stiffness, soreness, and swelling in the lower extremities.
Various benefits to wearing compression socks include the following:

1. Prevents Fatigue, Clotting, and Varicose Veins

illustration showing feet with varicose veins and feet with compression socks on, spider veins in nurse feet

Knee-high compression socks, or stockings are notable for minimizing leg fatigue and preventing soreness of feet and ankles. They can prevent conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), varicose veins, lymphatic disorders, and clotting.

2. Minimizes Micro-tears in Muscles

Nurses may be prone to muscle tears in legs or feet; compression socks can minimize the risk of such muscle and tissue damage occurring from long shifts.

3. Material Composition Provides Comfort

picture showing material types with which compression socks can be made, nylon compression socks, spandex compression socks, polyester compression socks, wool compression socks, bamboo compression socks, cotton compression socks

The material composition of compression socks can be of importance for the nurses. Since the nature of the job requires an extra degree of cleanliness, it is necessary to wear sterile clothing, including socks. Most materials used for compression socks include polyester, nylon, spandex, elastic fibers, cotton, and wool. 

Carrying out work duties can cause a build-up of sweat in socks if they are made of material that is not breathable or have a moisture-wicking feature; compression socks are available with these features, which would allow nurses to go about their day comfortably.

4. Meets Different Needs as Various Compression Levels and Sizes are Available

Male nurses may prefer ankle-high, calf-high, or knee-high socks, while female nurses may prefer the same, as well as thigh-high stockings. Compression socks, or stockings, are available in a wide range of lengths and sizes, meeting these needs for nurses.

Compression socks, or stockings, also come in various compression levels, in which its pressure is measured in ‘millimeters of mercury (mmHg)’, which can help for various needs, depending on the compression level used. The best compression level for daily wear is 8-15 mmHg and 15-20 mmHg, however, in case of symptoms of edema and swollen feet, 20-30 mmHg may be preferred.

Refer to the table below for a more detailed compression therapy guide:

picture of comparison chart of different sizes of compression stockings

Types of Compression Socks

picture of different types of graduated thigh or knee high compression socks for legs
picture of a leg wearing blue compression socks to show percentage of graduated compression

There are various kinds of compression garments available, such as:

  • Graduated Compression Socks – Designed for clinical purposes, in which compression gradually declines upwards.
  • Anti-embolism Socks – Designed for clinical purposes and aimed for individuals with restricted movement.
  • Support Socks – Designed for non-medical purposes and has an equally distributed compression.
  • Compression Hose – Provides extra coverage on the thighs.
  • Compression Sleeves – Covers the majority of the calf and stops above the ankle, leaving the foot exposed.

These are all highly effective in treating and reducing the effects of edema, thrombosis, blood clotting, varicose veins, improve lymphatic drainage, and reducing swelling of feet, ankles, and legs. Physicians recommend knee-high compression socks and sleeves for mild swelling as well as for chronic edema patients.

Tips on Wearing Compression Socks

Although male and female nurses may choose different sizes, compression levels, and types of compression socks, the wearing method and technique are almost similar.

  • Knee-high compression socks and compression sleeves can be worn daily at home or when leaving for the hospital or clinic for work.
  • They can be worn while walking, sitting, and during your everyday work routine at the medical center.
  • Compression hosiery is usually taken off during the night while sleeping.
  • They can be worn while working on a night shift, but best to remove them during a break for a nap or resting during a shift.
  • When wearing compression socks, any wrinkles or folds should be smoothed out first.
  • Do not fold the compression socks.

Should all Nurses Wear Compression Socks?

A physician may advise to wear a specific size and length of compression socks depending on one’s health condition, which should be adhered to.

choosing the right graduated socks

With so many benefits to compression socks, it is recommended that nurses should have at least one pair of compression socks, sleeves or stockings so that they can wear them whenever they feel the need to.


picture of a nurse wearing a pair of knee-high white compression socks

Nurses face physical and mental challenges every day and night during their work; hence, are prone to swollen feet and ankles. Compression socks have been clinically proven to improve blood circulation and relieve swollen feet, reduce pain, and soreness, making them a convenient and effective remedy for nurses.

Want to Stop Leg Swelling Now?

ComproGear Compression Socks are designed to stop swelling instantly!

Click the button below to see the lineup of ComproGear Compression Socks:

Best Compression Socks for Nurses – Your Complete Guide

Let’s talk about the best compression socks for nurses…

Many professions require workers to be on their feet for long periods of time, not the least of which is nursing. Standing and walking for hours on end–sometimes up to 12 hours or more without any real-time to take a rest–can leave your legs and feet exhausted and swollen.

