What Do Compression Socks Do And How Do They Work?

What Do Compression Socks Do And How Do They Work?

What do marathon runners, ER nurses, golfers, and kindergarten teachers all have in common?


Besides all things we wanted to be when we were kids, they’re all people who can benefit from graduated compression socks. Compression socks improve blood flow, reduce fatigue, and aid in recovery, making them beneficial for anyone on or off their feet for long periods.


If you’re new to our socks, we’ll show you how they work and what they can do for you, whether you’re an elite athlete, a weekend warrior, or like most of us, just someone with a busy life on the go and on their feet all day.


Three female runners wearing PRO Compression knee-high Marathon socks before a race.


What Compression Socks Do


PRO Compression socks are made of comfy, breathable, moisture-wicking materials that apply gentle pressure to your feet, ankles, and legs. This pressure promotes blood flow from your legs to your heart and vice versa.


Improved blood flow can reduce swelling and pain caused by long hours on your feet or extended periods of sitting, like on a plane trip. It can prevent several uncomfortable medical conditions related to poor circulation. It can also boost athletic performance and speed up recovery by keeping your muscles well-fed with restorative oxygen-rich blood.1


We’ll get into the specifics later, but in a nutshell, compression socks can help:

  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce swelling
  • Reduce and prevent varicose veins
  • Improve lymphatic drainage
  • Prevent and treat conditions like venous ulcers, venous hypertension, and orthostatic hypotension
  • Prevent blood clots in your legs

How Do Compression Socks Work?


To understand how compression socks work, you need to know a little bit about blood flow. Don’t worry; you don’t need a medical degree or even a passing grade in BIO 101. It’s a simple circuit (kind of like circuit training, but for your cardiovascular system):

  • Oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood flows away from your heart and into the rest of your body through arteries. This blood fuels your muscles and other tissues.

  • The spent blood travels back up to your heart via veins, where it gets reoxygenated and heads out to charge up your body again.


There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?


When you’re standing up and moving for long periods- for example, a 12-hour shift in the hospital or 18 holes on the golf course–your veins are working against gravity to deliver blood back to your heart. Since your feet are the farthest from your heart, that can be a tiring job!


Our knee-high compression socks give your veins a boost by gently squeezing your feet and legs, helping your blood to move faster in the right direction. All those awesome benefits, like reduced swelling, faster recovery time, and reduced pain, can be attributed to improved circulation.


What is Compression Therapy?


So who came up with this ingenious idea of graduated compression socks anyway? While we know our socks are the best, we can’t claim all the wellness credit. The concept actually goes back the early days of medicine and it’s called compression therapy.


Compression therapy uses controlled pressure to increase the blood flow in your legs. Things like socks, sleeves, wraps, and bandages apply external pressure that can improve your veins and increase blood flow to your heart.


What are Graduated Compression Socks?


True graduated compression socks feature a gradual change in the level of compression. For example, on our Marathon knee high socks, compression is strongest around the foot and ankle, then gradually decreases toward the top of the sock nearing the knee.


With this type of socks, compression is focused on the lower extremities–giving blood that extra boost that sends it on its way back up to your heart instead of refluxing downward.


Knee-high graduated compression socks help prevent swelling caused by fluid buildup in the feet and ankles, called peripheral edema.2


Top Benefits of Compression Socks


We’ve discussed the amazingly healthy things compression socks can do for your vascular system. Now here’s a list of the top benefits you can enjoy every day when you slip into your favorite pair of PRO Compression socks:


  • Prevent and treat swelling. Swelling in your feet and ankles is caused by fluid leaking out of the small blood vessels in your legs. Compression socks help the body absorb the extra fluid buildup through compression therapy.3

  • Aid in recovery. Whether it’s post-surgery or post-workout, graduated compression socks can boost circulation to bring oxygenated blood to your muscles and remove muscle waste quicker.4 Healthy muscle tissue heals faster. With the highest graduated compression rating, our Marathon Recovery sock, with a 25-35 mmHg compression rating, is the perfect post-exercise recovery sock.

  • Ease pain. That aching, heavy, fatigued feeling in your legs could result from a medical condition, an intense workout, or a long, grueling shift on your feet. Whatever the cause, compression socks can provide the relief that you deserve. Improved circulation can ease numbness, tingling, itching, aching, and pain in the feet and legs.5

  • Make you feel amazing. Okay, we know this one’s not just us. Improved circulation can benefit your overall wellness, making you feel more alert, energized, and help you push through the last mile, the last hole, or the last hour of a double shift on your feet.


Athletic Compression Socks for Performance


The benefits of sports compression socks don’t have to be medical; these socks are often used by elite athletes trimming seconds off of their mile times (not just Grandma). During activity- whether running a marathon, weightlifting, or playing sports- increased blood flow delivers oxygen to your muscles faster.6 By rejuvenating and fueling the tissue, it can help you to feel stronger, more energized, and ultimately perform better.


Three female runners wearing PRO Compression knee-high Marathon socks before a race.


Who knows, a pair of PRO Compression socks might just help you push through mile 18. Check out our reviews to see how we’ve helped others!


After a workout, that blood pumping through your system combined with increased lymph circulation can help your muscles recover quicker. Improved blood flow also carries the muscle waste away to the kidneys quicker. That means less muscle fatigue and cramping, and less soreness the next day.


