Many people have, at some time or another, experienced the annoyance and discomfort of swollen feet. And it’s not a surprise since the average person’s feet absorb around 1000 pounds of force daily! Whether due to injury, illness, diet, age, the weather or simply standing on your feet for long periods of time, swelling in the feet and ankles can be not only unsightly but also painful.
The great news is that one simple, non-invasive, therapeutic treatment for swelling in the feet and ankles is the use of compression socks. Let’s take a look at some of the problems that cause swollen feet and how compression socks might just make you wonder how you ever lived without them!
Why Wear Compression Socks for Swollen Feet?
When your feet get swollen and uncomfortable on a regular basis, you first need to speak with your doctor to make sure that you don’t have an underlying condition that’s causing it. Swelling in the feet may be caused by injury, pregnancy, Lymphedema (damaged lymph nodes), chronic venous insufficiency (linked to varicose veins), kidney disease, liver disease, infection, blood clot or some other serious conditions that must be treated prior to looking at the issue of swelling.
Once we’ve eliminated any underlying conditions or causes, we can take a look at why compression socks work well to prevent swelling in the feet. In general, gravity works against us by causing fluids to build up in the feet–especially for people who spend a great deal of time on their feet and aren’t able to put their feet up throughout the day.
Compression stockings are made with various levels of pressure that squeeze your ankles from the outside in order to prevent the buildup of fluid. The stockings place a squeezing pressure on the ankles and calves that pushes the fluids back up into the rest of the body. The pressure also promotes better circulation that can help with swelling and other complications.
About Compression Socks
Both men and women can benefit from wearing compression socks for swollen feet. The best compression socks are made with graduated pressure that is tightest around the ankle and then loosens as it moves up to the calf or the thigh (depending on the length of the sock). They are usually manufactured from breathable, stretchy materials such as nylon and elastane (Spandex).
The pressure for compression socks is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) which is the same measurement used in blood pressure cuffs. Pressure ranges are typical as follows:
- 8-15mmHg — the lowest pressure used for compression socks, most often used for bed-ridden patients.
- 15-20mmHg — can be purchased over the counter and may be used for flying or other travel.
- 20-30mmHg –– this mid-range, medical-grade pressure is fairly standard for everyday use for active people who want to manage swelling or varicose veins.
- 30-40mmHg — sometimes prescribed by doctors for those who have unique or more serious medical conditions.
- 40-50mmHg — mostly used by doctors for severe wound management, lymphedema or severe circulatory conditions.
What to Consider in Socks for Swollen Feet
In selecting socks for swollen feet, consider these essential factors:
Extra-Wide fitting Stockings – These socks are suitable for the right shoe size but have extra materials all over the leg and the foot of the socks to accommodate the swollen leg with no hint of discomfort.
Socks with Non-Elastic and Non-constrictive tops – Sometimes, the elastic on regular stockings tend to bite into the leg and result in unsightly marking as well as pain and discomfort. Socks for swollen feet should incorporate a non-restrictive, loose elastic.
Toeless Compression Socks — some people prefer to use compression socks that don’t have enclosed toes so that their feet can breathe more easily when they are at home.
Breathable, Durable Socks – Compression socks should be made from durable materials that allow for stretching as well as breathing. Consider nylon, polyester, elastane (Spandex) and other fabrics.
Features to Look for in Compression Socks
Using compression socks for swollen feet can be helpful for so many different types of people who struggle with swelling for a variety of reasons. Here’s what to look for in compression socks for the best results:
Graduated Compression Options: Use compression socks that offer different options for compression base on what you and your doctor or pharmacist decide that you need.
Sizing Options: Any compression sock company that claims they offer one-size-fits-all socks is doing it wrong! Compression socks need to be fitted to your specific needs and size.
Attractive Designs: Gone are the days of wearing your grandma’s white or beige stockings! Now you can fashionably meet your compression sock needs with stripes, patterns and all different colors.
100% Guarantee: Any company that sells you compression socks should back their product with a satisfaction guarantee return policy, so you can be sure you’ll get what you need.
Guidelines for Wearing Compression Socks for Swollen Feet
If you’re wearing medical-grade compression socks or stockings, then you should certainly follow the instructions of your doctor or pharmacist as well as the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines. For the most part, medical professionals usually suggest putting compression socks on first thing in the morning, even before getting out of bed. This allows the socks to begin working before gravity can do its work and have a negative effect on your feet and ankles.
Most doctors agree that compression socks should be worn all day while you are upright and active. They can then be taken off at bedtime, or earlier in the evening if you are able to get off your feet and elevate them for some time before going to bed.
Compression Sock Sizing
When purchasing compression socks, you need to make sure they are the right size in order for them to work effectively against the swelling in your feet and ankles. If they are too loose, they’ll only sag and won’t stop the swelling. If they are too tight, you’ll find they may cut off the circulation and actually do more harm than good.
In order to measure the proper size of compression socks, you’ll need, use a fabric measuring tape. Measure first thing in the morning when your feet are at their least-swollen point. Wrap the tape around the ankle and measure. Then wrap the tape around the largest part of your calf and note that measurement. Finally, while standing, measure the length from the backside of your calf, below the knee, to the floor. Use these measurements to determine which size compression socks you need to order.
Caring for your Compression Socks
In order to get ultimate effectiveness and long-term use out of your compression socks, you’ll need to care for them properly. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care. This will require washing after each use (to avoid stretching as well as bacteria growth). Washing should be by hand and they should be laid flat or hung to dry. Machine washing or wringing may stretch the socks, while tumble drying may shrink them.
Because of the care involved with compression socks, you’ll want to be sure you have several pairs to make sure you have a clean pair when you need them! Plus, with all of the style and color options available in compression socks today, you probably won’t be able to avoid buying several pairs to match various outfits in your wardrobe!
How to Care for your Legs and feet
Of course, the initial thing one should do when you have a swollen foot is to consult a medical expert. Here are some other tips you might consider in taking good care of your feet:
Avoid walking barefooted. When you do that, you run the risk of damaging your sensitive skin on the feet. Socks for swollen feet can prevent further damage.
Don’t cross your legs. Whenever you are in a car or a meeting, resist the urge to cross your legs if it can be avoided. If you do, it can reduce circulation to the feet and cause more problems.
Take a walk. Getting moving can help the fluids get moving too–be sure to exercise regularly with a brisk walk or other activity that can get your body’s juices flowing again.
Wear well-fitted and suitable footwear. Avoid wearing shoes that rub your feet, exacerbating pain and placing undue pressure on your ankles. Opt for the functional loafers over the mile-high stilettos and your feet with thank you.
Wear socks that come with the right features. Make sure you choose compression socks with the right sizing and with the right amount of pressure.
Care for your toenails. Always keep your toes well maintained and trimmed. Doing this will make you more comfortable and prolong the life of your socks.
Seek medical care. Always talk to a medical professional before taking any risks with your health. Be sure to report signs and symptoms of the disease (such as swollen feet) to take the best care of your body.
The Bottom Line
It’s true that compression socks for swollen feet might not change your life. But they certainly might help with swelling and pain–and that could at least change your day for the better! Check with your medical professional today to see if compression socks might work for your swollen feet or other concerns.