Swollen ankles are no fun. Whether caused by an injury or an underlying health condition, swollen ankles can be painful and slow down even the most active older adult.
While new swelling in any joint should be checked out by a doctor to rule out health concerns, compression stockings or socks and compression sleeves are helpful tools to help prevent and ease swelling.
Many doctors recommend using compression socks after surgeries like hip or knee replacement to help keep swelling down, prevent blood clots and promote healthy blood circulation from the feet and legs. Compression socks can also help with plantar fasciitis, and some evidence exists they can help prevent varicose veins.
How do compression socks work?
Compression socks and sleeves help improve blood flow from the feet and legs by creating a near-constant pressure on the legs. This helps arteries to be more relaxed, allowing blood to flow more freely to the lower legs and feet, and it helps an older adult’s veins by giving them a boost as they return blood to the heart.
The amount of compression in compression socks, stockings and sleeves is measured in mmHg units, which stands for millimeters of mercury. These are the same units doctors use to measure your blood pressure. But don’t worry. All you really need to know about mmHg is that the higher the number, the tighter the compression sock will be.
Nonmedical grade compression socks range from 8 to 30 mmHg and can be used without a prescription. Compression socks with a compression level higher than 30 mmHG should be prescribed and used under the care of a doctor—and also should be custom-fitted to the wearer.
Compression socks may be the best answer for your loved one’s ankle swelling, but before using a pair of compression socks, sleeves or stockings, be sure to check with their doctor. Compression socks can exacerbate some medical conditions like congestive heart failure, so it’s important to have a doctor’s input before using compression footwear for swollen feet or ankles.
Types of compression socks
There are three main types of compression socks: graduated, TED hose and nonmedical support hosiery.
Graduated compression socks and sleeves are tighter near the base of your leg and looser near the top of the sock. This helps to push blood and fluid from your feet and ankles back up toward the heart. Most doctors recommend wearing these during the day and taking them off at night.
Commonly used after surgery, TED socks provide extra support to push blood from the legs back up to the heart, preventing post-surgery blood clots. TED hose often cover the entire leg from thigh to foot, and some doctors encourage patients to wear them both day and night after surgery.
Nonmedical support hosiery
These compression socks fall at the lower end of the mmHg scale with mild compression, and as such they are fine to use without consulting a doctor. Nonmedical grade socks, sleeves and stockings often provide the same compression throughout the length of the sock, and they’re best for dealing with cases of less severe swelling—or if you’re going on a long flight or will be standing for long periods of time.
How should I choose compression socks?
The most important thing to consider when picking out compression socks is your own comfort. Compression socks are designed to be restrictive, but that doesn’t mean you should be terribly uncomfortable.
Choose socks or sleeves made of breathable materials that don’t collect sweat to avoid overheating or excessive odors.
For years, compression socks came mostly in one color – utilitarian white – but that’s not the case anymore. Now, you can wear your compression socks and still rock the latest styles.
Best compression socks
With all the compression sock choices available now, it might be daunting to find the best ones. Lucky for you, we’ve narrowed the choices with our list of the best socks that offer mild to moderate compression. You’re sure to find something that suits your needs and your style.
And the great thing about all of these socks is they’re not hard to find and readily available from Amazon and other retailers.
Made of lightweight material, these knee-high socks come in a variety of designs ranging from all black to flower patterns so you can be stylish and comfortable while you wear them. They provide 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression, making them perfect for reducing edema and improving blood circulation. If you don’t want a knee-high sock, Physix also makes compression socks and sleeves in shorter and even footless options.
If you’re looking for compression socks with some fun style options and prices that won’t break your budget, check out the compression sock options from SB Sox. From solids to stripes, their knee-high compression socks provide 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression with no-slip, moisture-wicking construction. These socks provide both a reinforced toe and heel for extra cushioning as well as arch support to help plantar fasciitis sufferers.
Sockwell makes compression socks for both men and women that come in different levels of compression, including moderate at 15-20 mmHg and firm at 20-30 mmHg. And with several attractive designs, no one would guess these are compression socks, making them perfect for everyday wear.
If you’re looking for compression socks that are cool, comfortable and provide a touch of whimsy, Charmking socks are the ones for you. While users rave about their easy stretch and their nylon and spandex construction, Charmking’s true selling point is the wide variety of style options. From solids to sheep, these socks are perfect for seniors looking to make a statement with their footwear while still receiving the benefits of graduated compression socks.
One of the biggest complaints about compression socks is that they can be difficult for even the most able-bodied people to get on. When working with sometimes fragile seniors, putting compression socks on can be even more challenging, making these zippered, open-toe compression socks worth trying. Although the color and styling is utilitarian, these socks are comfortable and easier to pull up the leg because of the zippered opening and may be the perfect solution for seniors with limited mobility who need to wear compression socks.