Support Hose – (Compression Socks With Size Guide!)

A cat hiding a socks
Keep calm funny meme.

Compression stocking and sleeves are in use since the 1960s. Today, they are in use more than ever before. They have found applications in hospitals, sports, and for treatment of various foot and leg problems.

What is Support Hosiery?

White and black Compression Socks
light brown Compression hosiery

Support hosiery includes compression socks, sleeves, and pantyhose and is most commonly known for their use in treatment and reducing symptoms of various venous disorders, fatigue, soreness, and swollen legs.

A common issue faced today by many of us is the swelling of feet and ankles due to the accumulation of blood and other fluids in feet and ankle. In some severe cases, the swelling can go up to the knees or even thighs. This swelling or dependent edema can cause extreme heaviness, soreness, and discomfort. It can also hinder mobility and make traveling very difficult.

doctor treating person's swelled thighs
person holding pain-stricken knee

Several remedies are used to reduce swelling and fight edema. These include oral medicine, the elevation of the lower body, lowering salt intake, and the use of compression hosiery.

Home Remedies for Edema

How Do They Work?

how therapy works!

Support hose is a type of compression therapy and is equally famous among men and women of all ages. The basic principle on which the whole concept of compression therapy resides in the application of continuous pressure on your limbs by wrapping an elastic material around them.

difference between with and without compression

The pressure is maximum at the toes and feet and is minimum at the knee or thighs (depending on the type of stockings knee-high or thigh-high).

difference between pressure applied and swelled legs

This pressure gradient prevents the fluids from pooling in the lower extremities. Compression on the surface of the limbs constricts the veins and blood vessels and gently squeezes them, reducing their diameter. This increases the pressure of the fluid inside them, forcing it to flush toward the core of the body. The heart then pumps fresh blood towards the limbs every time it beats and thus reduces swelling.

Man Wearing Support Hose


sub-bandage pressure range in mmHg For Compression hose
  • Based on shape

    Close and Open toe

    Compression stockings are available in an assortment of configurations. You can find them in the form of a closed-toe (regular socks style), sleeves, and open-toes. The most common of these are closed-toe type; however, it all depends on your preference and personal choice.

    Compression sleeves are similar to regular socks but the lack the foot part and end at or just below the ankles. Another type that is now available in the market is the open-toe style socks. Open-toe socks cover your feet and ankles end just before the beginning of toe. This type is preferred by individuals who want their toes to be naked or feel achy on the fingertips.

  • Color

    different colors of compression stockings

    You can choose from a diversity of choices when it comes to color schemes. Compression socks are notorious for being of flashy colors and designs. Different designs, patterns, colors have made the socks popular, especially among youngsters and athletes.

    funny simpson meme

    The newest designs from manufacturers of support socks include exclusive colors for runners, casual wear, nurses, and for work. Men can choose from natural shades to wear at work. Classic black is the most famous among men. While women mostly prefer skin toned and light-colored socks. Nurses, medical staff, and post-surgery recovery patients use white-colored socks or according to their uniform rules.

  • Length

    pink background with grey compression socks

    Another vital classification filter for the compression stockings is their size and lengths. When we look at the length, there are regular, ankle-high, thigh-high, knee-high, and pantyhose. These lengths determine the coverage area of the hose. For instance, ankle-high socks cover the feet only and end just below the ankles; thigh-high socks cover your thighs up to the base of your pelvis region and knee-high cover your shins up to the knee caps.

    funny meme on matching clothing

    Pantyhose, also known as sheer tights in the UK are usually worn by women who can provide the ladies with appropriate covering and protection from feet up till the waist. Men have an alternative in the form of chaps that covers the legs and has an integrated belt as well.

  • Sizes

    funny meme, cloth on floor

    Sizes of compression garments (of all lengths and types) are usually the same as your standard feet size. They can vary according to the feet size of your countries like International, US, and Euro sizes. So to choose the correct size of your sock, keep in mind your foot size.

    various lengths of compression garments

    You must choose a sock of correct size; otherwise, it will not be able to do its job effectively. You can also increase the risk of folds and kinks while wearing the wrong size sock.

