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Best Hiking Compression Socks:
What Can They Do For Hikers?

By Diane Spicer

Spoiler alert: The best hiking compression socks can do a lot!!

Before we launch into a discussion of the best hiking compression socks, let me say this:

  • Hiking socks in general are a vital piece of technical gear, and if you need convincing, please read this first!

Here, let's explore the wonderful world of hiking compression socks in order to answer several questions:

None of this information is meant as medical advice. Always take your concerns to your health care professional.

Do you need hiking compression socks? Find out at Hiking For Her. #compressionsocks #hikinggear #hikingtips #hiking #backpacking #dayhikes

What are compression socks, anyway?

Think of two things your current hiking socks probably are not:

  • tight fitting
  • stretchy

Compression socks, also called compression stockings, are designed to hold your leg in a snug grip (think of it as a gentle hug) by using stretchy fabric such as Spandex.

You can also find modifications on this design, such as:

  • graduated compression or pressure socks which apply more or less pressure from foot to knee
  • compression sleeves, which don't have the normal "foot" part you would expect in a sock

Suggestions for the best hiking compression socks in each of these categories are below.

But first, a question.

Why do hikers wear compression socks?

Compression socks are designed to fit snugly, some hikers might even say "tightly".

And that's the whole point.

These knee high socks or sleeves compress your legs in order to improve the blood flow out of your hard working hiking legs and back to the heart.

This, in turn, leads to a reduction in discomfort and swelling.

  • And that, in turn, makes you a happier hiker.

There are rumors, and rumors of rumors, that wearing compression socks will make you a stronger, less injury prone endurance athlete on the trail.

One who bounces back quickly from a tough hike!

No conclusive studies have been found at the time of this writing about the impact of wearing the best hiking compression socks during a hike.

But the sensation of comfort you get may be enough to motivate you to find the best hiking compression socks for your feet!

Anatomical details
behind compression socks

Skip this unless you're interested in why tight fitting socks are a good idea on the hiking trail of life.

The blood vessels in your legs and feet are designed to bring oxygenated blood (via arteries and their smaller branches) to the cells and tissues, and then to drain it back to the heart (via veins and lymphatic vessels).

And to keep working against gravity, as when you're hiking along the trail, veins have valves to prevent back flow or pooling in your feet and ankles.

The pressure from the compression socks help the veins with their "return to the heart" 24/7 work.

And you want all the help you can get, because you don't want blood to pool and stagnate.

  • That may result in a blood clot, which can break apart and travel elsewhere in the body to create problems.
  • If deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is in your family medical history, you might want to consider finding the best hiking compression socks that work well with your hiking style.

A preventative note

By helping your veins with their venous return duties, you may prevent the formation of spidery veins and varicose veins.

Nobody likes seeing these develop, and they can progress into a serious medical problem.

Other uses for your
hiking compression socks

If you have travel plans which force you to sit for long periods of time, wearing a pair of compression socks will help you avoid the possibility of blood clots.

Do your occupation and off trail habits require you to stand for long periods of time?

  • These types of socks might help you.

Pregnancy might also be a time to pull out the compression socks, as swelling is just a part of the fun of gestating your baby.

Sore calves after a hike might also benefit from wearing compression socks during the hike.

  • Give these socks a try, they might be what you need to avoid the days long suffering you endure after a hike.
  • Read more about how to deal with sore calves here.

A note about wearing compression socks
for medical reasons

If you have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, you may have received a prescription, or a recommendation, for compression socks.

If that's the case, you might be able to use your HSA account (insurance plan which "socks" away some pre-tax money for health care) to pay for a pair of the best hiking compression socks.

Should you try a pair of compression socks
on your next hike?

If you struggle with sore, tired legs and engorged feet after a hike, compression socks are worth a try to bring back some comfort and to reduce swelling.

You can try these tips, too:

Why not run an experiment?

