For any long distance flights over 3-4 hours, travel compression socks/stockings are a great idea. They prevent venous blood clots that can cause Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) which are serious health conditions. Blood clots aside, pregnant women and many people from their 40’s onwards, especially those with previous ankle and foot sprains/fractures, varicose veins or right-side heart failure, are prone to increased lower limb swelling (oedema) on flights too. It can happen to perfectly healthy travelers too. A few years ago, following a flight from New Zealand to Cambodia, I had some mild lower leg odema for the first time. The swelling resolved over the next 2-3 days but compression socks for travel would have prevented this.
Coming from a medical background in New Zealand I am acutely aware of the risk of serious blood clots that can result from long distance travel, whether it be on a plane or in a car,bus or train. Basically, clots can occur in any situation where an individual is sitting in a cramped space for hours on end, impeding venous return to the heart. The risk is increased for those on the oral contraceptive pill (containing estrogen), people with metastatic cancer and those with a close family history of Thrombo-Embolism. It is also common for passengers to get relatively dehydrated on long flights which makes their blood thicker, stickier and therefore more prone to clotting. When legs are immobile for hours, blood clots can form in the deep veins of the calf and thigh, usually causing painful lower leg swelling. Often the calf is red and hot too. If one or more pieces of the clot breaks off they can travel through the heart and block the circulation to one or both lungs (a PE), which can be fatal. One of my doctor colleagues in his late 30’s got a DVT following a flight from New Zealand to the U.K. Like others diagnosed with the same condition he had to go on blood thinning medication for the next six months to prevent a PE and ensure the clot resolved.
What to look for in the best compression socks for air travel.
– graduated compression that gently compresses the calf veins. The pressure is greatest at the foot and reduces as the stocking goes up the calf, thus pushing the venous blood back to the heart.
– comfort. You don’t want to feel like they are Constricting your circulation.
– a stocking that doesn’t roll down.
– a stocking that isn’t too hot. One of my personal pet hates is having hot feet!
– hosiery that is well designed and well made.
– machine washable and quick dry travel socks.
N.B People with peripheral artery disease shouldn’t wear compression stockings unless they have been cleared to do so by a doctor. The aim of compression hosiery is to gently compress the veins but if the arterial circulation to your feet is impaired, they may impair the arterial flow further.
All the products below have a 4-5 star rating on Amazon.
- 1 Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks for Men & Women
- 2 Wanderlust Air Travel Compression Socks: Premium Stockings For Men & Women
- 3 Blitzu Compression Socks, Men and Women Performance Stockings
- 4 MoJo Recovery & Performance Sports Compression Socks – White Medium – Unisex
- 5 Vitalsox Italy -Patented Graduated Compression VT1211 Running, Training, Race, and Recovery Socks with Odor Resistant Silver DryStat
- 6 Copper Compression Knee High Recovery Support Socks
- 7 Truform Women’s 15-20 mmHg Sheer Open Toe, Knee High Compression Stockings
These popular stockings come in 2 sizes for both men and women and are black with blue and pink ankle and toe highlights respectively. They are designed not to slip down and and made from a nylon blend that wicks moisture away. They have a graduated pressure of 20-300 mmHg.
I prefer natural fibers so I like that these are 80% cotton. They have a longer band at the top of the calf so as to not cause constriction and the toe area is seamless for more comfort also. They have a graduated pressure of approx. 20 mmHg from ankle to under the knee. They come in two sizes based on shoe size, and there are also instructions on how to measure your calves to help get the right one for you. They are black with grey on the underside of the foot with a blue stripe.
These travel socks get great reviews and, as well as being good for travel, they are also designed for sport. They and come in four colours (black, purple, pink and white) which is a bonus too. They have a graduated pressure of 20-25mmHg.
These socks come in 5 sizes based on shoe size. They come in white and gray and are made of latex-free nylon and spandex. These hose have graduated 20-30 mmHg pressure. They have a slightly thicker and softer feel than Mojo’s Elite (normal) range but provide the same amount of compression.
Vitalsox Italy -Patented Graduated Compression VT1211 Running, Training, Race, and Recovery Socks with Odor Resistant Silver DryStat
These socks come in a wide range of vibrant colors so they look great for sport. They are also popular with people who work most of the day on their feet e.g nurses. They are made with polypropylene impregnated with Silver which makes them more odor resistant. By all accounts they are very comfortable but a few reviewers said they didn’t feel as firm as they’d like. The Vitalsox company has been making compression hosiery at their factory in Italy since 1998. They say their product’s compression starts in the mid foot which is an advantage over other products which start from the ankle.
These pressure socks are infused with copper which naturally inhibits bacterial and fungal growth. The manufacturer claims that their product has the highest copper level of any “copper” sock on the market. Curiously I couldn’t see the pressure value anywhere in the product information but reviews are generally very positive, and they have the advantage of having thinner material in the foot area for dress shoes.
If you’re looking for some sheer compression hose (15-20mmHg) that come in nude, white and black, these may be your answer. They have an open toe making them more attractive with open toe dress shoes (for the ladies) and cooler when flying. For a slightly thicker and durable option with a filled in toe there are the Truform 1963, Women’s Compression Socks, Cushion Sole, 15-20 mmHg, available in black, navy, tan and white.