Colorful Compression Socks for Nurses

Not only that, but nurses who spend long hours on their feet can find that their circulation is inhibited because gravity is working against them.

Nurse Ad asking for help of her feet with compression socks
Help (my feet with compression socks)

This type of strain put on the legs can result in the pain and discomfort associated with varicose veins and spider veins.

Fortunately, the use of compression socks can bring some relief from pain, soreness and the risk of varicose veins associated with nursing.

Wearing compression socks can prevent blood pooling and encourages proper circulation around the feet, and it may also reduce swelling in the ankle area.

As a nurse, you’ll certainly want to shop for the best socks that can bring maximum relief from the issues likely brought about by standing. Before buying, you need to know about the best compression socks for nurses and others who are on their feet for many hours each day.

Looking to Buy a Pair of Compression Socks you can wear for a 12+ hour shift? Click the button below to see the lineup we specifically designed for nurses to wear all day:

Compression Socks – What are they?

Nursing Compression Socks in White

Before getting started talking about the best compression socks, we’ll first need to have a basic understanding of what compression socks are and how they should be used.

Compression socks are specially made stockings that stretch and fit snugly around the feet and legs. They may stop just below the knee or they may go up to the thigh. Originally, compression socks were only manufactured in basic colors such as white or black, but recently they’ve begun to come in all sorts of fun and fancy colors and styles to meet your personal preferences.

Graduated compression socks put the greatest amount of compression around the ankle but and then get a bit looser as they move up the leg. When such pressure is put on the legs it helps with blood circulation and prevents the swelling that can come from fluid pooling around the ankles (due to the pull of gravity). Compression socks help the circulatory system to fight against gravity to get the blood back up to the heart, which helps to avoid blood clots and other issues such as varicose veins. They work preventatively to keep some of these medical issues at bay, as well as therapeutically to reduce pain and discomfort.

Compression Socks – What are they Used For?

Picture of the Best Knee High Nursing Compression Socks

Compression socks are used for a variety of conditions, including:

  • Pregnancy-related swelling and vein problems
  • Varicose or spider veins
  • Lymphedema or edema
  • Prevention of blood clots in the lower legs, known as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
  • Poor circulation from sitting for long periods of time (travelers, pilots, etc.)
  • Post-surgical and post-sclerotherapy treatment
  • Relief for those who spend a significant amount of time on their feet to prevent swelling and/or the development of varicose veins or spider veins

Compression Socks – Why Do Nurses and Health Professionals Prefer Compression Socks?

Military Nurses helping a patient. Are they wearing compression socks under their uniforms? I guess we'll never know.

Compression socks are used by nurses, people from other professions who are often on their feet, as well as people with various health issues that the socks can help with.

What are the best compression socks for nurses? Generally 20-30 mmHg Knee High Compression Socks that fit you correctly.

Looking to Buy a Pair of Compression Socks you can wear for a 12+ hour shift? Click the button below to see the lineup we specifically designed for nurses to wear all day:

When people stand still for long periods of time, the forces of gravity increases the pressure placed on the veins of the legs.

The blood easily flows down from the heart into the body through the arteries but, as it attempts to move back up to the heart through the veins, gravity tends to create restrictions and difficulty.

This causes the veins to be under too much pressure which can eventually lead to compromised stability, resulting in varicose veins and spider veins. Wearing compression stockings aids the veins by giving them extra stability which can reduce pain and discomfort as well as preventing future occurrences of varicose veins.

Now nurses aren’t known for standing still for more than, say, 5-seconds at most. (6-seconds or longer is considered a “legal break” for nurses). Still, if you’re on your feet for a long nursing shift, the effects are the same as standing. Swelling increases and compression socks are practically a necessity.

People who don’t have a chance to elevate their feet throughout the day (Nurses!) may find that their ankles and feet tend to swell.

This pooling of fluids in the feet can sometimes be mitigated through the use of compression socks that keep the swelling down.

Here is a list of people who are advised to use compression socks regularly:

  • People with limited circulation, blood pressure problems, varicose veins, DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), diabetes and many more are recommended the use of these compression socks by the medical community.
  • Post-surgery patients may be prescribed the use of compression socks in order to speed recovery and prevent the formation of blood clots in patients who are immobile.
  • People who are bedridden for various reasons (pregnancy, stroke, etc.) may need to wear compression socks in order to help with circulation and prevent blood clots. These patients use a special Anti-Embolism or T.E.D. Stocking.
  • Nurses who have difficulty with dizziness upon standing up can wear compression socks to promote healthy circulation and relieve the distress of dizziness.
  • When your profession requires you to stand for long hours, it is advisable to use compression socks. 
  • Sitting for long hours in one position can be part of some professions like pilots, those with desk jobs, etc. Wearing compression socks can help with better blood circulation and prevent some major health issues.
  • Athletes who are prone to use their feet more or get swelling on their legs often can also use compression socks to get some relief.
  • Pregnant women may find the use of compression socks helpful in reducing leg pain and preventing blood clots.

