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Blood clots should be a real concern to everyone who travels on long flights.  Women who take certain birth control pills are at an even higher risk.

Is there an easy way to lower the risk of blood clots when you travel?

Yes! Wearing compressions socks has been shown to reduce your risk.  

Are all compression socks the same, though? You want to find the best compression socks for long flights.  

This guide will explain more about how compression socks can reduce the possibility of blood clots and help you choose the right ones to buy.  I also have a few more suggestions on how to prevent blood clots.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.

My Experience with Compression Socks

Recently, I had a scare when I thought I had gotten a blood clot from being seated for a long time on a road trip.  One calf was sore and swollen, so I went to get it checked out as soon as I could. Luckily, after thorough testing, the doctors confirmed I did not have a blood clot.  

Note: If you think you may have a blood clot, it’s best to consult a medical professional as soon as possible.

Russell suggested I wear his compression socks.  I was worried that the compression socks might be painful to wear, but that was not the case, even when my leg was quite swollen.  It was amazing how much the socks reduced the swelling. Going forward, anytime I might be seated for long periods of time, I will wear compression socks.  I don’t want to go through that stress again.

What is a Blood Clot?

A blood clot is when a clump is formed to stop blood flow.  Now, this can be good if its a clot on a bleeding wound, but if it is in a vein then it can be dangerous.  When a clot forms in the veins of your legs it is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  This can happen when you don’t get enough movement in your legs like during a long flight.  DVT and other blood clots need to be taken seriously. If left untreated, the consequences could be deadly.

blood clot

Illustration of a blood clot

How Do Compression Socks Help Reduce the Risk of Blood Clots?

Compression socks (also sometimes called compression stockings) use a stronger elastic to increase the pressure on the legs, ankles, and feet.  The graduated compression helps move blood through veins towards the heart.  This type of compression helps to increase circulation, energize tired, achy legs, and helps to prevent and reduce swelling.

While compression socks can reduce the risk of blood clots, it is possible to still get one even when wearing them.  If symptoms of blood clots appear, be sure to get medical attention.

Other Tips for Preventing Blood Clots

Blood clots are serious and not just an issue for older folks, so it’s best to take action to prevent them.  In addition, to wearing compression socks for flying here are some other things to try:

  • Move! Stretch your legs and get up and walk periodically.  If you can’t get up and walk then point and flex your toes and make circles with your feet.
  • Avoid alcohol and drink lots of water.  Unfortunately coffee, sodas, or other sugary beverages don’t count.
  • Wear loose clothing (other than the travel compression socks!).
  • Don’t take prescription sleep medicine on a flight.  If you sleep too well, you won’t be stretching and getting up to walk around like recommended.
crowded plane

Even when it’s crowded, it’s important to get up and stretch your legs.

Other Benefits of Compression Socks for Long Haul Flights

Compression socks do more than just reduce the risk of blood clots.  Wearing compressions socks during long flights helps:

  • Reduce swelling in legs and feet
  • Make legs feel less tired
  • Feet stay warm

Other Uses for Compression Socks

You will end up wearing compression socks more often than expected.  Compression socks can be helpful in other situations such as:

  • Exercising (Russell wears compression socks whenever he runs.  Compression socks are also popular with skiers and hikers).
  • On road trips (You may be seated for long periods of time)
  • When recovering from surgery
  • When you are pregnant (If you are traveling during your pregnancy, you have two reasons to wear compressions socks when flying!)

Considering how serious a blood clot can be, investing in compression socks for travel just makes sense. 

What to Look for When Buying Compression Socks

It’s important that you find compression socks for travel that are right for you.  Especially, if this is the first time you are buying compression socks, here are some points that may help with the decision.

Compression Level

Not everyone needs the same level of compression in their socks.  There are levels of pressure that range from mild (8-15 millimeters of Mercury or mmHg) to extra firm (30-40 mmHg).  If you have serious issues, a doctor may recommend 40-50 mmHg.