A Quick Word About Compression Ratings…


Compression socks are graded according to their compression pressure in mmHg, which stands for millimeters of mercury and is the standard measurement for pressure or compression. 


Why is compression rating listed as a range? This range is a good thing as it indicates that the compression is graduated. The higher number in the range is amount of compression at the foot while the lower number is the amount at the top of sock near the knee. This graduation is what promotes blood flow from the foot back up the leg towards the heart.7


While there is no standard for a single rating range, it is generally classified into light or low compression for anything lower than 20 mmHg, medium compression for pressure of 20-30 mmHg, and high compression for anything greater than 30 mmHg.


The ideal range of compression for most uses, including exercise and recovery, is medium 20-30 mmHg as this is the most popular and tested range of compression. Our popular knee-high Marathon Collection is made within this range.


Compression Socks for Preventative Health


Sluggish circulation doesn’t just cause poor performance on the golf course or a sub-par finishing place in the triathlon; it can also cause many medical issues both now and as you age. Doctors often recommend compression socks to people suffering from vein diseases and other conditions.


Compression socks can help:

  • Lower your risk of blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis8

  • Relieve nausea and dizziness associated with orthostatic hypotension

  • Heal leg ulcers

  • Prevent and heal varicose veins and spider veins9

  • Treat conditions related to venous and lymphatic insufficiencies and edema10


Mechanisms of action of graduated compression stockings or socks - source: Canadian Medical Association Journal

 Figure: Mechanisms of action of graduated compression socks. Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal


Who Are Compression Socks Good For?


While we’re proud to say athletes love our socks, you don’t have to be a pro or even a weekend warrior to enjoy the benefits of graduated compression.


Compression socks are beneficial for:


  • Runners. Marathons, ultras, trails, treadmills, whatever. Realize your peak performance and recover faster.

  • Golfers. You’ll love our comfortable and stylish lows and mids.

  • Athletes and exercise enthusiasts. Powerlifter, dancer, soccer player, whatever gets you pumped, we’ve got a compression sock for you.

  • Travelers. Compression socks can keep your blood flowing during long periods of sitting on flights, buses, taxis, or car trips.

  • Nurses and medical staff. Really, anyone who works long shifts on their feet and could use help recovering for the next 10, 12, 14+ hour shift. This includes teachers and coaches.

  • Hospitality and service workers. Here’s to those long shifts on your feet. Compression socks can help you fight fatigue and recover for the next double.

  • Pregnant women. A study performed by Mendoza and Amsler even found that pregnant women had less morning sickness when they wore compression stockings.11


That’s a Wrap (Get It? A Little Compression Humor)


Compression socks for women and men have come a long way since the idea of compression therapy was invented. We’re not talking about those boring drugstore beige compression stockings anymore. We’re talking about the new generation of elite compression socks for sale that are performance-boosting, therapeutic, and come in so many stylish designs–you’ll be excited to pick out your pair for the day.


From trail/hiking ankle socks to Marathon knee-highs, check out our collections of PRO Compression socks and feel how they can work their magic for you.


Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice and is provided by PRO Compression as information to its readers. Before beginning any exercise or treatment protocol, please consult your doctor.




  1. Boehlke, J. (2021, January 11). Benefits of increased blood circulation. Healthfully. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://healthfully.com/benefits-of-increased-blood-circulation-6395089.html

  2. Mount Sinai. (n.d.). Foot, leg, and ankle swelling. Mount Sinai Health System. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/symptoms/foot-leg-and-ankle-swelling#:~:text=The%20abnormal%20buildup%20of%20fluid,overweight%2C%20and%20increase%20in%20age

  3. Contributors, W. M. D. E. (2021, May 3). Benefits of compression therapy: Better blood flow, less swelling, and more. WebMD. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/dvt/benefits-of-compression-therapy

  4. UR Medicine, & Noyes Health. (n.d.). Physical and sports therapy - Rochester, NY. It's all about blood flow! Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/MediaLibraries/URMCMedia/noyes/migrated-media/PT-Blog-April_1.pdf

  5. Cleveland Clinic. (2021, September 27). Poor circulation: Symptoms, causes and treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21882-poor-circulation

  6. F, B. R. H. C. B. (2016, August 24). Relationship between blood flow and performance recovery: A randomized, placebo-controlled study. International journal of sports physiology and performance. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27139812/

  7. Lim, C. S., & Davies, A. H. (2014, July 8). Graduated compression stockings. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4081237/

  8. Lifestyle changes for Autonomic Disorders. Patient Care at NYU Langone Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://nyulangone.org/conditions/autonomic-disorders/treatments/lifestyle-changes-for-autonomic-disorders#:~:text=People%20with%20both%20postprandial%20and,blood%20flow%20in%20the%20legs.

  9. National Clinical Guideline Centre (UK). Varicose Veins in the Legs: The Diagnosis and Management of Varicose Veins. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE); 2013 Jul. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 168.) 8, Conservative Management. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK328015/

  10. Vein, V. H. and. (2022, January 21). Symptoms of poor circulation in the body: Vascular issues. Vital Heart & Vein. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://vitalheartandvein.com/blog/symptoms-of-poor-circulation-in-the-body-vascular-issues/

  11. Mendoza, E., & Amsler, F. (2017, February 22). A randomized crossover trial on the effect of compression stockings on nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. International journal of women's health. Retrieved July 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5328137/