Looking to Buy a Pair of Compression Socks you can wear for a 12+ hour shift? Click the button below to see the lineup we specifically designed for nurses to wear all day:

What Are the Features of Compression Socks for Nurses?

Compression socks come with a number of features that allow nurses to experience therapeutic benefits. Consider the following criteria when purchasing compression socks.

Related Articles

Things to note before buying a pair of compression stockings for nurses:

Look at these tacos on your feet. These keep compromised legs under control and improve blood flow during long hospital shifts.
Taco Socks are Best Socks
  • The material used to make the socks needs to be durable and strong (look for nylon, polyester, and spandex).
  • Socks for nurses should be made from materials that are breathable as well as stretchable. 
  • The compression socks need to offer pressure on the legs consistently without making the wearer feel uncomfortable. 
  • These socks should be available in different sizes and not follow the policy of one size fits all. 
  • Graduated compression that forces blood and fluid up from the ankle to the calf or thigh.
  • An added advantage would be vibrant colors and patterns for a fun flair.

Stretchy Compression Socks are usually a combination of Nylon and Elastane (aka “Spandex”). This helps the socks retain their flexibility and compressive properties.

Materials such as elastane (Spandex), nylon, polyester, merino wool, LYCRA, and others are all soft and offer comfort when used to make nurse compression socks. Apart from that, they do a great job of providing graduated compression which is the much-needed feature in nurses compression socks.

Don’t worry too much about the composition of your nursing compression socks, as long as they have the correct compression level and are fitted properly for your legs.
Fit is critical. The best compression socks are the ones that fit properly.

When compression socks have these features, you can be sure that they will offer the comfort and relief that you wish to have when wearing them. 

What Are the Benefits of Using Compression Socks for Nurses?

When you understand what compression socks can do, you can certainly see the ways you might benefit from adding them to your life! Here are some of the main benefits found by nurses and others who use compression socks:

  • With the use of compression socks, the feet will not get tired as easily, even if you stand for a long time. 
  • Your legs may feel less achy when you are on your feet for long hours at a time.
  • The swelling in the legs, both feet, and ankles, may be minimized with the use of compression socks as they help your body to fight against the effects of gravity.
  • Compression socks can bring major relief to people suffering from varicose veins and spider veins, reducing pain and discomfort as well as preventing the formation of others.
  • Wearing compression socks may prevent some people from feeling dizzy and light-headed when they stand up.
  • The use of compression socks may prevent the development of blood clots by helping the blood circulate properly and not letting it pool in one spot.

How to Select the Best Compression Socks Brand for Nurses

Here’s our choice of the best compression socks for nurses:

Looking to Buy a Pair of Compression Socks you can wear for a 12+ hour shift? Click the button below to see the lineup we specifically designed for nurses to wear all day:

Selecting the appropriate compression socks can be a little tricky because there are a number of factors to consider. Quality and cost are the two major features that you may need to know about as you look into your compression socks brand.

Some brands do make quality goods but they come at a high cost. Some sell at a low cost but maybe are just cheap imitations and will not last long. So, find an in-between path where you get quality in a cost-effective manner. Buying online can be a great way to find affordable compression socks that are made in a quality manner. Always look for the best compression socks for edema.

Compression socks are available from a variety of manufacturers in different brands. Some compression socks are well-known and others may be new to the market. Well-known brands often cost more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better. Look for a brand that offers quality materials, top construction and a good value. Also, be wary of fly-by-night companies that make promises of miracles that aren’t realistic (such as One-Size-Fits-All).

Different Kinds of Compression Socks for Nurses

Compression socks come in different sizes and types, each of which is made for different uses. There are even footless compression socks and toeless compression socks.

If you’re under the care of a doctor, compression socks can help you understand exactly what you need in the way of compression socks. A pharmacist is also a helpful resource in discovering what pressure and size of compression socks you might need.

Compression socks range from 8mmHg up to 40mmHg or even 50mmHg in some extreme cases. The measurement “mmHg” means Millimeters of Mercury and is the same measurement used in blood pressure cuffs.

The Best Compression Socks are usually 20-30 mmHg for Nurses (and any other professions that involve a lot of standing.)

(Patients stuck in bed should use 10-20 mmHg Socks or Stockings known as “TED Hose”.)

