How to Put on Compression Stockings and Socks

compression socks

Compression therapy improves the body's circulation by exerting gentle pressure on the veins, assisting them as they pump blood from the feet towards the heart. Not only do compression socks offer effective compression therapy, they also cost less and are easier-to-use than some other forms of compression. You can purchase them online, at drugstores, and through medical supply stores, usually for under $50. They're beneficial for nearly everyone, from athletes to patients recovering from surgery. 

Unfortunately, many people have trouble getting into the habit of wearing compression garments—even if they've been recommended by a doctor. In fact, in a review of the existing scientific literature, Sim Lim Chung and Alun H. Davies explain that 30-65% of patients do not comply with their doctors’ advice to wear graduated compression stockings.

If doctors know that compression garments work, why aren’t patients wearing them? Compression socks and stockings feel tight compared to regular socks, and many people wonder whether they’re putting them on and taking them off properly. Knowing more about compression socks—how they're labeled, how they work, and how to put them on and take them off—may help patients make better choices for their health.

The decision to wear compression stockings or socks could decrease your likelihood of developing deep vein thrombosis. In addition, compression socks and stockings remain the first of line treatment for chronic venous insufficiency and many other vascular conditions. According to vascular surgeon Dr. Claire Griffin, “[Compression socks] make a difference, and often people notice an immediate symptomatic improvement in how their legs feel at the end of the day.” Many people can benefit from choosing compression socks for daily wear, rather than regular socks. 

But, in order to wear compression socks, you’ll first need to know the proper way to put them on and take them off.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Putting on Compression Stockings and Socks

Before donning your compression socks, be sure that your skin is dry and free of lotion. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit where you can maintain your balance. 
  2. Stick your hand inside the sock and grab the heel pocket (for open-toe socks, grab the end of the sock instead). 
  3. Turn 75% of the sock inside out, leaving an opening or pocket area to place your foot inside.
  4. Now that the sock is inside out, place your foot inside the foot pocket and begin pulling the sock up around your feet. Make sure the sock fits comfortably around your foot before continuing. 
  5. With your foot now inside the sock, grab the sock cuff with both hands and begin pulling the sock up the sides of your leg.
  6. Once you have the sock rolled up to its maximum length, smooth out any loose sections or wrinkles. The sock should fit securely over your leg and stay in place without any assistance.
  7. Repeat for the other foot.

Take a look at our video, “How To Put On Compression Socks,” to see a visual guide for putting on knee-high compression socks. 

When putting on thigh-high stockings, knee-high stockings, or compression pantyhose, you'll need to make a few modifications to the guidelines above:

  • If you're putting on pantyhose, be sure to fold the crotch inside out. 
  • Put your foot into the leg of the stocking and pull the fabric at the top up evenly, until your toe and heel fit into the foot of the stocking. 
  • Some people opt to wear special gloves in order to avoid ripping the delicate fabric. 

Here's a video with instructions for putting on compression stockings or pantyhose.

Tips for Removing Compression Socks and Stockings

It's easiest to remove compression socks and stockings from a seated position. 

When you're removing compression socks, think of peeling a banana. Grab the top band of the sock and pull it down your leg, turning the sock inside out. Do this in one fluid motion in order to avoid bunching. Make sure to remove the sock all the way; don't leave it folded over. 

When removing hosiery, take care not to rip the thin fabric. Don’t grab the silicone band at the top of a thigh-high or knee-high stocking. Instead, grab the fabric below the band to avoid ripping. Next, fold the stocking down. Do this several times until the stocking has been removed. 

How Should Compression Socks Fit?

When compression socks are worn properly, the fabric should lie smooth against your skin, without bunching or sagging. If your legs feel like they are pulsing a little bit, that's normal. You're feeling the increase in circulation from the compression. However, compression socks shouldn't feel uncomfortable.

Compression socks also come in a variety of sizes. Check out our size guide to find your fit! Comrad socks are unisex and come in small, medium, large, extra-large, medium-wide calf, and large-wide calf sizes. Our socks fit feet from a women's size four to a men's size fifteen, along with calf circumferences from 10 to 20 inches.

Do I Need to Buy Accessories to Put on Compression Socks?

You don't need to buy special accessories in order to put on compression socks or stockings; however, some people choose to use them. We've listed a few common accessories that may help make it easier to put on and take off compression stockings and socks.

Foot Slip | A foot slip, like this one by Sigvaris, can be used with open-toed stockings. The tool helps your toes slide more easily through the foot of the sock. Just be sure to remove the foot slip after sliding your foot through the open toe of the stocking. 

Donner Glove | Gloves—like this pair by Lymphedema Products—may help you to grip your compression socks or stockings more easily. If you want to use something similar that you already have in your cupboard, try regular rubber gloves (the kind you use for cleaning). See if they give you the traction you need to be able to pull your socks off easily. 

