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Learn How To Size Compression Socks

by C.P. Team

We recently received a request from Chris, a subscriber, asking if compression socks would help him at work.

Chris is an outdoor construction worker who is on his feet for about 10 hours a day. His main concern was that he couldn’t find a guide or decide how to size compression socks to buy what he needed.

First of all you can thank Chris for asking us to create this (although it should have been done a long time ago).

Secondly, one of the main reasons that this website exists as a useful resource is because of you the audience. So when we got a request from Chris, we were happy to oblige.

Lets get to it…

Although this guide will give you a basic overview, it is not considered medical advice. It is always recommended that you speak with your doctor for issues related to your legs (or other body parts).

It might be easy to think that shopping for a pair of compression socks, hosiery or other compression gear, would be a simple process right? Unfortunately this is not the case because there are different types and uses for which they can be worn. This guide will attempt to remove some of the confusion.


What Level of Compression Socks Do You Need?

Graduated compression socks are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and there are 5 levels of compression. A lower number indicates less compression while a higher number signifies increased compression. Here is a table to break it down for you:

Compression Level (mmHg)Usage
8-15 mmHg: Mild Compressiono The lowest level of compression
o May minimize and relieve the soreness in tired & aching legs
o May help to reduce minimal swelling in feet, ankles and legs
o May be suitable for short trips, stationary/desk workers, mild relief
15-20 mmHg: Moderate Compressiono Offers mild level compression
o 1 of 2 most common levels of compression used by people
o May often be recommended to help relieve swollen ankles during pregnancy
o Potentially useful for minimizing the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
o May provide relief and minimize the pain resulting from average varicose/spider veins
o If standing or sitting for extensive periods of time, they may offer relieve by encouraging blood circulation in the legs
20-30 mmHg: Firm Compressiono Offers a firm amount of compression
o The second most commonly used level of compression
o May relieve moderate to severe varicose/spider veins
o Often suggested for individuals dealing with edema and abnormal swelling
o For long flights or hours spent traveling in one position, it may prevent deep vein thrombosis
o May help to minimize the sudden drop in leg blood pressure from prolonged standing and inactivity
o May be used for post surgery patients
30-40 mmHg: Extra Firm Compressiono Offers an overly firm level of compression
o Often used while under direct medical supervision
o Helps to relieve lymphedema, edema and severe varicose/spider veins
o May offer relief from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
o If you suffer from Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS) or thrombosis, a doctor may suggest this level of compression for relief
o May be used for post surgery patients
40-50 mmHg: Extreme Compressiono The most extreme level of compression
o Typically prescribed by a doctor for severe cases of venous insufficiencies
o Individuals at this level tend to lack regular mobility of legs or are bedridden
o May be used for post surgery patients


Now that you know the different levels of compression the next question you need to ask is:

What Size Compression Socks Do You Need To Buy?

For you to determine this you are going to need to do two things: measure your leg and secondly, determine where the pain point is. Knowing the pain point can help you decide if you need socks, sleeves, stockings or tights.


Helpful Tip: If you have swollen legs, take your measurements in the morning when there is minimal swelling.


Use this visual guide and video for taking your measurements:

Compression Socks Measurement


How To Size Compression Socks

Courtesy Of Knit Rite & TheraFirm

It’s also worth remembering that compression gear can vary in size across brands. So having an accurate record of your measurements will help you in choosing the best size when you decide to buy.

If you happen to fall between sizes, you can try the lower size that is closest to you rather than going up in size. The benefits and comfort level will be enhanced if you are wearing the correct size or a size close to it.

Ultimately, you can improve certain areas of your life by controlling things such as your posture, exercise, buying proper clothes and footwear, and wearing the correct graduated compression socks.


Additional Tips

If you want a list of various brands check out our reviews here. Is there is a specific brand that we missed or you would like to add/see a sizing chart for some compression socks or gear? Let us know and we’ll happy to add it if it can be beneficial to the community.


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