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Compression Socks

When deciding on the amount of compression, what is safe for use? I've been to Travelsmith and they have some that are 15 -20 , and some 20 -30. I've read you should be careful in choosing. This would just be for the 8 hour flight, I know my feet will swell. I'm don't have issues otherwise with my legs. I do have plantar fasciitis and the 20 -30 ones have arch support, which might be nice.

Wikipedia says that anything over 20 should be approved by a doctor, and that typically under 20 is OTC....but the ones from Travelsmith are OTC.

Posted by
715 posts

I would certainly check with a doctor before i went ahead and bought compression socks. If you don't do that I would check several different sources OTHER then wikipedia.

Posted by
28145 posts

... or the Rick Steves' Travel Forums.

As far as I know only one of the regular posters is a doctor, he keeps it under his hat and I don't remember him weighing in about those socks.

When in doubt consult a doctor.

Posted by
21865 posts

Actually the Wikipedia infor is accurate. Compression socks up to 20 and OTC from local drug stores is fine. If you have some serious reflux problems then you really should be seeing someone for an evaluation. This is not something to be taken lightly. It can cause serious problems if not death. I am guessing your legs swell other times but maybe not as much. Very rare to just swell on an airplane. An over the calf, 20, will give a little assistance. A full length is better but can be hot.

Plantar fasciitis is not related in any fashion to swelling feet. It is curable if you are willing to do the exercises and take the time to do it.

Posted by
1994 posts

The fact that a medical product is available OTC does not necessarily mean that it safe to use without medical guidance. To stay within the stated compression range, the stockings need to fit correctly – for both leg length and calf circumference. When purchased from a qualified medical device vendor, you will be fitted by a trained person. So I echo the other comments – contact your doctor

Posted by
68 posts

I read the wikipedia article, not sure where they get their information from. As far as what level of compression to get, as long as you aren't cutting off circulation to your toes it's probably ok. (Caveat: if you have a blood clot, heart failure, wounds/ulcers on your legs, or problems with blood flow to your legs check with your doctor first. Probably not a bad idea to get a physical if it's been a year or more to check BP if this is a regular problem for you. Plus make sure you are caught up on your mamograms and such. However, you said you are generally healthy, probably have a good relationship with your family doctor, and just have problems with your feet swelling when you travel you are probably ok to just pick up some compression hose). The level of compression you get will vary anyway unless they are professionally fitted. I would make sure to try them out before you travel, they are not the most comfortable things to wear. You don't want to be in the middle of the plane ride and realize that your toes are blue, or you are going to itch your legs off and try to shimmy out of them. They are also a pain to get on but will stretch somewhat with time. I have never worn them on vacation (too hot and itchy) but they do help with leg/foot fatigue when working long hours on your feet. Possibly you could try them on your trip and report back if they make your feet hurt less after long days of walking?
Make sure to drink lots of water, avoid salt, and alcohol, do your foot pumps/walk around the plane every few hours, and keep your feet elevated as best you can in addition to the hose. Any unilateral swelling, leg pain, or swelling that does not go down by the next morning should be seen by a medical professional.

Posted by
3714 posts

Both my husband and I wear knee high compression socks on a regular basis and by doctor's order. We get the medium compression ones, 15-20 mmHG. Anything lower in compression is too loose for us and anything higher is too tight. Both of us have generously sized ankles and calves. Be sure to check with your doc, but especially if you haven't worn them before, the 20-30 ones will probably be too tight.

My favorites are Sockwell Circulators (on sale now for $20 per pair at Travelsmith). I have other Sockwells and other brands including Travelsox, but none work as well for me as the Circulators. They are made of Merino wool and rayon, and they wick away moisture and keep my feet warm and dry, but not hot, even down here in the desert Southwest. I have never had a blister anywhere on my feet when wearing them. FootSmart is another place to find then and many other brands and styles of compression socks.

Some brands are tighter at the ankle and more generous at the calf but when I take them off, my legs look like a tied off balloon animal. I am glad to take the Sockwells off, too, but I find them comfortable and comforting to wear, and I'm sure they helped keep me from spraining my ankle when I stepped off a curb sideways about a year ago.

I wore them all the time with boots (or sometimes with shoes or even sandals) on my last 3 trips to Europe. I wore them today at the gym for my workout. Most people don't realize that they were first invented to improve circulation and performance for athletes.

As for the plantar fasciitis, I had a horrible time with it, but don't anymore. I was given exercises to do and told to get different shoes. Up until then, I was a Birkenstock and Haflinger person for many, many years. I learned that their footbeds were just too hard. I switched to other brands of shoes with softer footbeds but good arch and other support for my feet. That change in combination with the typical exercises have kept me pain free for the last 6 years.

As many say on the forum YMMV and what works for me may not work for you.

Posted by
524 posts

Thanks all. I did see the circulators on Travelsmith. I'm only going to wear on the plane. I have a doc appt. in June, so will just wait for that and talk to her. Glad I asked because I think I would have bought the wrong ones at Travelsmith.

Posted by
9929 posts

Lulu, this has nothing to do with compression stockings but everything to do with Plantar Fasciitis/plantar fasciosis. I had a bad bout of PF after a trip to UK/Wales in the Fall of 2013. By Dec of that year I was still in pain so went to an orthotist for orthotics. They also recommended Zero drop platform shoes (heel and forefoot are the same height). I got both and the pain got better but did not go away and was still impinging on my life. I was doing stretching and other strengthening exercises. In Feb 2014 I saw an interview with Sue Hitzman about her MELT Method balls for PF. I ordered them and after THREE treatments with them, following the DVD with her, my pain was completely gone. Really. Three treatments.

So...last summer I was getting ready for the BOE tour in the fall. I was walking 4 miles 3-4 times a week along with a long walk once a week where I got up to 10 miles. I Melted in the evening before bed and remained pain-free. I did take the balls with me on my 8 weeks in Europe and my feet stayed in good shape. There were some days on the BOE that I know we went 10-12 miles (that would be what some affectionately referred to as Dimitri's Death March), but I did not have a problem with my feet.

I have no connection with Sue or her company other than I am a completely satisfied customer. She has been on a couple of times this week on ABC news with a short piece about using her foam roller for chronic pain. Take a look at her website and see if the balls might be helpful for you. The program is slightly different from when I ordered as she has added an extra ball. Get the balls and the DVD that go with it.

Posted by
524 posts

Pam, thanks...I will take a look at her website, it doesn't surprise me as I started using a tennis ball last month when it was at its worse. I'd stand on the ball and work it around the foot and boy was that painful at first. Did it 5 minutes per foot. Like you, after about 3 times the pain was much, much better. I wonder what it is about the balls she uses that work so well. I've heard of people using golf balls too.

Another thing I need to start doing is buying some slippers to wear around the house with arch support.

Posted by
9929 posts

The kit I have has one larger ball about 2 inches across that is very soft, one the same size but very hard and one the size of a big marble that is very hard. She stresses you are not to go to the point of intense pain (which I was doing with the tennis ball as well). Her method uses a specific pattern of pressure and gliding on your foot. She has instructions for treatment on your hands for neck and shoulder pain too.

The MELT FB page says she is going to be on Dr Oz on Wed 3/18. I'm not a Dr Oz fan but I will watch her segment.

Posted by
21865 posts

Another good exercise is stand in your bare feet on the bottom step of any stairs. Use you toes to grip the end of the step with your heels straight out from the step. Then drop you heel as you can. Repeat several times and several times a day. You are stretching the tendon that causes the pain. It is a slow process to get rid of PF but over time this exercise will do it and keep it away. It is something that everyone should do to prevent it.