Understanding Compression Sock Levels: Moderate Compression Socks

Mild, moderate, firm, extra firm and severe are five main compression sock levels to choose from. If you’re having trouble selecting which level can address your conditions, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we are continuing our series of guides to each of the five compression levels with the most popular level–moderate compression socks.

digital blood pressure meter

mmHg Recap

As we discussed in our previous blog post, compression levels are measured in mmHg. “Millimeters of mercury” is a unit of pressure and according to Merriam-Webster, mmHg is “equal to the pressure exerted by a column of mercury 1 millimeter high at 0°C and under the acceleration of gravity and nearly equivalent to 1 torr (about 133.3 pascals).”

Compression garments exert pressure on the body, so that’s why their ratings are expressed in units of mmHg. (mmHg is also used to express other pressure ratings, such as blood pressure.) Compression is graduated, so the bigger number (i.e., 20 mmHg) is the pressure the stockings apply to your ankle, while the smaller number (i.e., 15 mmHg) is the pressure exerted by the top of the garment around your calf or thigh.

What does moderate compression do?

Moderate compression falls into the 15-20 mmHg range. This is the first level of compression that’s considered “medical-grade,” and it’s one of the most commonly used levels since it offers enough compression without being too strong. In fact, most doctors recommend that you start with moderate compression if you’re new to wearing compression socks. Moderate compression is also the number one compression level used for travel.

This level of compression can help with many different conditions, including:

If your conditions are more severe than the ones listed here—for example, you have lymphedema or superficial thrombophlebitis—you should consider higher levels of compression and speak with your doctor.

varicose veins on leg

Who should use moderate compression?

Moderate compression can help individuals who are at risk for certain venous conditions, such as minor to moderate varicose and spider veins. Some individuals who may find moderate compression socks helpful include long-distance travelers, pregnant women, people with diabetes, people who live a sedentary lifestyle and people at risk for spider and varicose veins. As always, you should talk to your doctor just to be safe before beginning to wear moderate compression or any other level.

Popular Moderate Compression Socks

If you’re new to shopping for moderate compression stockings, here are the four main designs you have to choose from:

Ankle and Crew Socks

Ankle and crew socks are the shortest of all the compression socks options. Ankle socks stop at the ankle, while crew socks reach midway up the calf for an athletic look. If you want the benefits of compression for your feet and ankles but want the rest of your legs to be able to breathe, this is a good design to consider.

Knee-High Socks

As the name suggests, knee-high socks stop just below the knee joint, covering the feet, ankles and calves. Knee-high compression socks come in both opaque and sheer materials for a variety of looks. These socks are a very popular option because they provide compression all the way up the calf but don’t cover the thighs.

flight attendant at airport

Thigh High Stockings

Thigh high stockings cover all of the lower parts of your legs and most of the upper parts as well. If you need compression for the entire length of your legs but don’t want a garment that covers your waist, consider thigh high compression stockings.


Pantyhose provide compression for the entire lower half of your body. Pantyhose are especially popular among pregnant women since the pantyhose provides light compression for their growing belly. Pantyhose also pose less risk of falling down than thigh highs do.

Moderate compression socks are an excellent choice if you are new to wearing compression socks or a frequent long-distance traveler. If you need help choosing between moderate compression stocking options, our customer service team is always happy to help.


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 September 2019 | Page last updated April 2022


Merriam-Webster. “Mm Hg Definition & Meaning” https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/mm%20Hg 

UT Physicians. “Ease Your Travel Worries: How Compression Socks Can Provide Comfort” https://www.utphysicians.com/ease-your-travel-worries-how-compression-socks-can-provide-comfort/ 

Web M.D. “Compression Stockings: How to Choose and Use Them” https://www.webmd.com/dvt/choose-compression-stockings 

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