The right level for you depends on your usual length of travel and any current medical issues, like varicose veins. Those who have problems with circulation should get a higher level of compression, than those just using them for long-haul flights.  For most people who want to the best compression socks for air travel, 20-30 mmHg will be fine. Don’t feel like you need to get the highest compression level unless it is necessary as sometimes those are not as comfortable.

If you are not sure or think you are high risk, it’s best to get advice from a doctor.  In some cases, insurance may cover the cost of compression socks.

Make sure the socks have graduated compression rather than consistent compression through the sock.  Graduated compression socks apply the most pressure at the ankle then the pressure decreases the further the sock goes up the leg which helps push blood back up the leg and makes foot swelling less likely.

Size

Compression socks that are not the right size are not going to feel comfortable.  More importantly, if compression socks don’t fit correctly, they are not going to work.  Since the socks have graduated pressure, make sure the right amount of pressure is applied to the right spot.

Each brand may have a slightly different definition of sizes, so it’s a good idea to measure yourself and look at the sizing chart.  Check to be sure whether the shoe sizes listed are men’s or women’s. In addition to your shoe size, you will need to know leg measurements as well.  Use a tape measure and follow these tips:

  • Take these measurements in the morning as legs may swell as the day goes on.
  • Ankle: Measure around the narrowest point of your leg, usually an inch or two above the ankle bone.
  • Calves: Measure around the widest point of your calf.
  • Calf length: Sit with your legs at a 90-degree angle and measure the distance from the floor to one finger below the bend of the knee.

Material

It’s important that the compression socks you choose are made from high-quality material so they last. If the material is subpar than it might not keep the shape or compression level after several washes.

Each brand may use different materials to make their compression socks. These materials normally include spandex, lycra, nylon, polyester, or some combination of those.

Style

Compression socks may not be the most stylish article of clothing you will own, but there are some different color and pattern options available. It’s all subjective, so chose flight socks that you will feel comfortable wearing. Don’t stress about it too much, you can keep the socks in your backpack and put them on when you get on the plane.

You also have a few options when it comes to length. While compression ankle socks may look less obvious, it’s best to stick with ones that at least go to the knees. You need the compression on your calf to get the benefit. Thigh high or full-length compression stockings are fine too.

colorful socks

You can have a lot of fun with bright colors on your socks.

Don’t opt for just a compression sleeve or one that starts above the ankle. The open toe compression socks are ok. They can be a good option especially for peep toe shoes, but people that have issues with their feet swelling may find that the toeless style digs into swollen toes.

Price

When you consider how serious getting a blood clot could be compression socks are cheap! You can find high-quality compression socks and stockings in a wide range of prices. When comparing prices of the different socks make sure to take into consideration the number of pairs that are included. The more pairs included, the less often you have to do laundry.

What are the Best Compression Socks for Long Flights

This table summarizes some of the top compression sock options available on the market. It includes a range of styles(i.e. the best compression stockings), prices, and pressure levels. More details about each of the top compression sock recommendations follow below the table.

 

 BrandCompression LevelStyle 
CHARMKING Compression Socks15-20 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price
DANISH ENDURANCE Graduated Compression Socks18-21 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price
CEP Compression Socks20-30 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price
Physix Gear Compression Socks20-30 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price
SB SOX Compression Socks20-30 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price
Juzo Basic Knee High 20-30mmHg Open Toe
20-30 mmHgKnee High Open ToeCheck Price
BriteLeafs Opaque Thigh High Compression Stockings20-30 mmHgThigh High Open ToeCheck Price

Jomi Compression Pantyhose
20-30 mmHgFull-lengthCheck Price
CompressionZ Compression Socks30-40 mmHgKnee HighCheck Price

Best Mild Pressure Compression Socks

CHARMKING Compression Socks for Women & Men

These are the cheapest compression socks on my list, but they also have the lowest pressure level (15-20 mmHg) which is fine for the majority of travelers. They are sold as 8 pairs together so perfect for those on a budget. These socks have light padding on the ball and top of the foot for added comfort and the special material provides moisture control. There are plenty of color and pattern options available so everyone will find some that they like.