Stocking Donner | Some people use tools, such as a Doff N' Donner, a sock aid, or a stocking donner, to make it easier to put on socks and stockings. 

When in doubt, ask your doctor for advice about how to put on your stockings. He or she might have special instructions for you, especially if you have limited mobility due to an injury. 

A Guide to Compression

Medical-grade compression socks provide a pressure range, measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Because medical-grade socks feature graduated compression, with more pressure at the ankle and less at the calf, you should expect to see two numbers. The  lower number is the calf pressure measurement and the higher number is the ankle pressure measurement. For instance, our knee-high compression socks measure 15-25 mmHg, meaning that they exert 25 mmHg on the ankle and 15mmHg on the calf.

You can try different pressure ranges to find out which one works best for your needs. There are several compression levels available for compression socks, but the four standard levels include: 

  • Light:          8-15 mmHg
  • Mild:           15-20 mmHg
  • Medium:     20-30mmHg
  • Firm:           30-40 mmHg

Light Compression (8-15 mmHg)

Light compression socks provide 8-15mmHg and are commonly used for tired, heavy, and achy legs. They are often used by healthy individuals who sit or stand for extended periods. They’re available in national pharmacies as over-the-counter purchases.  

Mild (15-20mmHg) & Medium Compression (20-30 mmHg)

Mild (15-20 mmHg) compression socks provide relief for mild leg and foot swelling, minor varicose veins, and tired or achy legs. 15-20mmHg is most commonly used compression for travel, pregnancy, swelling, aches, and pains. 

Medium (20-30 mmHg) compression socks provide support for moderate leg and foot swelling, moderate discomfort, moderate spider and varicose veins, support and recovery for athletic performance, and endurance. 20-30 mmHg is most commonly used for long-haul travel, moderate edema, lymphedema, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), post-operative recovery, injury recovery, pregnancy, and moderate varicose veins. 

Comrad Companions feature compression in the mild-to-medium range, which means the amount of compression does not fall below 15 mmHg or go above 25 mmHg. They're great for everyday wear, and provide the full benefits of both mild and medium compression therapy. Comrad features True Graduated Compression, meaning that the sock fits tightest around the ankle and provides a high-to-low gradient of pressure that travels up the length of the calf.

Firm (30+ mmHg) Compression

Medical grade compression socks are available in three different class levels, although the first class (20-30mmHg, mentioned above) is the most widely used.

Firm compression socks provide 30-40 mmHg and are helpful for moderate to severe swelling. The 30-40 mmHg range of compression is used to treat conditions such as chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), DVT, lymphedema, severe edema, venous ulcers, and symptoms caused by vein procedures (e.g., vein stripping).

The strongest level of compression is 40-50 mmHg, and that’s commonly used for treating advanced lymphedema, DVT, and CVI. 

Why Wear Compression Socks?

Compression socks can be used to treat the symptoms of medical conditions, including:

  • Varicose veins and spider veins
  • Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)
  • Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS)
  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
  • Shin splints
  • Plantar Fasciitis 
  • Lymphedema

Prolonged Standing or Sitting

In addition, studies have shown that compression socks can improve blood flow when you’re unable to move around throughout the day. They’re recommended for long periods when you know you’ll be sitting or standing.

Long Flights

Research indicates that wearing compression socks can help prevent the formation of blood clots deep in your veins during long airplane flights. For that reason, wearing compression socks on a long flight is a smart precaution that everyone can take to ensure good health. 

Workout Recovery

Athletes wear compression clothing to boost blood circulation and prevent the build-up of excess lactic acid. While lactic acid helps our bodies to avoid muscle exertion, it can also trigger the production of other metabolites that are responsible for muscle soreness and premature muscle fatigue. Compression socks prevent sore muscles, both during and after your workout.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women often develop edema in the legs and feet, which compression socks can help resolve. Hormonal changes during pregnancy sometimes lead to changes to the venous system; as a result, doctors recommend wearing compression socks throughout the duration of a pregnancy and for six weeks after birth in order to avoid the formation of varicose veins. (Cornu-Thenard)

Recovery

Recovering from surgery of the hip, leg, or knee often requires a lot of rest, leading to lower mobility. The resulting immobility during recovery can increase the risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). To reduce the possibility of developing DVT, post-operative care may include wearing compression socks, keeping up adequate fluid consumption, and maintaining mobility as required by your doctor. 

Why Wear Ordinary Socks When You Can Wear Socks With Benefits? 

Compression socks are proven to improve circulation and benefit your health.

Here’s the catch . . .

In order to get the benefits of compression therapy, you’ll need to remember to follow through by wearing them. Everyday.

That means you need fashionable socks that suit your style. You’ll need to find the proper size and calf width for your body, put the sock on correctly, and reach for it whenever you need support most. Whether you use compression during a tough workout or while you’re sitting at a desk all day, choose Comrad over regular socks. When you do, you’re prioritizing your vascular health.

 

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