  • Gradient

    demonstration of compression gradient

    One of the most critical factors for the classification of compression socks is the compression gradient of compression classes. Principally compression socks apply a known amount of continuous pressure on your limbs. This pressure can vary from light or mild to high, creating the following classes:

    • 8 to 15 mmHg:

      These stockings are the ones with the lightest of the compression. The compression is so light that you may not be able entirely to feel it. These are for light and rare swelling of feet and ankles.

    • 15 to 20 mmHg:

      Mild compression socks have compression in this range. This type of socks is for mild swelling, tiredness, and pain in the limbs.

    • 20 to 30 mmHg:

      This is the most common compression category. Moderate compression of 20 to 30 mmHg is effective for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), Post-surgical recovery, dependent edema, diabetes, swollen feet and ankles, and varicose veins. It is also suitable for post-injury trauma, chronic venous insufficiency, and superficial thrombophlebitis.

    • 30 to 40 mmHg:

      This category of compression stockings applies the highest amount of pressure on your limbs and skin, i.e., 30 to 40 mmHg. This type is commonly used to treat lymphedema, elephantiasis, and recovering from severe ulcers. You must not use high compression socks unless prescribed by your physician in rare cases.

      funny meme of cat reading newspaper
    • Maternity Pantyhose

      clothing comfortable for the mothers and support them in movement and mobility

      Maternity pantyhose are so common among pregnant mothers that they are available in the market as a separate category. These types of hoses are comfortable for the mothers and support them in movement and mobility. If you are preparing to become a mother or stepping into parenthood, a pair of these can be beneficial for you during the process.


 pair of Black and white.

Compression socks are readily available online and on your nearest drugstores. You do not need a doctor’s prescript to buy a pair. You have to know your size, the compression level you require (according to your condition).

Multi colors with different patterns

With online shopping, you can easily order your favorite socks. You can enjoy certain perks like free shipping, sales, coupons, and discounts. If you do not find a time slot in your busy schedule to go looking for compression socks in a store, then online shopping is best for you.  However, some people prefer buying the socks over the counter as it lets them wear it and experience it for themselves. You can also feel the fabric, compression level suitable, and choose the design/color of the garment to your liking.


Remember that compression stockings are a type of therapeutic or recovery hosiery. If you are suffering from a chronic or dangerous to health diseases like ulcers or severe clotting, it is best if you consult your physician and discuss the treatment.

Medical Uses and Benefits of Compression Hose

benefits of pressure on legs

The use of compression therapy has been clinically proven to bring a positive and healthy change in your lifestyle. You can use these stockings to control, reduce, and even treat several diseases and medical conditions. You can enjoy the following benefits with regular use of appropriate elastic compression hosiery:

  • Manage swelling and dependent edema

    puffy hands and feet

    Compression therapy is highly effective in managing dependent edema and swollen legs. Depending on the stage and condition of swelling, compression sleeves (and socks) can keep the disease under control and promote mobility. In cases of mild or minor swelling, these socks can be useful only when needed. However, chronic edema patients must not discontinue regular use without discussing it with their doctor as it can worsen their symptoms.

    chronic veinous insufficiency

  • Control chronic venous disease

    Peripheral venous insufficiency and chronic venous disorders can create considerable problems in blood circulation through the legs and feet. This disease hinders deoxygenated blood from the lower limbs to move back towards the heart and to replace it with nutrient-rich fresh blood from the heart.

  • Avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis

    person gently rubbing feet, sitting on chair

    Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which the body fluids start accumulating in the lower extremities of the body and cause heaviness and even clotting. This unwanted clotting in the blood vessels can cause extreme discomfort, pain, and soreness. The use of compression socks can help the wearer avoid DVT and prevent blood accumulation in feet.

    wrapping bandage

  • Reduce Lymphedema

    person exercising to reduce swelled feet

    Lymph fluid (a part of the human body’s lymphatic system) can accumulate in the lymph vessels instead of seeping back into the blood regularly and can cause lymphedema. This condition has symptoms similar to edema and can cause extreme heaviness and discomfort. Compression socks can negate or reverse these symptoms to an extent and give relief to the wearer.

    person pressing another person's swelled legs

    Varicose veins are common in feet and leg area. These appear as twisted, swollen, and distended veins just beneath the skin surface. They are usually visible on the outside and present an unpleasant look. If they develop in a patient, they do not heal by themselves. Varicose veins are an indication of weak and damaged venous walls and valves. Compression therapy is known to reduce the inflammation caused by varicose veins and stop their advancement as well.

