The Best Compression Socks for Long Travel Days

Our favorites from Vim & Vigr are comfortable, cute, and customizable.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Compression Socks for Traveling
Courtesy of Amazon

When you're sitting down for any long period of time, whether it's in-flight, on a train, or even at your desk, your blood flow isn't at its most efficient. The lack of proper circulation can leave you dealing with discomfort and swollen feet along with that rude seatmate. Enter the compression sock.

"Compression socks primarily function by applying gentle pressure to the lower extremities," says Dr. Alex Kor, a practicing podiatrist at Witham Health Services and fellow and past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. "In many people, but more common in patients over 65 years of age, the veins of the lower extremities do not function properly. The end result is pooling of fluid in the lower legs, which can result in infection, blood clots, ulcers, and even limb loss." A good pair of compression socks will gently squeeze your legs to increase pressure in your tissues and reduce leakage in your blood vessels.

Our favorite compression socks, Vim & Vigr's Cotton graduated Compression Socks, won us over with its wide range of size and fabric options to make sure you're both comfortable and working with the correct compression level. (Most over-the-counter compression socks have a pressure rating of 15-20 mmHg, but firmer pairs go up to 30-40 mmHg.)

These are more of the best compression socks for keeping your feet happy.

Best Overall: VIM & VIGR Merino Wool Compression Socks

VIM & VIGR Merino Wool Compression Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: Vim & Vigr offer dozens of well-designed options to find your perfect fit, fabric, and color.

What to Consider: If you choose the cotton option, be aware it can stretch a little faster than synthetic fabrics without proper care.

One of the best things about Vim & Vigr is its wide range of both styles and sizes. Choose from cotton, nylon, and moisture-wicking nylon, or go for merino wool if you prefer natural fibers with a cozier feel. Our favorite option is the cotton, Vim & Vigr's signature, for its soft feel and extra breathability. All of the materials come in a variety of colors that don't look like medical equipment. Three length options come in two different calf sizes to find your optimal fit, and you can also upgrade to a 20-30 mmHg or 30-40 mmHg pressure rating, although most travelers will be satisfied with the 15-20 mmHg compression level.

Vim & Vigr designs its socks in partnership with vascular surgeons and vein clinics, and all of its products are listed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This attention to detail shows in its solid construction and effectiveness. I've personally worn the merino wool versions on multiple long-haul flights, including New York to Helsinki and Chicago to Auckland, and have stayed comfortable the entire time.

Price at time of publish: $38

Sizes: S/M, M/L, and L/XL in standard and wide-calf versions | Material: 48 percent cotton, 42 percent nylon, 10 percent spandex | Compression rating: 15-20 mmHg

Best Budget: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks

4.9
Physix Gear Sport Physix Gear Compression Socks

Physix Gear

Why We Love It: They feature a straightforward design and have earned widespread acclaim.

What to Consider: The unisex design means it may be more challenging to find your ideal fit, and there aren't many light colors available for people who prefer them.

This extremely popular sock is virtually everywhere. They're designed for athletic use and feature shock absorption, which means they'll be extra comfortable as you're running to your gate, even if you aren't planning on logging any miles when you arrive at your destination. Using "arch to calf" compression technology, extra support on the heel and ankle ensures that the compression action takes place where it's the most useful, while the upper cuffs are designed to stay in place. Seams are double-stitched for durability so they won't give out mid-trip.

Price at time of publish: $22

Sizes: S/M, L/XL, XXL | Material: 70 percent nylon, 30 percent spandex | Compression rating: 20-30 mmHg

Best Everyday: Bombas Everyday Compression Socks

4.5
bombas-everyday-compression-socks

Dick's Sporting Goods

Why We Love It: This tried-and-true brand put its usual thoughtful touches into its compression socks.

What to Consider: The color and design options are more limited than some other brands.

Bombas' regular socks have developed quite the following, so a compression addition to the lineup is exciting for both fans and newcomers to the brand. The yarn is designed to be extra durable so it won't wear out with regular use. A Y-stitched heel cup, seamless toe, and honeycomb arch support system are all designed to keep you as comfortable as possible, along with strategic zone cushioning to provide padding in all the proper places. If you need more compression, Bombas also offers a 20-30 mmHg version of these socks; if you're more interested in being cozy.

Price at time of publish: $26

Sizes: S, M, L | Material: 64 percent cotton, 17 percent polyester, 13 percent nylon, 6 percent spandex | Compression rating: 15-20 mmHg

Best for Running: CEP Ultralight Tall Compression Run Socks

CEP Men’s Compression Run Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: These socks are incredibly light.

What to Consider: There are no scientific guarantees of compression socks affecting athletic performance.

