Compression Stockings 101: Comfort and Correct Sizing

When looking for the right compression stockings, comfort and size are two of the most important factors to consider. The proper size will not only provide you with enhanced healing, but also prevent further complications and problems from developing in the affected areas. Compression stockings are worn by athletes, injured patients, and other people who wish to prevent pain and lack of circulation in the legs. These may be worn on various parts of the legs so always check for the best size for maximum comfort.

Why Compression Stockings May Be Needed

There are several reasons why one may need to wear compression socks or stockings. Here are the most common.

1. Comfort from Edema

Some patients will develop edema or swelling in the legs, which will require the use of compression stockings. Compression stockings will alleviate pain that stems from the swollen areas of the leg, as well as boost circulation in the area to facilitate fast healing. Diabetic patients particularly suffer from edema in the legs.

Experts recommend compression of 15 to 20 mmHg for patients suffering from edema, while those without swelling can make do with 10 to 15 mmHg compression stockings. This measurement should be recorded and taken by a physician.

2. Lack of Circulation

Certain conditions prevent blood from properly flowing into the legs, such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), varicose veins, and peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Wearing compression stockings according to the recommended pressure and size by the doctor will help reduce pain, as well as deliver blood properly to the affected areas. Compression stockings should  be felt for comfort. They should feel snug around the affected areas, although not too snug,  as they may impede circulation.

3. Relief from Pain

Many individuals also wear compression stockings to minimize pain that comes from conditions like weak or tired legs, fatigue from long distance running, muscle spasms, and sprains. Athletes particularly wear the materials to increase their endurance, as well as provide additional support to areas like the calves and thighs.

Pain will be eliminated quickly and sores can also be prevented or relieved immediately. There are compression stockings that support the ankles, knees, calves, shins, hamstrings, and thighs. The lengths will differ depending on the affected areas.

The Different Lengths of Compression Stockings

Doctors and physical therapists will prescribe different kinds of compression stockings based on their assessment of the condition and the tolerance of patients.

Thigh-length stockings are ideal for many athletes. Those suffering from joint and bone problems may be required to wear knee-length stockings. Individuals should also be informed about the proper ways to wear the material. Otherwise, they might feel discomfort and tightness in the area.

Thigh-length stockings are fitted improperly more often than knee-length stockings because of its larger coverage. When looking for the right size, users are advised to take measurements on various parts of their legs, such as the ankle, the calf width, the calf length, the thigh width, and the thigh length.

Also report any unusual signs and symptoms that might develop after wearing the compression stockings for a few hours. Some of the notable effects include the following:

  • itchiness,
  • tightness,
  • numbness and tingling sensations in the lower extremities,
  • paleness,
  • bruising,
  • lack of blood circulation,
  • profuse sweating,
  • pain / muscle pain,
  • muscle stiffness,
  • difficulty walking, running or jumping,
  • lack of sensation, and
  • difficulty moving

Let your physician know about all these to have the compression stockings readjusted according to your specifications and comfort needs. The type of material may also matter when looking for the right fit. Comfort should be one of your priorities, especially when you’re wearing the material for several months. It’s best to change the stockings a few times each week to prevent sores and skin irritation.

About the Author

Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.   

Written April 2013 | Page last updated May 2022


Cleveland Clinic. “What You Should Know About Compression Socks”

Healthline. “Compression Socks and Stockings: Benefits, Types & Side Effects”

The National Institutes of Health. “Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing?”

Web M.D. “Compression Stockings: How to Choose and Use Them”

Lower Extremity Review Magazine. “Compression Stockings: One Size Definitely Does Not Fit All”

Up to Date. “Patient education: Edema (swelling) (Beyond the Basics)”

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