  • Reduce the risk of phlebitis

    clotting and inflammation in veins of feet

    The clotting and inflammation in veins of feet or legs due to injury or infection give rise to phlebitis. This condition can be moderate to severe, depending on the clotting and weakness of the veins. Individuals suffering from varicose veins should wear compression socks regularly to reduce the risk of phlebitis as they are more susceptible to this disease.

    mechanism of varicose veins formation

  • During pregnancy

    pregnant person comfortably sitting

    Pregnant mothers are often suggested by their doctors to wear compression socks to control the volumetric increase in leg veins and edema symptoms while standing and moving. Hormonal changes and weight gain can also produce these issues. Compression stockings come in handy during pregnancy and provide adequate support to lower limbs of pregnant women.

  • Post-surgical recovery treatment

    person treating swelled feet

    Post-surgical recovery was the compression socks’ earliest medical use and still is. Post-surgical rehabilitation can include long durations of immobility on bed and wheelchair. In cases when the recovery time is long, and the patient cannot move around, much blood circulation through lower limbs become limited and can give rise to several health disorders of feet and legs (including edema and clot formation). Doctors recommend compression hosiery for all such patients.

    therapy of swelled feet

  • Protection of your feet and ankles

    An overwhelming advantage of wearing compression socks is protection from cuts, injuries, and insect bites. This use of the stockings might seem unimportant, but individuals who have diabetes can find it a lifesaver. People with diabetes require proper medical foot care, and protection and compression socks can provide them with it. Hikers, bikers, and runners can also use them as protection for their feet and legs.

  • For sportspeople and athletes

    As discussed above, sportsmen and athletes can use compression socks to protect their feet and legs. But this is the secondary use of compression hosiery for them. The main advantage of the socks is that it provides adequate support (to joints, muscles, and connected tendons) and helps them in moving effectively. Compression hoses can also prevent over bending, sprains, or any other awkward movement.

  • Look sharp

    You don’t have to compromise on your looks and fashion sense only because you have some feet problems to take care of. You can maintain your style and even polish it further by compression socks. They have become an essential accessory for runners and athletes worldwide. Choose your favorite style, designs, and colors to stand out among your friends. Order a pair today!

How to Choose Your Pair?

funny cat meme

As discussed in detail in there is a variety of compression socks available in the market depending on their size, shape, compression, and length. If you are not suffering from a specific medical condition, you should use the prescribed brand, length, and compression of the socks.

measuring tape for clothing

If you are buying yourself, there are a few things you need to care about, like your feet size, compression range suitable for you, length, fabric, or material, and color.

If you aren’t certain of the size that will best suit you and you are ordering the socks online, you can take the exact measurement of your foot and then proceed with your shopping. If you are buying from a store, you can try a different size and see it for yourself. You can request the local staff for help as well.

Compression socks and sleeves consist of a range of materials and fabric, including spandex, rubber, elastic fibers, cotton, nylon-polymer, silk, and artificial wool. If you sweat more on your feet and toes, you can choose breathable material socks for yourself.

When choosing thigh-high socks for yourself, remember a general rule; there should be a space of two fingers above the hose and the beginning of your pelvis area. Make sure that you don’t buy a pair that is either too long or too short for you. It is not a good practice to fold your socks from the top or leave any kinks or fold in it as well. If the socks do not fit you perfectly, then they will not be able to effectively keep the fluid out of your limbs and improve the blood circulation.

choosing clothes

How to Wear and Take care of your Compression Socks?

how to wear and care.
how to wear and care.

You can wear compression socks during the day and remove them before going to bed. You can put your socks back on first thing in the morning as swelling is relatively less in the morning, and it is easier for you to slip your feet in them. You can wear them while doing your day to day work, sitting, standing, walking, and even running or exercising.