If you’re simply using compression socks for daily use to help when you’re on your feet for long hours, your pharmacist might recommend using compression socks that come in the 20-30mmHg range. This is a mid-range sock that offers the greatest pressure (30mmHg) at the ankle and then lesser pressure (20mmHg) at the calf. This pressure typically works well for those trying to reduce fatigue, minimize swelling and prevent the risk of varicose veins and spider veins.

Can you sleep in compression socks?No.

Are 20-30 mmHg Compression Socks appropriate for bed bound patients?No.
(Read Ted Hose vs Compression Stockings for more info)

Are 20-30 mmHg Compression Socks perfect for nurses?Yes.

The best compression socks for nurses typically stop just below the knee as this provides them with snug support but doesn’t lend to being hot or uncomfortable.

However, compression socks are also available in a thigh-high or even pantyhose variety for those who prefer those options.

The only way to get the maximum possible benefit from compression socks is by wearing the right style, pressure type, and size. Don’t get something too loose like a TED Stocking (10-20 mmHg) and don’t get something too tight like Medical Compression Leggings (40+ mmHg)

If the pressure is too low or too high, or the size isn’t right, then you’ll not receive the health benefits you want and need from your compression socks.

Helping a patient in a wheelchair

Here are some other articles on the topic:

20-30 Compression Stockings

How do Compression Socks Work for Swelling

Plus Size Compression Socks

Best Compression Socks for Standing All Day

Which Compression Level is Right for You?

Multiple colors of compression socks

Compression stockings are medical-grade devices designed to move blood flow and, because of this, it is important that they are worn in the right size and with the correct pressure.

Support compression stockings are made available in multiple compression support levels. Most commonly, compression support stockings come in mild (8-15 mmHg), Medium (15-20 mmHg), Firm (20-30 mmHg), X-Firm (30-40 mmHg) gradient compression levels.

For nurses and others who are on their feet for a lot of time, the Firm pressure of 20-30 mmHg is often recommended by pharmacists and doctors to provide support. However, it is always helpful to check with your doctor or another medical professional to find out which pressure might be right for you.

There are many types of compression socks and stockings available without a prescription and they do offer wide-ranging benefits. Before wearing a compression therapy of 20 mmHg (Firm Compression) and above, it is generally recommended to consult your health care provider to find out if graduated compression stockings are right for you. If the answer is yes, they can tell you what pressure grade you should buy for maximum benefit and relief.

Compression Socks – Guide to Measuring and Wearing

How to measure for thigh high leg garments

When trying to determine the size of compression socks or stockings you need, it is best to measure early in the day before swelling builds in the legs. Measurements taken later in the day after swelling occurs may cause you to choose an item that is too large and then not effective. When measuring, be sure to use the tape measure around the largest part of the ankle, the largest part of the calf, and from the lower part of the back of the knee down to the floor. Getting someone else to help you measure may be useful.

Compression therapy products are put on in the morning before getting out of bed, which is typically before any significant swelling could occur. The compression socks are then removed at night before getting into bed. Throughout the day the compression prevents blood from pooling in leg veins, prevents the development of varicose veins, helps your overall circulation and lessens or eliminates any leg swelling you may have.

Compression Socks are NOT one-size-fits-all!

Hospital Outfit

As a side note, if you’re thinking about compression socks that claim “one size fits all”, then you may want to think again.

Although buying those compression socks might be less complicated because no measurements are required, it is important to understand that they simply cannot work as well as compression socks that are fitted to your personal size.

The best compression socks are like the best shirt or the best pants. They’re measured to fit your body.

How to Wash Compression Stockings

Knowing the correct method to keep your compression socks clean will allow you to use them for a long as possible.

How Long Do Compression Socks Last?

Compression socks should be washed after each use

Washing your nursing compression socks helps return the elasticity to its most effective level.

Since you need to wash each pair of nursing compression socks between wearings, you’ll likely want to have at least a couple of pairs.

When well cared for, a quality pair of compression socks can last several months.

Best to wash your compression socks according to manufacturer’s instructions:
– This usually entails hand washing and then hanging/laying flat to dry.
– Machine washing nurse compression socks can cause stretching. But generally it’s ok to gently wash compression socks in the washing machine. (Avoid hot water and use gently detergents only.)
– Tumble drying compression socks may contribute to shrinking. It’s best to hang dry your nursing compression socks. (Avoid wringing out socks because they can stretch.)

As a nurse, you can really benefit from compression socks.

Compression socks can reduce swelling, minimize fatigue, relieve symptoms of varicose veins, and generally provide you with a better experience while you’re on your feet.

And when you feel better, you can take more care to help your patients feel better too!

Check out the link below for our choice of the best compression socks for nurses

Looking to Buy a Pair of Compression Socks you can wear for a 12+ hour shift? Click the button below to see the lineup we specifically designed for nurses to wear all day: