Compression socks - The right level of compression for you

by Michelle Moran
Compression socks - The right level of compression for you

Nowadays, when compression socks have spread their use from strictly being a medical treatment for bad circulation and varicose veins to being widely used amongst the sportsman and working people, there are more types and compression levels than ever before.

Although you should not choose the compression level without consulting your doctor if you are using the socks for treating a medical condition, it is good to have a general knowledge of which level of compression is good for which type of problem.

The measure that is used to denote the level of compression is mmHg and it has to be easily visible on every compression product. mmHg stands for millimeters of mercury and it shows the level of pressure or compression that socks provide. This measure is also used to measure blood pressure.

Most time, compression is applied gradually – the compression is the highest on the bottom of the socks and it decreases to the top of the socks. Compression stockings apply 100% of their strength at the ankle, about 70% of their strength at the calf, and 30% of their strength at the thigh. This varies depending on the length of the stocking and the manufacturer, but in general, the division of compression levels is as described.

Compression socks - The right level of compression for you

Compression levels that can be seen on the market

10 – 15 mmHg – Mild Compression

15 -20 mmHg – Medium Compression

20 – 30 mmHg – Firm Compression

30 – 40 mmHg – Extra Firm

40 – 50 mmHg – RX

As you can see, five different compression levels can be found on the market. Just because the compression level is higher, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is more effective for you. Depending on your needs – support during sports activities, prevention of the venous problems or treatment of severe venous problems symptoms – you will have to consider the different level of compression that is the best for you.

Mild Compression

A compression level of 8-15 mmHg is very light and can be bought over the counter. This level of compression is beneficial for almost everyone, so there is no special restriction on who should use this type of compression stockings. Some of the benefits that mild compression provides are:

  • Prevents leg fatigue and relieves pain caused by long hours of sitting or standing
  • Helps relieve minor edema & swelling of ankles, feet, and legs
  • During pregnancy, especially in the initial phases, prevents varicose veins and improves blood circulation in the legs
  • Make your legs feel more energized while being physically active

Medium Compression

A compression level of 15-20 mmHg also falls into the category of widely spread use, as well as by people with conditions as a form of medical treatment. If you do sports regularly, have a sedentary job, or often travel long distances, you should consider wearing this level of compression to help your legs stay energized and keep the blood flowing right. Benefits and uses of the medium compression are:

  • Helps relieve minor to moderate edema & swelling
  • Helps reduce the risk of DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • During pregnancy, prevents venous insufficiency, varicose veins and improves blood circulation in the legs

Athletes, or people who train regularly, prefer a medium level of compression

Firm Compression

This level of compression is the lowest of levels that fall into the category of medical-grade garments. Although they are labeled as medical-grade class I garments, you can still get one of these without a prescription. However, choosing compression socks as therapy should not be done without discussing it with your doctor or healthcare professional. Firm or moderate compression socks bring the following benefit:

  • Helps relieve moderate to severe edema & swelling of feet, legs, and ankles
  • Slow the progression of varicose veins and DVT
  • Helps with active ulcers and manifestations of post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS)
  • Helps prevent orthostatic hypotension (sudden dizzyness and fall in blood pressure when standing up)
  • Helps relieve superficial thrombophlebitis
Compression socks - The right level of compression for you

Extra Firm Compression

Extra firm compression is a class II medical grade. Extra firm compression stockings cannot be bought without a prescription and are not used as a prevention tool. Rather, they are used as a treatment for symptoms that classify as severe. Extra firm compression provides the following benefits:

  • Helps treatment of severe edema and lymphedema
  • Prevents the reappearance of varicose veins in a post-surgical and post-sclerotherapy treatment
  • Reduces symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension and Postural Hypotension
  • Helps treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Treatment of venous ulcers and manifestations of Post-Thrombotic Syndrome (PTS)

Individuals experiencing various venous problems should consider wearing extra firm compression stockings. Conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis, Chronic Venous Insufficiency, and severe lymphedema are the most common cases when wearing extra firm compression socks is strongly recommended.


The 40-50 mmHg is a very high level of compression and buying compression socks with this compression level is an absolute no without a thorough consultation with the healthcare professional. These stockings fall under the category of medical-grade class III and are typically used to treat severe varicosities, post-thrombotic syndrome, chronic venous insufficiency, forms of severe lymphedema or in conjunction with management of open venous ulcers.

When deciding on the size of the compression socks, you should measure the proportion of your legs before the swelling occurs. Measurements are taken while the swelling is active and the tissue gets filled with water, therefore making the legs ’bigger’ can make you choose large stockings which will then have a lower impact and won’t be so effective.

It is also a practice to revise the adequacy of your stockings every six months, especially if you use them to treat a medical condition. Stockings get looser over time due to washing and the natural wear-off process, so they can further lose their effectiveness if you don’t take proper care of them.  

To sum up – if you are looking for everyday support and more energy for your legs, go with the mild, or mild/moderate compression; if you suffer venous conditions, advise your healthcare specialist & occasionally revise your choice. 

Skineez offers socks of compression levels ranging from mild (10-15 mmHg) to extra firm (30-40 mmHg),


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