The scientific jury is still out on whether compression socks actually improve athletic performance, but many runners still choose to wear them. This particular pair is designed to be extra lightweight for maximum speed, and it has 25 percent less volume than CEP's standard pair of compression socks. It's also hydrophobic for breathability. The padded cushioning, seamless toes, and anti-blister and anti-hotspot features keep your feet comfortable no matter how many miles you have to go. We also appreciate that its sizing takes calf circumference into account.

Price at time of publish: $60

Sizes: III, IV, and V men's / II, III, and IV women's (based on calf circumference) | Material: 60 percent polyamide (nylon), 25 percent elastane, 15 percent polypropylene | Compression rating: 20-30 mmHg

Best Patterns: CHARMKING Compression Socks

Charmking Compression Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: They come in convenient packs of six.

What to Consider: Despite the many pattern options, there are only two available sizes, so it may be hard to find a good fit.

Whether you're in search of athletic stripes, EKGs, or cactuses wearing Santa hats, Charmking has a set of socks for you. Sold in packs of six, these best-selling compression socks come in options ranging from solid black, white, and beige to stripe variations and colorful dachshunds. The six-pack means you'll have plenty of pairs available even if you don't have time to stop and do laundry while on the road. Both heel and toe are reinforced for cushioning and blister prevention, and the cuffs are designed to keep the socks up at all times.

Price at time of publish: $30

Sizes: S/M and L/XL | Material: Nylon | Compression rating: 15-20 mmHg

Best Elastic: Comrad Knee-High Compression Socks

comrad-knee-high-compression-socks

Comrad

Why We Love It: They're made with odor-minimizing material.

What to Consider: Some users have had trouble putting the socks on, and it's unusual that they don't have a listed compression rating.

The Comrad socks are designed to increase circulation and reduce swelling. Thin, moisture-wicking nylon stays cool, and the socks feature SmartSilver ions to minimize odor — so if you slip your sneakers off mid-flight, your seatmate won't even notice. The heel is terry-cushioned for padding and the colors and design are modern and nicely neutral without being stodgy. More importantly, the elastic is strong enough that you won't have to worry about these rolling down mid-walk.

Price at time of publish: $28

Sizes: S, M, L | Material: Nylon | Compression rating: Not listed

Best Medical Design: Figs Multi Stripe Compression Socks

figs-striped-socks
Figs.

Why We Love It: Figs uses sustainably sourced yarn.

What to Consider: Most Figs purchases are final sale, so be sure you're confident in your sizing.

Figs designs clothing and accessories for healthcare professionals, which means its products have to stand up to a high-stress environment. These socks have a light, 360-degree compression, with padding on the toes and heels to keep you comfortable no matter how long you're on your feet. They also come in plentiful patterns (many medical-themed, if your favorite traveler also happens to be a doctor) and an ankle cut if you prefer a shorter style, though you won't get the same level of compression. As a bonus, Figs uses sustainably sourced yarn to craft its compression socks.

Price at time of publish: $28

Sizes: S, M, L | Material: 91 percent nylon, 9 percent elastane | Compression rating: Not listed.

Related: The Best Heated Socks

Most Stylish: Lily Trotters Athletic Compression Socks

Lily Trotters Athletic Compression Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: These stylish socks are thin enough for easy packing.

What to Consider: Some customers aren't fans of the visible stitching.

The Signature Collection from Lily Trotters is designed to blend fashion with the compression function. The thin nylon fits seamlessly into whatever shoes you may be packing in your bag, and they come in a range of fun colors and styles to coordinate across your outfits (as any good travel accessory should). Despite the compression, they're also easy to take on and off. Reinforced toes and cushioned heels prevent both any pesky holes and foot strain, and the fabric is also moisture-wicking and antimicrobial for those long travel days.

Price at time of publish: $42

Sizes: S/M, L/XL | Material: 93 percent nylon, 7 percent spandex| Compression rating: 15-20 mmHg

Best Unisex: SB SOX Compression Socks

SB SOX Compression Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: SB offers solid uniform compression.

What to Consider: Calf sizing may run small.

The SB Sox are simple and direct, but they do what they set out to do. These have all the extra details you look for in a pair of compression socks, like no-slip uppers, ankle protection, and a reinforced cushioned heel. Moisture-wicking fabric keeps sweat under control, while extra arch support helps sufferers of plantar fasciitis as well. Color options are mainly solids, but there are a few prints to choose from, and the range of hues is extensive. There's also a lite version available if you'd rather have 15-20 mmHg of compression.

Price at time of publish: $25

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Material: 80 percent nylon, 20 percent spandex | Compression rating: 20-30 mmHg

Related: The 15 Best Travel Pillows

Best With Arch Support: Sockwell Men's Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock

Sockwell Men's Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock

Amazon

Why We Love It: This popular brand offers four different zones of graduated compression.

What to Consider: Women's sizes run small, and some people have trouble getting them on and off.