DANISH ENDURANCE Graduated Compression Socks

The Danish Endurance socks are top quality with a mild level of compression (18-21 mmHg).  They are made of 95% Polyamide and 5% Elasthan. These socks have more stitches per inch than many other socks making them more durable, comfortable, and snug-fitting.  The entire footbed also has reasonable cushioning.

The Best Medium Pressure Compression Socks and Stockings

CEP Compression Socks

CEP is compression apparel company owned by Medi, one of the global leaders in medical compression manufacturing for more than 80 years, so these socks are top quality.  It’s made of 85% Polyamid and 15% Elastan and provides a compression level of 20-30 mmHg. These socks are manufactured to last and come in two different colors.

Physix Gear Compression Socks

These Physix Gear compression socks are best-sellers on Amazon for good reason. The socks are designed for comfort and provide a compression level of 20-30 mmHg. The toe lining won’t squeeze and the material won’t slip down the leg. They are double-stitched with an anti-bacterial fabric that is also moisture wicking.

SB SOX Compression Socks

The SB SOX come in four different sizes with a wide range of calf circumferences so you are sure to find one that will fit you. They also use a special fabric that prevents odors and static. It has a compression level of 20-30mmHg.

Juzo Basic Knee High Open Toe Compression Stockings

Juzo is another brand with a reputation for making top-notch compression socks, so they are a little more pricey than some of the other options.  These stockings are skin colored and will feel lighter than the other socks but still provide a compression level of 20-30 mmHg. The open toe style allows you to wear these socks with some sandals.

BriteLeafs Thigh High Compression Stockings

These thigh high compression stockings provide a compression level of 20-30 mmHg and are a discreet alternative to compression socks for flying. They are open toe, opaque, and work great with certain sandals. It is made of 78% nylon and 22% spandex so it is latex free. The non-constricting silicone lace band around your thighs help keep garment up without using a garter belt.

Jomi Compression Pantyhose

For those looking for stockings that go to the waist, Jomi compression pantyhose is the best option. It provides a compression level of 20-30 mmHg and is opaque so it will mask varicosity, blemishes, and scars.

Compression tights like these are not for everyone, though as some people report having issues with the fit. These will not work if you have large thighs, check the sizing guide before purchasing.

The Best Firm Pressure Compression Socks and Stockings

CompressionZ Compression Socks for Men & Women 

If you do need a firmer pressure sock, then this is a good option. It has a compression level of 30-40 mmHg, but the nylon and spandex blend makes the socks breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable. The reinforced heel and toe make the socks more durable. There are 9 different styles (colors/patterns) to choose from.

If you don’t need the higher level of pressure, then it’s probably best to go with socks with less. It will save you money and be more comfortable.

Caring for Your Compression Socks

If you are going to spend the money to get the best flight compression socks, then be sure to take good care of them so that they will last. Specifically:

  • Wash after every use.
  • It’s a good idea to buy two pairs of compression socks so that you will always have one that is clean.
  • Follow the care recommendations for your specific compressions socks, some should only be hand-washed.
  • Use a garment bag (like this one) to reduce ‘lint balls’ that may collect in the bottom of the socks.
  • Compressions socks should air dry instead of putting them in the dryer.
  • Do not iron the socks.
  • Make sure the compression socks are completely dry before putting them on.

What do you think about flight compression socks? If you have some, do you think they have made a difference?

-Anisa

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Expert Tips Using Compression Socks for Travel

  • Contact a medical professional as soon as possible if you think you may have a blood clot.
  • Make sure the compression socks fit properly.  Measure yourself and check the sizing chart.
  • Wear the compression socks for long flights or whenever you will be seated for long periods of time like on a road trip.
  • Follow the care directions to make sure the compression socks last and function properly.

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