Compression Stockings

You should not use any ointments, Vaseline, oils, or skincare products before putting on your stockings as it may damage the material. It is always an excellent technique to trim your toenails regularly if it is using support hosiery as they can nick and damage the fabric from the inside.

Multi Color Compression Socks

The average life of compression socks can vary and depend on the type of material and the way you use them. Good quality socks can last longer if you wear them carefully and take appropriate care while washing them. Hand drying and washing at room temperature can keep your stockings in good condition.

washing machine funny meme


funny meme

Healthcare professionals agree on the amazing qualities that compression therapy possesses in providing relief in many medical conditions. They can improve your general well-being and are a healthy addition to your lifestyle. Such remedy with so many benefits and very few or none side-effects is a must-have. Buy your pair today and get rid of swollen feet.

Support Hosiery – Compression Socks / Stockings


Hosiery refers to knit or woven garments for the feet and legs designed to be worn inside shoes. Women’s stockings and tights are the most common examples but socks for men, women, and children also count as hosiery.

While it is easy to think of hosiery as something modern, that would be misleading. People were covering their legs long before the knitting machine was invented in the 17th century in England.


The advent of hosiery seems to have gone hand in hand with clothes themselves. Ancient Greek poems reference leg coverings made from matted, animal hair. Also, knit socks have been discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs.

Widespread use in compression therapy, however, dates back to the medieval times. Since then, they have been used for the treatment of venous stasis, ulcers among others

Support Hosiery – What are they?

Our focus, however, is on support hosiery which unlike traditional dress stockings are designed with elastic material for compression therapy and comfort reasons. Support hosiery is an umbrella term for individual leg garments. These include compression socks, compression stockings as well as compression pantyhose which are all used interchangeably.

How do they differ from normal socks?

The major difference between compression hosiery and run-of-the-mill socks lies in elasticity. Support hosiery is made from higher contents of elastic fibers like Lycra and spandex which enables them to exert more pressure at graduated intervals.

In contrast, socks or stockings designed for warmth or aesthetic purposes do not factor in potential health benefits. They are just regular garments and worn as such while support hosiery is a specialized garment that is used in the treatment of a diverse array of illnesses ranging from tired, aching legs to venous thrombosis.

As a result, support stockings improve circulation by exerting gentle pressure on your legs and ankles, directing blood flow back to the heart. Support hosiery, like the name denotes, is mostly for anchorage on weak blood vessels and muscles. They are the fabric that holds limbs together and keeps them in perfect shape.

Essentially, deliver maximum efficacy with comfort in mind. Consequently, this gives them an edge over other garment based treatment options as they already incorporate an already existing important piece of attire (socks) and re-purpose them for medical benefits while preserving the aesthetic and cosmetic appeal.   

Why Is Compression Hosiery Necessary?

Think of it this way; your legs are one of your largest organs, and they should be, to carry your torso around but that capacity may also become an impediment. This is in the sense of blood pooling in the feet which deprives other vital organs of oxygen. The fact that they are in the extremities, literally the lowest point that blood has to flow to, compounds this.

As a result of advances in age, or prolonged periods on one’s feet, chances of developing venous complications are very high.

Gravity influences blood pressure just like anything else and constant upward flow may not work as expected in certain conditions and certain people. This is where compression stockings come in, gradually coercing blood up your legs back to the heart.

People who are on their feet a lot are advised to wear support hosiery because they are at risk of blood pooling. These include doctors, nurses, surgeons, sportspeople, etc. It is important to note that support hosiery is not only used for curative but also preventive purposes.

how blood flows

Types of Compression Hosiery

Compression hosiery usually come in three types;

Anti-embolism compression stockings

An embolism forms when blood clots while still in circulation in your veins or arteries. This is a serious condition that may lead to death and often occurs in patients who have undergone surgery or trauma. There is a great risk of blood pooling in the feet which may cause a blood clot and possible heart failure. Graduation occurs at different levels like the gradient ones though the level of compression differs. They are mostly recommended in curing deep vein thrombosis in immobile patients.

