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Most people think of compression socks as something that older people wear. But when you’re pregnant — especially as you get further along — compression socks become your BFF, helping relieve painful swelling in your legs and feet.
So when you should opt for compression socks, and what are the best options for every pregnancy? Let’s dive in.
Benefits of compression socks during pregnancy
While you might not need compression socks early in your pregnancy, there’s definitely a case to be made for safely using compression as you reach the end of your second trimester and throughout your third trimester.
Compression socks can help:
Considering that your body is producing about
Compression socks or stockings can help to reduce swelling thanks to the gentle squeezing that takes place in the legs. And that means less discomfort, especially if you’re on your feet all day.
Normally, compression socks tend to come in five compression levels (measured in a unit of pressure):
- 8–15 mmHg
- 15–20 mmHg
- 20–30 mmHg
- 30–40 mmHg
- 40–50 mmHg
The smaller the compression level, the lighter the effects will be. You’ll note that all of the socks in our guide fall within the 15–20 mmHg range, which is ideal for the average person — including pregnant women — who wants to relieve swelling and leg aches. They’re also best if you plan on wearing them for prolonged periods.
However, you may benefit from 20–30 mmHg compression if you have more moderate swelling. If you have severe swelling, have a chat with your physician before opting for a higher compression level.
When you’re pregnant, the increase in hormones can make your blood more likely to clot, and lead to other conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is because your growing uterus can put more pressure on your veins. But compression socks can help to prevent blood clots or pooling.
A common complaint from pregnant women — especially as they get further along — is that their legs are constantly sore or achy. By improving circulation, compression socks can also help to ease aches and pains.
Minimize varicose veins
No one likes varicose veins — the dark purple or blue veins that show up on your legs. They occur when the valves in your veins aren’t working properly, and are a common side effect of pregnancy. But compression socks and stockings are designed to improve circulation and help to minimize or prevent the appearance of varicose veins.
How we chose the best compression socks
If you’ve never shopped for compression socks, you might be at a loss for picking the right level of compression for your achy pregnancy legs. To select our top picks, we focused on the following features:
- gentle compression
- ease of putting on
- customer reviews
All of these socks come in at less than $35, with the majority under $20.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20–$35
Best for travel
Wanderlust MadeMother Maternity Compression Socks
While most of the socks in our guide are 15 to 20 mmHg, these feature a graduated compression range with 15 to 20 mmHg in the middle and calf and 25 to 30 mmHG in the feet and ankle. And extra comfortable cuffs won’t dig into your legs — especially if you’re sitting on a flight or in a car for an extended period.
Best for everyday use
Blueenjoy Compression Socks
These socks offer a gentle 15 to 20 mm Hg of compression that help to minimize swelling without causing discomfort for extended periods. Because these socks aren’t too tight, they’re ideal for first-time compression users.
Charmking Compression Socks
No one wants to wear the same pair of socks over and over again — especially when they’re as essential as compression socks. These socks come in an affordable three-pack that features the recommended 15 to 20 mmHg of compression. There are a wide range of patterns and colors to choose from, giving you the freedom to stay stylish right down to your socks.
Shuteli Open Toe Compression Socks
If you like the idea of compression socks but hate to have your toes enclosed, these are a great alternative. The thin yet firm material is breathable, yet your toes are out — so they’re perfect for warmer weather.
Lemon Hero Zippered Compression Socks
Compression socks are notorious for being difficult to put on. But Lemon Hero created a workaround with an open-toe design that relies on zippers to safely and comfortably get them up and around your calves. Rather than rolling them up, you can simply slip your feet into them and zip them up — and they have a zip guard to protect your legs from getting pinched.
FuelMeFoot Copper Compression Socks
Not everyone wants a pair of compression socks that scream boring and look like something out of a pharmacy. The FuelMeFoot Copper Compression Socks are a stylish and effective — score! We also like that these knee-highs feature mild compression and infused copper ions to help reduce odor.
JS LifeStyle Compression Socks
Channel your inner 80s child with three pairs of brightly patterned compression socks that are totally tubular. These graduated compression socks feature 15 to 20 mmHg but a lightweight weave, so they’re perfect for any time of year and for those who prefer to spend most of their time outside.
VIM & VIGR Cotton Compression Socks
While they’re the priciest option in our guide, these socks are super comfortable so you can wear them all day. We especially appreciate that they roll on easily and come in lots of unique colors and patterns.
What to keep in mind when buying compression socks
In addition to choosing a gentle compression level, keep the following in mind when shopping:
Compression socks have similar sizing to regular socks. You’ll find that they’re usually offered in lettered sizes that are meant to correspond with your shoe size. In our guide, the majority of the socks come in two sizes, small/medium and large/x-large.
Always confirm the sizing chart with a specific brand for sizing compatibility before purchasing a pair of compression socks.
The goal of any compression sock is gentle support and pressure. If you feel like your legs are being squeezed uncomfortably, or the fabric is digging into your skin and leaving marks (ouch!), the compression is too strong and you should opt for a lighter compression level or skip these socks altogether.
Keep in mind: Although compression socks are designed for extended wear throughout the day, pregnant women aren’t advised to wear them to bed.
Ease of use
Normally, you can’t put compression socks on like you would a regular pair of socks. Most compression socks must be rolled on your legs, much like you would a pair of pantyhose, but in a very specific manner. Keep this in mind as leaning over and rolling on a pair of socks or stockings will become significantly harder as you reach the end of your pregnancy!
Some brands offer pull-on styles that include zippers — a great alternative for pregnant women!
Cost vs. value
Compared to regular socks, compression socks cost significantly more. But even in our guide, you’ll find that some brands offer multi-packs while others can only be purchased as single pairs.
There’s no reason to be in agony over painful swelling or achy legs just because you’re pregnant. Compression stockings or socks can go a long way towards easing this type of pain during pregnancy, as long as you pick the right compression level and wear them correctly.