by Diane Spicer
Before we launch into a discussion of the best hiking compression socks, let me say this:
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.
Think of two things your current hiking socks probably are not:
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:
Suggestions for the best hiking compression socks in each of these categories are below.
But first, a question.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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)
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
Best Hiking Compression Socks
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About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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