Gradient compression stockings

These are designed in a tapering motion, narrower at the ankles with a continued widening as they edge-on toward the thigh. They aid the calf muscles in pumping blood back to the heart and are recommended to those who are prone to blood clots, lower limb edema, and blood pooling in the legs and feet from prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity. Moreover, they are also frequently used to address complications caused by diabetes, lymphedema, thrombosis, cellulitis, and other conditions.

Non-medical support hosiery

These are mild compression stockings that generally do not require a prescription and can be obtained over the counter. They include support hose and flight socks. Self-diagnosing is usually safe with these types of support hosiery as their mild level of compression is not thought to have any adverse effects on the wearer. On the contrary, they are touted for many benefits including increased productivity among athletes, quick relief for muscle aches and overall healthy limbs and circulation.  

The level of compression is measured in the same way as pressure by determining the millimeters (mm) of mercury (Hg) which is abbreviated as mmHg. The levels of compression differ from low to very high as illustrated in the table below:

         Table 43-1. Compression Classes (European Standard Classification)

Compression Class Pressure at Ankle (mm Hg)
A (light) 10-14
I (mild) 15-21
II (moderate) 22-32
III (strong) 33-46
IV (very strong) >46

 Anything from 20 mmHg is considered high pressure and is usually recommended by a physician after an examination. Those below 20mmHg, however, can be easily purchased over the counter and are very effective as well.     

How Do They Work

Clever design

Compression pantyhose are essentially two-way stretch stockings. They can stretch both longitudinally and in the transverse. In layman’s terms, this would be both vertically and horizontally. This double stretch is very important to the concept of support hosiery as it differentiates them from bandages which were otherwise in favor before compression hosiery was unveiled.

How compression stockings work

The transverse elasticity allows for the sock to have the smallest diameter at the ankle but can still be comfortably worn over the heel. The difference in diameter has to be compensated for so as not to defeat the purpose which is compression while at the same time accommodating for comfort. The longitudinal elasticity, on the other hand, allows for differing leg lengths. It makes it possible for compression socks to be worn over limbs of differing lengths through sharing support hosiery is definitely not recommended.

The main object, however, is to facilitate the movement of the joints. Generally, joint movements increase the length of the limb and therefore necessitates appropriate the necessary stretch that is afforded by longitudinal elasticity. Taken together, the two transform compression socks into full therapeutic aids.

Effect on the limbs

By pressing on your legs, they cause a decrease in the size of distended veins which increases the blood flow rate. Arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the whole body from the heart while veins transport it back to the lungs for oxygenation. By compressing the surface muscles and vessels, compression hosiery allows arteries to transport blood faster and freely, as their muscles are relaxed. Due to this, veins are able to push blood easier.

Veins also work under a valve mechanism to prevent the backflow of blood to the feet. Similarly, support pantyhose also help in the effectiveness of closing these valves, promoting blood flow to the heart. They clamp on the valves holding it in a graduated grip which enables them to go about their work without strain.

Graduated compression stockings typically exert more pressure on the ankles which reduces as one head up the leg toward the knees and thighs. Support hosiery also works by pressing on the surface muscles. This acts as some sort of constant, low key massage that helps in relieving muscle aches and tensions.

Benefits of Compression Hosiery

Compression therapy has been continually gaining new ground because of the purported medical benefits. Ever since their discovery in aiding blood flow, they have been appropriated for other diverse medical and comfort reasons.

Compression stockings only help when they are on. Ideally, they are to be worn daily and are generally are removed when going to bed. This is to make sure the reduction in limb volume is maintained. Compression socks may be worn for years and even for life when alternative treatments are not the best choice or not available.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Improve circulation in your legs and throughout your body
  • Support for veins in the ankles and calves
  • Prevention of blood pooling in your extremities
  • reduces leg swelling and muscle aches
  • reduce orthostatic hypotension, which is a decrease in systolic pressure from the standing or being in the supine position and causes dizziness or unsteadiness when you stand
  • help prevent venous ulcers and lacerations
  • prevent the development of deep vein thrombosis
  • Lessen the discomfort caused by varicose veins
  • Lessen the impact and appearance of spider veins
  • reverse venous hypertension
  • improve lymphatic drainage
  • helps in alleviating the symptoms of edema

Leg problems

Leg problems are a pervasive ailment across the globe which comes with lowered productivity and re usually tell-tale signs of something bigger. It is important to check on the health of your limbs so as to get started on compression therapy, or the prescribed medication immediately. With venous complications, the earlier the treatment, the better.

