I first became acquainted with compression socks in 2013 when I was diagnosed with an unprovoked blood clot in my left leg. I made it a priority to learn everything I could about this condition, which included the importance of wearing compression socks, to mitigate the risk of developing another clot in the future.
Compression socks have been used by the medical community since the 1950s when they were invented by Conrad Jobst, a German engineer who suffered from varicose veins.
He noticed swimming improved his leg swelling and poor circulation due to the gentle pressure of the water around him. It was then that he set out create a product that would mimic this same effect.
Jobst worked with medical professionals to refine his stocking design, and the garment became popularized in the wake of World War II both in Europe and eventually in the United States. Today they’re used as often for recreation as they are for medical purposes.
Compression socks are designed to gently squeeze your legs to promote blood flow from the feet and legs back toward the heart. “Graduated compression” provides more pressure around the ankle and gradually loosens as the sock moves up the calf. The effect is more efficient blood flow that provides several health benefits including:
- Assisting in the prevention of blood clots and varicose veins
- Reducing pain and swelling of the legs and feet
- Providing relief from aches, pains, and fatigue
- Improving performance during cardiovascular exercise and preventing soreness
- Speeding up recovery times from injury or surgery
It’s little wonder then that compression socks made their way into sports in the 1980s as a means of helping athletes recover. By the early 2000s, other types of compression garments, such as arm sleeves and football kits, also became popular.
Taking a cue from professional athletes, marathon runners began adopting the effective technology and many benefits compression socks offered, and an entire industry was born.
The Search for the Perfect Sock
After my health incident in 2013, I wore the compression stockings my doctor provided me for the prescribed amount of time, and eventually took to wearing them only during long stretches of inactivity, such as transcontinental flights.
I had yet to learn about the many health benefits the socks could provide beyond medical treatment, and they made their way to the back of a wardrobe drawer.
My original stockings were not particularly comfortable, comprised of a somewhat itchy nylon blend in the most horrendous beige skin tone shade. As such, I wasn’t exactly eager to wear them more than necessary. But in January 2020, I developed another clot in the same leg, again, with no underlying cause.
As I prepared to reunite with my frumpy stockings, I learned that the world of compression socks had changed quite a bit in nearly a decade’s time. They were now offered by manufacturers in many styles, including sleek, soft fabrics for more formal purposes, and in comfortable, cushioned, colorful patterns for more informal settings. Intrigued, I set out to find my perfect pair of socks.
I’ve lost track of the number of pairs I tried before discovering PRO Compression. What I can tell you, however, is that it was sizeable. Some were too much like the original ones I’d banished to the back of the wardrobe. Others were too large in the heel or traveled up beyond the crease in the back of my knee (which is neither comfortable nor recommended).
Still others were simply too expensive to justify at $60-$70 USD per pair, and most required me to wear athletic socks over them when I wished to hike or workout in the gym. But it was this last point that led me to realize the benefits of wearing compression socks were far greater than I had ever realized.
When I wore compression socks while hiking, I discovered my legs tired less easily and, overall, I felt as though I had much greater physical stamina. At the end of a 12 mile hike, my feet and calves looked and felt as though I’d never left home.
Enter PRO Compression
I did a great deal of comparison shopping online and read more compression sock reviews than I care to admit before deciding to take the plunge and order a few pairs of 20-30 mmHg, over the calf compression socks from PRO Compression, an online retailer based in Carlsbad, California.
A quick note about compression ratings: socks are measured in milliliters of mercury, much in the same way blood pressure readings are measured. 20-30 mmHG is the most common grade of compression for tall, over-the-calf socks used for exercise, all-day wear, and recovery.
But they are also available in lower and higher ratings, as well: 10-20 mmHG and 15-25 mmHG for all-day light compression, and 25-35+ mmHG for maximum compression, generally reserved for medical grade usage. If you have no underlying health issues, I’d recommend starting with the 20-30 mmHG socks.
If you suffer from any known venous or blood pressure issues, I’d recommend consulting with your GP before giving any compression socks a try.
With that cautionary statement out of the way, let’s talk about just how amazing PRO Compression’s socks are. To start, these are the most comfortable compression socks I’ve ever worn.
I’ve taken to slipping on pair when getting out of bed first thing in the morning, and I can easily wear them an entire day, whether I’m working, hiking, or tackling a challenging workout at the gym.
The socks are made from a proprietary blend of nylon, spandex, and polyester, and contain no latex. In addition, these materials help wick sweat away, keeping busy feet dry and comfortable.
All tall, over-the-calf socks in the 20-30 mmGH range provide graduated compression, which means they are tighter near the foot and gradually relax moving up the ankle and calf. PRO Compression’s Marathon and Marathon Elite socks, the two types I purchased, are both soft and supportive (especially the Elite, which features targeted calf support and enhanced padding in the heel and toe).
PRO Compression socks wash well in cold water, and it’s recommended that you air dry them to prevent the socks from shrinking or breaking down their compressive features. This care regime makes them ideal for travel, as well.
Choosing the proper size is easy, thanks to PRO Compression’s accurate size charts, and their customer support representatives are more than willing to answer any additional questions you may have. Socks are based primarily on calf measurement, and special wide-calf socks are available for those who need them.
They are based on US shoe sizes, and prices are shown in US dollars, so you may need to do a little converting to figure out exactly what you need.
That said, the company does ship internationally and frequently offers promotional discounts, making these some of the best fitting, most comfortable, and high-performing compression socks you’ll find at an affordable price.
Last, but certainly not least, these are the most fun compression socks I’ve ever found. Available in more colours and patterns than one can possibly imagine, PRO Compression has made wearing their product a delight. Even though no one may see the adorable pink flamingos dotting my light blue socks, I know they’re there when tackling even the most arduous of climbs, and I’d like to think that helps put a little extra spring in my step.
PRO Compression socks are ace. I highly recommend them if you’re looking for another way to support your body and improve your health and stamina while maintaining an active lifestyle.
For more information or to purchase your own socks, check out the PRO Compression. Happy hiking!