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We all know the importance of choosing the right athletic sneaker, but what about socks? Most likely, the purchase comes down to selecting your size and moving on with your day. And the same goes for compression socks; Choose a size (and possibly color), and done.
But there’s more than sizing that goes into picking the right pair of socks for your feet—in this case, size matters.
Whether it’s your running socks, gym socks, casual socks, or compressions, Theresa Marko, board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy, and CEO & owner, of Marko Physical Therapy, shows you how to choose the best pair of socks for your feet, and provides the dos and don’ts of compression wearing.
Size, height, and material are what make or break your sock experience. Sock choice is very personal, and the goal is for you to be comfortable and feel good wearing them so you can move well in your everyday tasks.
That being said, “there are variations that one might want to consider such as the height of the sock, and then the material the sock is made out of ” Says, Marko.
These factors make a big difference in how the sock feels as well as its performance on your body.
Size: When determining your correct sock size you can do two things: Simply measure your foot (in inches) from your heel to your biggest toe, or go by your current shoe size. The back of the sock package will have the measurements and sizes for you to choose from
Height: The height of the sock is personal, and may vary depending on your activity, but remember you want to be comfortable.
As far as the “no-show” socks that go below your shoe line, Marko advises, “It’s important to get a pair that has the rubber on the back of the ankle so that the sock will not slip down and cause blisters or pain.”
For activities like running and HIIT, proper sock height is imperative “You would not want to go for a run in a sock that slips down off your heel, bunching up in your shoe constantly.” Says Marko.
Look for a sock that stays in place, protects your feet, and is comfortable.
Material The materials of the socks can be cotton, polyester/spandex, a blend of cotton/spandex, and then wool, wool/cashmere, and wool/spandex. Depending on the season and physical activity, the material can make a serious impact on comfort level and even safety. For example, you don’t want to wear cotton socks during outdoor winter activities as they don’t wick sweat and the sock loses its ability to insulate.
Whether it’s work or gym time, “The different blends of materials can offer moisture wicking to allow the foot to not get hot and sweaty and help avoid things like foot fungus and skin breakdown.” Says Marko. With that said, when in training, it’s best to choose a sweat-wicking sock to support foot health.
For those needing arch support, “There are socks that have extra stretch around the arch of the foot to provide support and they feel really good to wear.” Says Marco.
There are generally two camps of compression socks: Athletic and Edema.
Athletic: Athletic compression socks are going to be more of a traditional sport sock type and they probably will be knee high. “They provide support to the lower leg and help venous return and recovery by providing some compression.” Says Marko. These socks are not usually very tight but are a light compression.
Edema: Edema control socks are going to be more like a traditional knee-high stocking (like a pantyhose material) that come in different gauges. These different gauges are the “tightness” of the sock; Some of them are very tight and require a tool to put on called a “donner”. “These types of socks would be used in people who have pooling/edema in their legs due to aging or a chronic condition like diabetes,” Marko explains.
Standing for Long periods & Long Runs – Compression socks are a good idea if you are going to be standing or sitting for a prolonged period. “When you stand or sit for too long, blood can pool in the lower leg and foot and the veins will have a harder time pumping the blood up to the heart.” Says Marko. Compression socks help prevent the pooling of blood and help steer clear of blood clots. Marko recommends compression socks for someone who stands all day for work (nurse, factory worker, etc). And, for someone going on a long exercise routine like a long run, as well as someone who sits all day for their job (desk job) it’s best to slap on a pair of compressions.
Lifting Weights – Throwing iron and lifting heavy go hand and hand as the compression socks help keep your blood pumping and clots at bay. If you are wearing compression socks during your training session, leaving them on post-workout can help with recovery says Marko, but, “One might want to use looser compression if they were using a stronger compression during working out.” She says.
When Not To Wear Compression Socks – Compression socks are not recommended for bed. “You also need to change the socks and give your skin a break to breathe every three days if you want to wear them consistently.” Recommends Marko.
“The level of sock compression goes by your comfort level and also if you have any problems with circulation.” Says Marko. If you have a circulation problem then you need stronger compression.
“A person without issues can use a more gentle compression – However, compression is a personal comfort decision so one needs to try a pair and see how they feel.” Say s Marko.
Do they feel supported? Or do they feel restrictive? It’s going to vary by person.
Compression socks offer a variety of benefits. Consulting with a Physical Therapist can help you sort out any questions and concerns regarding what compression sock is best for you!
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