Long and Short of It: Styles and Lengths of Socks

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Compression socks, compression sleeves, or running socks? Ankle socks, crew socks, or knee high or below the knee? Do these sentences make you dizzy while shopping for a new pair of compression socks? Are you asking yourself what's the difference, and does it matter while you shop and browse our shop's inventory?
Take a deep, calming breath! We're here to help!
Compression socks, regardless of the length, help improve circulation. They keep the blood flowing back towards the heart by applying tightness around your feet and gradually decreasing pressure as the sock moves up your leg. While compression socks benefit everyone, you may not need or enjoy one style. How do you know which type or length you'll like? And what do the styles mean?
Let's break it down for you so you can find the perfect pair.

Ankle Length

Sometimes confused with invisible length because they are both short cut, ankle socks generally come up to just below the outside ankle bone. A prevalent choice for athletes who desire breathability and protection, this length type can also be worn with short boots and fashion sneakers; you name it.
At Crazy Compression, we have a line of compression socks for runners with an ankle-length cut. Our shortest socks, this style features a heel tab to help with pull-down and chafing and compression panels to support the foot during high impact.

Crew Length

One of the most classic styles of socks, crew length, is anywhere between the ankle to mid-calf. A cut featured in casual socks, dress socks, and athletic socks, crew socks work all year round and are very versatile in terms of use. Everyone should have at least one of these socks in their closet.
An excellent athletic length sock, we offer a line of crew-cut socks for working out, but they also work wonders for any sport.

Mid Calf Length

Hitting mid-calf or just below the top of the calf, this length is designed to keep feet and the ankle warm and stay put no matter how much the wear is moving. Sometimes called trousers or dress socks, many people wear these socks with pants because even when the pant leg rides up, the skin is still covered.

Knee-High Length

Socks that stop just below the knee are the most popular style, making them the easiest sock to find. They're prevalent in colder climates and during fall and winter as they can keep you warmer than shorter socks and cover more skin.

Over the Knee

Over-the-knee or thigh-high socks, sit above the calf and either above the knee or mid-thigh. Thigh-highs cover almost the entire leg and are another excellent choice for cold temps and winter. They are also incredibly stylish-looking and fun to wear.


Sleeve socks are most commonly found with compression. Sleeves start at or above the ankle and generally end at or right below the knee. Sleeve socks are excellent for those who want to either wear the socks of their choice over their feet and still enjoy the benefits of compression or athletes and those recovering from an injury who need to leave the foot free.

Over-the-Knee or Knee High?

If you've decided you prefer a pair of compression socks that reach or go over the knee, the next question you might ask yourself is: which is better?

Compression Knee Socks

They're popular because they cover the parts of the leg where most people experience swelling, including the ankles and calves, but they're not as tricky to put on as their longer counterparts. By definition, compression socks are made of a tighter, more stretch-resistant material than regular socks and stockings. To put them on correctly, you must fold them almost entirely inside out, put your foot inside, and then unfold the fabric gradually up your leg. Knee-high compression socks aren't nearly as long as over-the-knee compression socks, so, naturally, putting them on doesn't take as much time or effort.
Not only are knee-high socks easier to put on, but they're a lot more comfortable. Thigh-high socks have been reported to feel tighter than knee-high socks, sometimes even sliding down the leg and causing more skin irritation and chafing. For reasons related to both comfort and convenience, knee-high compression socks are the crowd-pleasing option.

Over the Knee Socks

Over-the-knee and thigh-high compression socks are prescribed to people with severe medical conditions, especially when blood clots form in the leg due to lack of blood flow, which is prevented by moving around and exercising. Even though regular compression socks boost and improve blood circulation, they might not be enough to prevent blood clots in people who cannot exercise adequately. Over-the-knee socks cover a more significant portion of the leg than knee-high socks do; that means they also reduce the risk of blood clots in more parts of the leg, which is essential for patients recovering from surgery and immobile people who need the extra help.
Knee-high socks are reported to be more comfortable for the general population, but people with large calves may benefit more from wearing thigh-high compression socks. The reason for this comes down to the tightness of the fabric. As the pressure in a pair of compression socks gradually decreases as it goes higher up the leg, people with particularly large calves may experience tightness and discomfort that others don't. Having socks over the knee, which gives the wearer an extra few inches of material, may provide relief and keep the compression socks from moving or sliding against the wearer's skin.

Which One Is Right For You?

The length of socks you choose all comes down to your personal preference, comfort, or medical needs. No matter which length you choose, the most important thing to remember is to ensure the material lies smoothly against your skin without wrinkles or bunching.
Regarding compression socks, all options improve blood circulation, reduce swelling, and offer relief for sore and achy legs. You should wear whichever length is most comfortable and convenient for you. If you aren't sure which length to try, consult your doctor for guidance.

Reading next

How do I Pick the Ideal Compression Level?
What Are the Best Compression Socks for Cold Feet?

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