If you're curious about the benefits of hiking compression socks, why not wear one on only one leg?

You will be able to determine for yourself exactly how beneficial (or not) the socks are on your next hike!

Look for these things in the sock wearing leg, compared with the other leg:

  • Reduction in fatigue
  • Less swelling in ankles and feet
  • Faster recovery from post-hike soreness

That's really the only way you'll know if these socks are giving you anything extra on the trail.

And if you hike with a buddy, let her wear the other sock, and then compare notes!

How to find the best
hiking compression socks

The price range for the best hiking compression socks is quite impressive: from $10 to over ten times that amount.

But does price guarantee quality?

It does, if the higher price point compression socks include these design features for comfort and durability:

  • cushioned sole
  • arch support (if your arches require it)
  • moisture wicking fabrics that include stretchability from materials such as Spandex 

These two best hiking compression socks picks are built for hikers, and have the features you'll need to gain maximum benefit on the trail.

Let's begin with a traditional hiking sock style.

Sockwell Women's Circulator compression socks don't look geriatric, and will provide support and comfort inside your trail footwear.

There are 4 zones of compression, for graduated firmness from 20 - 30 millimeters of mercury (standard units of pressure measurement).

Women's specific fit means less chance of sagging or bunching.

  • 32% Merino wool, 31% bamboo, 32% stretch nylon, 6% spandex

Looking for a different style?

These Injinji Ultra Compression Socks include toes to help with blister prevention and a secure fit.

Graduated compression increases from the ankles through the leg regions, for optimum venous return.

These socks are built to be durable, due to extra padding in the heel and foot areas.

Take a look at these beautiful
compression socks!

If you're looking for style and a colorful pattern along with function, look no further than these Lily Trotters from Title Nine.

These are 15-20 mmHg compression socks in 93% micro nylon/7% spandex, great for trail work as well as recovery after a hike.

Tip from Lily Trotters: Measure your calf circumference at the widest point to determine your size.

Best compression sleeves
for hiking

A graduated compression calf sleeve slips on and gives your calf a hug, with zones of compression similar to the socks above.

The magic here is that you can don your regular low rise hiking socks (liners + socks, just the socks, your usual winning combination) while your calf muscles are supported.

PRO compression calf sleeve: it's what marathon runners and trail runners use to aid blood flow back to the heart.

92% Nylon, 8% Lycra Spandex for moisture control and a bit of give as you slide it on.

Graduated compression 22-26 mmHg (see below for details)

Hiking compression sock
fit and wearing tips

You're probably used to pulling on your socks and then jamming your feet into your hiking boots, right?

You will have to slow down a bit and make sure your compression socks are properly fitted:

  • no wrinkles or bunching

Why not?

Because you don't want to create little pockets of additional pressure on your tissues.

And because you'll give up on the socks if they don't feel comfortable.

One long, smooth surface of snugness for optimum results, please!

Be sure the socks are the correct length.

  • Rolling the tops down to make sure they stay up is a big no-no!
  • Too much pressure!!

Sizing tip:

Use your shoe size to select the correct pair.

Here's one more tip:

Don't wear your compression socks any longer than your hike lasts!

  • Take them off once you stop moving, put your legs up, and sip some cool water to re-hydrate as you assist venous return.

Compression rating numbers

Millimeters of mercury (mmHg) are the units referring to how much pressure is exerted on your legs by the compression socks.

The lower the number, the less pressure the socks will exert.

Typical ranges:

  • less than 15 mmHg for light pressure
  • moderate pressure, from 15 - 25 mmHg, which is a typical range for hiking choices
  • over 25 mmHg (medical grade stockings), prescribed for a diagnosed medical condition by a health care provider

Best hiking compression socks finale

Well, I've socked it to you with all of the compressed details.

Now it's time to consider other hiking clothing which can enhance your trail time and avoid problems, such as:

Happy trails to you!

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Best Hiking Compression Socks

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