When are Compression Socks Bad for You?

Generally, compression socks have more benefits than downfalls; however, even though compression socks are great for older people, runners, and workers who spend most of their days on their feet, there are correct and incorrect ways to wear these socks. If you wear your socks incorrectly, you could do more harm to yourself than good. The surest way to make sure you're wearing compression socks safely is to speak with a healthcare professional before purchasing a pair. Your doctor can walk you through the different pressures that compression socks can offer you, the amount of time you should spend wearing them, and all the possible risk factors in your unique case. If you have any serious health or skin conditions, especially any of the ones included at the bottom of this article, conversing with your doctor before going any further is an absolute necessity.

Before You Buy

Before purchasing a pair of compression socks, the first thing you should do is to research the many different brands available. Don't trust everything you see in your local department store because not all compression socks are created equally. Reputable brands with 15-20 years of experience put decades of thought and care into the materials that they choose for their socks. Still, some companies want to hop on the compression sock trend without ensuring their socks will be safe, or even beneficial, for the people who purchase them. You shouldn't buy compression socks impulsively; take your time and do your homework so that you make the safest, smartest decision for yourself.

The other critical choice to make before purchasing a pair of compression socks is that you find a pair that fits you correctly. Most of the problems that compression socks can cause are rooted in people wearing the wrong size. Compression socks are indeed going to feel a little tight because their job is to apply pressure to your calves and ankles to improve blood circulation, but if they fit too tightly, they can have the opposite effect and cut off your blood circulation. Some healthcare professionals can size you for compression socks in-office so that you know you're getting a perfect size. If you choose not to refer to your physician, make sure you reach out to your chosen sock manufacturer for a proper sizing guide.

After You Buy

Other precautions you can take include familiarizing yourself with the care instructions from your sock manufacturer, especially when it comes to washing and drying your socks. Improper washing or drying techniques could warp the socks so that they don't fit you correctly anymore. Once you start noticing that a pair of compression socks is starting to lose its stretch, it's best to dispose of it and purchase a new pair. Make sure that you remove your compression socks and replace them with a fresh, dry pair every day so that they don't adhere to your skin and become difficult to remove.

Unless your doctor has instructed you to do otherwise, you need to take off your compression socks before going to sleep each night. When you lie down, your legs are horizontal to your heart, which means there's no hindrance to blood circulation like there is when you're standing on your feet all day. If you wear your compression socks while sleeping, it could have the opposite effect on your blood circulation and cause swelling and difficulty breathing.

Part of the danger of wearing compression socks while you sleep stems from the fact that, as you toss and turn during the night, you're probably not going to notice if one of your socks gets accidentally bunched up around one area of your leg. When you're awake and moving around, it's easy to notice and adjust your sock to its normal fit, but if your sock is left in a bunch for hours at a time, it could cause improper blood circulation. The last thing you want is for your compression socks to have the exact opposite effect from what they were intended. You can prevent that from happening by simply remembering to remove them before you crawl into bed.

It's usually okay to wear your compression socks all day long, but one thing you don't want to happen is your muscles becoming so dependent on compression socks for proper blood circulation that they "forget" how to do their job and become "lazy." If that happens, your muscles could become weaker and more susceptible to injury, which could be particularly problematic for athletes and runners. Get all the benefits you can from your compression socks, but don't let your legs become too dependent on them.

Things to Watch For

If you notice that your veins are hard and swollen, that there's a tenderness/lack of circulation in one or both legs, that one or both of your legs are cramping, pay close attention and contact a medical professional. If you notice that one area of a vein is red and warm, that you have a weak pulse/a pulse that feels out of rhythm, that your skin is turning blue/purple, or that you're having difficulty breathing at a normal rate, stop wearing the socks and contact your doctor right away.

People who are prone to dry skin or live in/travel to places with particularly dry climates may find themselves chafing, scraping, or even bruising from wearing compression socks. Additionally, socks that don't fit you properly can dig into the skin on your legs, leaving temporary dents and making you itch. The likelihood of any of this happening is a lot smaller if you make sure you're wearing socks that fit you correctly, but older adults, people with skin diseases, and people with more fragile, breakable skin may have more skin-related problems because of their compression socks than most.

People with the following health conditions should not use compression socks without the expressed authorization of a healthcare professional:

Skin disease/infection Heart disease Peripheral vascular or arterial disease (affecting your lower extremities) Diabetes Nerve damage

Compression socks can make a world of difference for people who need them, but make sure that you wear yours responsibly so that you don't accidentally hurt yourself in the long run.