Limb problems do not just pop up. Usually, they manifest themselves in signs that are mostly attributed down to fatigue and age and therefore largely ignored. However, most of these are usually worth looking into. Some of the most common include sudden changes in the feel of the legs. This may be increased tiredness and fatigue in the legs after minimal or no activity at all. Or it may be a feeling of hotness and flushing in the legs accompanied by numbness. All these are signs to watch out for. In addition, a physical examination is also absolutely necessary to see whether ankles are swollen. It also shows small varicose veins are noticeable so as to nip them in the bud.

What may lead to leg problems?

Leg problems may have a multiplicity of causes and a single universal cause cannot be pinpointed. Its onset is usually a combination of one of the many causative factors. Some of these factors include:

  • Advance in age – Most people who are affected are over 35 years old.
  • Heredity – Like many non-communicable diseases, one’s family history plays a large part in determining if one is going to acquire the condition
  • Obesity – Excess weight puts more pressure on the legs which results in an increased workload causing a strain on the vessels.
  • Lifestyle – An inactive lifestyle combined with unhealthy eating leads to the accumulation of cholesterol on the veins. This reduces its diameter, thereby subsequently limiting blood flow to the heart.
  • Occupation – Occupations that entail a lot of time seated or standing have a debilitating effect of the veins by either underworking them or overworking them leading to inevitable complications.

Who Needs Support Pantyhose?

Compression hosiery is required for different reasons and worn by a large demographic. A large number of people with circulatory complications or venous disorders are turning to compression hosiery as opposed to medication. This may have to do with their mechanism which is easily understandable in relation to the conditions.

In addition, other career people who may be at risk are also embracing the compression therapy offered by support hosiery.

Generally, compression therapy is prescribed for but not limited to the following conditions:

Tired, aching legs

  • These come about when the blood flow slows down in the legs (possible syndrome of deep vein thrombosis).


  • This is a swelling of body parts from excessive fluid usually stored in your organs.

Venous insufficiency

  • Veins pump less deoxygenated blood to the heart.

Varicose veins

  • Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, and twisting veins, often appearing blue or dark purple. They are a result of valve malfunction which allows blood to pool or flow backward.
  • Varicose veins are an external sign of weak veins.

Spider Veins (mild varicosities)

  • Spider Veins are the smallest cutaneous blood vessels that shimmer bluish or reddish through the skin.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

  • Deep vein thrombosis occurs when blood flow decreases (especially in the lower extremities), causing blood to pool in the legs and leading to blood clot (thrombus) formation.


  • Swelling due to an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid, occurring when there is interference with the normal drainage of lymph fluid back into the blood. Commonly occurs in the arm, leg, neck or abdomen.


  • Inflammation and clotting in a vein, most often a leg vein, due to infection, inflammation, or trauma. People with varicose veins are more often affected. Inflammation occurs suddenly, causing the thrombus to adhere firmly to the vein wall, which can clog a superficial vein.


  • Inflammation of subcutaneous fat, a form of panniculitis.


  • Hormones released during pregnancy and the expanding uterus (pressure on the inferior vena cava – the major vein returning blood up to the heart) can affect leg veins.
  • The use of elastic compression stockings can reduce volumetric variations during standing hours. Many physicians and vein specialists recommend wearing compression stockings after varicose vein stripping, but studies show that wearing an elastic compression has no additional benefit following elastic bandaging for three days in post-operative care after stripping of the great saphenous vein as assessed by control of limb, edema, pain, complications and return to work.


Support hosiery is useful pieces of mechanical prophylaxis which if fitted and worn properly may help in alleviating many conditions while increasing comfort for the wearer.