Sockwell is a standout brand in the compression sock space. It has plenty of designs, including lifestyle, running, hiking, and even winter sports options. There are differing heights, cushion levels, and a wide-calf fit available. For general travel use, we like their light lifestyle design. The Circulator has fun striped patterns and four different zones of graduated compression. Sockwell's custom fabric blend, which includes merino wool and bamboo rayon, helps manage moisture, odor, and temperature levels so all your senses can stay comfortable. They even include extra arch support to keep your foot happy from toe to heel.

Price at time of publish: $30

Sizes: S/M, M/L| Material: 32 percent merino wool, 32 percent nylon, 31 percent bamboo rayon, 5 percent spandex | Compression rating: 15-20 mmHg

Related: The Most Comfortable Women's Slip-on Sneakers

Best Height Range: Swiftwick ASPIRE ONE Running & Cycling Socks

Swiftwick ASPIRE ONE Running & Cycling Socks

Amazon

Why We Love It: Swiftwick socks have numerous features that promote breathability.

What to Consider: Most of Swiftwick's available heights aren't tall enough for full compression benefits.

If you want the full benefit of compression socks, they need to go up to just under your knees. But if you want to ease into the idea of compression or just really hate long socks, you can find your perfect cut among the Swiftwick Aspires' six different heights. Note that only the knee-high Aspire Twelve actually has a compression rating, so the others may not provide the benefits you're looking for. But all heights are designed to hug your feet and provide a thin, breathable design, thanks to channeled uppers, a mesh footbed, and archband support. Meanwhile, Swiftwick's Olefin fiber quickly wicks moisture away. Bonus: the socks are developed and manufactured in the US and the company tries to keep its practices as sustainable as possible.

Price at time of publish: $17

Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Material: 46 percent Olefin, 43 percent nylon, 11 percent spandex | Compression rating: 20-30 mmHg (twelve)

Tips for Buying Compression Socks

Understand compression levels

Since you're looking specifically for compression socks, the first thing you want to consider is, well, compression. Pressure levels are measured in mmHg, which stands for "millimeters of mercury;" according to Vim & Vigr, this originated from the pressure generated by a 1-millimeter-high column of mercury. Yes, it's a bit obscure. Nowadays the unit of measurement is mostly used to denote things like blood and intracranial pressure in medicine.

The standard level in over-the-counter compression socks is 15-20 mmHg, but a few more intense options offer 20-30 mmHg. Prescription-level socks also come in 20-30 mmHg, 30-40 mmHg, and 40-50 mmHg. "For the athletic and healthy population, assuming that the patient has had no previous arterial or venous malady, the initial choice should be the over-the-counter option," says Dr. Kor. Older patients should consult with a physician to choose their best compression level, but most doctors will recommend 20-30 mmHg, as anything higher than 30 is generally too strong for non-medical use.

Choose the most effective materials

"By definition, a compression sock is one that applies some degree of pressure or compression to the lower extremity whereas a normal sock applies minimal to no pressure to the lower extremity," notes Kor. "This ability by a compression sock is made possible, in part, by the material that comprises a compression sock. That is, most compression socks are made of breathable and stretchy materials like nylon, lycra and spandex. Conversely, a normal sock usually is made of cotton, cotton blends or polyester that does not have the properties."

Pay careful attention to size

You need your compression socks to fit well. Too small and you risk cutting off circulation, but if you go too large they won't actually compress you. This is why we gave bonus points to brands that include different options for calf circumference in addition to length.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are compression socks good for flying?

"Many patients will benefit from wearing compression socks while on an airplane," says Dr. Kor. He recommends compression socks for any traveling that includes sitting for a long period of time and notes that they're especially helpful for the changes of air pressure on an airplane and if you have a history of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), pulmonary embolus, chronic lower extremity edema, venous insufficiency, or similar issues.

How long should I wear compression socks?

If you're committing fully to the compression sock lifestyle, Kor says you can put them on when you wake up and leave them on until you go to bed. Just make sure not to wear the same socks two days in a row. If you've got a long-haul flight (think 12+ hours) you should be okay to wear your socks the whole time, but may want to swap pairs if you feel yourself getting sweaty.

Can I sleep in compression socks?

Dr. Kor recommends that wearers take their compression socks off at night and give their feet a break of 8–10 hours, since socks can harbor bacteria that leads to issues like dermatitis. Keeping them on for your airplane nap is fine, though.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Rena Behar is a freelance journalist who has assessed and reviewed travel gear and other products for outlets including Wirecutter, T+L, New York magazine, Reviewed.com, and more. For this article, she read through dozens of compression sock reviews and assessments and interviewed Dr. Alex Kor, a practicing podiatrist at Witham Health Services, fellow and past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, and fellow of the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons.

Up Next: The Best Yoga Pants for Travel

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles