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How to Correctly Apply Compression Socks at Home

Compression socks are an important tool in managing a variety of medical conditions. When worn correctly, compression socks can:

  • Improve blood flow
  • Prevent ulcerations
  • Combat pain and swelling
  • Reduce the incidence of thrombosis

While compression socks are fairly popular, they are often worn incorrectly or for the wrong reasons, leading to some side effects of wearing compression stockings.

To effectively put on a compression sock without folds, bunching, or the risk of circulation loss, use these tips when donning socks at home:

1. Insert your hand into the sock with your palm up and the sock's heel facing you.

2. Stop when the tip of your thumb has reached the heel pocket.

3. Close your hand and turn the sock inside out.

4. Slide the tunnel you've created over your toes, heel-side down.

5. Slipping the heel of the sock over your own heel, ensure your foot fits snugly in the toe box.

6. Firmly grasp the top band of the sock and pull it over the foot and up toward the knee.

7. The top elastic of a compression sock should rest two finger lengths below the knee.

8. If the sock is too long, do not fold or roll the tops down; Sigvaris socks are available in short lengths designed for calves less than 16 inches.

8. Smooth out all wrinkles to ensure the stockings lie flat against the skin.

If you are wearing compression socks for medical reasons, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions for how long to wear them and when to take them off. Wearing compression socks for too long can lead to further complications, such as skin irritation.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that your compression socks are both effective and safe.

Additional Tips for Applying Compression Socks

  • A dab of cornstarch can help stockings slide on more easily, particularly during warmer months when more moisture is present.
  • Textured rubber dishwashing gloves can provide additional traction that can make grabbing and smoothing a stocking less challenging.
  • Keep your stockings clean and dry with a regular hand wash every day, using mild soap and water.
  • Replace worn-out stockings regularly to ensure support isn't compromised.

Compression socks are designed to be tighter than the average sock. Therefore, one of the most common complications patients experience when putting on their own socks are those associated with excess constriction from incorrect wear or from bunching. Be sure to measure your legs from time to time to confirm sizing accuracy.

For people with circulatory problems or those who are at risk for developing blood clots, compression socks can be an essential part of their treatment plan. In addition, compression socks are often used to relieve pain and swelling associated with conditions like venous leg ulcers, thrombosis, and edema.

Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous leg ulcers are a common condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort. These normally occur around the ankle and are the result of increased pressure due to poor blood flow from damaged veins, blood clots, injuries, and complications from aging or obesity. When the valves inside the veins aren't working as they should, a backflow of blood is created, which increases pressure at the end of the limb. In addition to causing swelling and achiness, this increase in pressure weakens the skin over time and can lead to open sores that have difficulty healing. Compression socks are recommended as a preventative for venous leg ulcers. By providing gentle compression, these stockings help to improve blood flow and reduce pressure on the veins. Wearing compression socks regularly can help to prevent venous leg ulcers from developing and can significantly improve healing time if ulcers do occur.


Wearing compression socks is an effective way to help prevent deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. DVT occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins, usually in the legs. These clots can be caused by prolonged periods of inactivity, certain medications, smoking, pregnancy, obesity, heart failure, and certain types of inflammatory bowel disease. There is also a genetic component to DVT. Compression stockings help to reduce leg pain and swelling and prevent the formation of blood clots. They work by increasing circulation and preventing stasis, or pooling of blood in the veins. Wearing compression socks is an easy and effective way to reduce your risk for DVT.


When fluids don't properly move in and out of cells, they can begin to accumulate in the small spaces around tissues and organs. This leads to the painful condition known as peripheral edema. There are many possible causes of peripheral edema, including periods of physical inactivity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, venous insufficiency, trauma, and more. Compression socks are a simple and effective way to prevent the buildup of fluids that can cause edema. They work by applying gentle pressure to the affected area, which helps to encourage proper fluid movement and prevent swelling. In addition, compression socks can help to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with edema. Wearing compression socks on a regular basis can help to keep your body healthy and free from pain.

Contraindications of Compression Socks

Although compression socks are generally beneficial for people who suffer from circulation problems or spend long periods of time on their feet, there are some instances where they may do more harm than good.

  1. Diabetic patients may also suffer from severe arterial insufficiency. For these people, a compression sock is not the right treatment, as they can worsen oxygen delivery.
  2. Patients with decreased sensation from neuropathy and who cannot sense pressure points or excessive constriction should not use compression socks.
  3. Patients with skin infections, dermatitis, or fragile skin should avoid compression stockings.
  4. If pain occurs as a result of donning a compression garment, it should not be worn.
  5. If skin reactions occur, such as itching or redness, an allergy may be present and the garment should be removed.
When selecting a compression garment, it is important to consider its intended purpose. Garments that are marketed as "medical grade" are designed to provide specific levels of compression and support, and have been tested for safety and efficacy. In contrast, "fashion grade" garments may look similar but are often made from inferior materials and provide little to no medical benefit.

For people who require compression garments for health reasons, it is important to select a garment that is designed for medical use. Not all compression garments are created equal, and only those that are specifically designed for medical purposes can provide the desired level of support and protection. Compression socks are available without a prescription; however, it is important to consult with a doctor before using compression socks to ensure that they are being used correctly and that they are the best treatment option for your specific condition.