Do You Wear Compression Socks for Hiking?

Many of my friends use compression socks, and they love them.

They claim that compression socks offer excellent support and reduce swelling.

Feet swelling is expected in a hike. But for some people, the bump is more prominent than others. Yet, this minor swelling will never be an issue if you don’t push your limits extremely high. I’ve never seen anyone traveling with me complaining too much about feet swelling. Instead, I’ve seen them enjoying a different experience.

It has never been an issue for me, either. But I wanted to try compression socks for hiking myself.

I’ve been particular about hiking footwear. I research so much about how to pick the proper hiking boots. I’ve even worried if I need a lightweight sock. But I never thought of compression socks for anything.

Related: Not Every Hiking Shoe Is a Hiking Boot. Here’s the Difference.

Also, non of my friends’ claims are scientifically proven either. There are very few studies on this. Of course, searching for ‘compression socks hiking’ may find some research papers about the topic. But they are usually particular about a target group.

How does it help a hiker who doesn’t have special medical conditions? I had to find it myself.

This post is everything I found on my quest.

Note that this post is not medical advice. But it helps you make an educated guess about compression socks for hiking. Always take your concerns to your health care professional.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for qualified purchases. But it never affects your price or what I pick.

Jump to our top 10 list.

How do compression socks help?

Blood flow in your body determines how far you can work. But gravity pulls our blood towards the lower legs when we stand on our feet for an extended period.

It’s nothing that concerns most people. Our heart can circulate blood well even after many hours of walking.

But if you have specific vein conditions, which we’ll discuss later in this post, you may have mild to serious issues when hiking. It may be difficult for your blood getting back from your lower leg to your heart. The heart can’t pump blood to the legs without getting deoxygenated blood back to the upper portion.

You may have cramping with a lack of oxygen and the lactic acid formed in the muscles not adequately flushed.

Compression socks apply pressure to the leg area. It’s no different than squeezing the tube of your toothpaste. Because of this extra pressure, the deoxygenated blood can flow back to the upper portion more easily.

That isn’t rocket science.

Types of compression socks and how they are different from regular hiking socks?

Compression sleeves: These are a pair of tight cloaths that covers your calves. You don’t see the bottom part of socks in these—socks without feet. This is great if you need compression but still want to use your hiking socks. You can wear them along with your regular hiking socks.

Feet compression socks and Ankle braces: These are different kinds of socks and sleeves designed to give you better arch support. They are helpful for long walking with heavy backpacks.

Graduated compression socks: These socks add more compression around the ankle area. The pressure gradually decreases as it goes towards your shin. Some people also wear specially designed compression socks for specific pressure points.

Compression socks don’t offer the best cushion for your feet. Therefore some hikers prefer to wear two socks. Compression socks first and then regular hiking socks on top of it.

How do compression hiking socks differ from regular hiking socks? Hiking socks are generally tight enough. They are not very elastic either. Instead, they give you an extra cushion to avoid friction between your legs and your hiking boots.

Hiking compression socks are usually knee-high socks. But regular hiking socks are not knee high, but a few inches above your ankle. Compression socks need to be knee-high to support the calf muscles. But you can also find ankle and foot compression socks and braces.

You need to keep your feet dry when you’re hiking or traveling. Compression socks give you less moisture control. Your regular hiking compression socks offer excellent moisture wicking too.

Who should be wearing compression socks?

Compression socks are primarily designed for specific medical conditions. Suppose you have a situation like diabetes, varicose veins, or deep vein thrombosis. In that case, you’d be using a compression sock already.

But wearing compression socks may be beneficial even if you don’t have these conditions yet. Because according to Mayoclinic, conditions like deep vein thrombosis may not have visible symptoms. But you may have blood clots internally. Check back on your family history. You should have extra protection if you have unusual leg swelling or muscle soreness.

All right, but what about it hikers in general? It appears there are benefits.

Feet swelling happens to everyone regardless of age, fitness, and medical condition. One obvious plus is that compression socks help reduce swelling during a hike. Some moderate compression socks may be suitable for everyone.

Also, it may help to wear a hiking boot slightly bigger than your normal size.

Do hikers need compression socks?

I’ve had mild muscle clamping many times. They were not very serious. In general, you can recover in a few minutes. A little pain may last for a few days, though. But what if you can’t enjoy your hike to the fullest?

Compression socks are more than some extra protection around your calf muscles.

Feet swelling is expected during a backpacking trip. Thus using a compression sock to reduce swelling seems trivial. Regular socks offer an excellent cushion to keep your feet warm. But it may not efficiently minimize discomfort and swelling of tired legs.

Related: 10 Hiking Rain Gear to Stay Warm on a Multi-Day Backpacking Trip.

Muscle cramping is normal too. I do get them frequently when hiking under cold conditions. Regular blood flow is a must for temperature regulation in your body. If you carry a heavy pack, then you run into the risk of injuring yourself.

You don’t necessarily have to have deep vein thrombosis or blood clots to wear compression socks. Compression socks are an excellent addition to your outdoor gear.

Can hiking compression socks prevent blisters?

We usually get irritating blisters when we’re backpacking for a few days. The reasons for blisters are many. Friction, heat, and wet feet are some prevalent causes of blisters.

Your regular hiking socks offer extra padding to avoid friction. But medium cushioning alone is not enough for your blister-prone feet.

A pair of the best compression socks can help regulate temperature and keep your feet warm. It helps reduce the chances of blisters appearing. But it has yet to be scientifically proven.

Also, check for five-toe design (aka seamless toe design) socks. These socks offer a snug fit around the toe area and reduce friction. It’s been claimed to prevent blisters significantly.

How long should you wear compression socks?

The extra pressure from compression socks has benefits. But it doesn’t mean you should wear compression socks throughout a hike. If the compression is too high or constrained, it only creates discomfort.

Wearing compression socks for too long can cause numbness. I’ve even experienced tingling in my toes, even though I can’t relate them to the compression. I only wear them when I’m walking.

Also, you should not be wearing compression socks when you’re sleeping. If you want to keep your feet warm, wear hiking or regular wool socks when camping.

You might have guessed it already. Blood flow is normal unless you have a special medical condition when you’re resting. There is not much gravitational pull. So, you don’t need compression socks when sleeping.

How should you wear compression socks for hiking?

If this is your first time having compression socks and you want to try them, gradually increase their usage. Because compression socks are a health-related item and you can’t risk your legs during a hike, you must not go backpacking with tight compression socks.

Look for the compression rating of your socks. If it’s less than 15 mmHg, they are low-compression socks. It’s safe for most people to start with this. See if it causes any numbness, tingling, or discomfort. Wear them for a casual walk first.

If there’s no issue, you can try a day hike. Then do the tests on a moderate compression sock. The intermediate level for compression socks is around 15-25 mmHg.

Beyond this limit is usually for medical purposes. If, for example, someone is recovering from severe cramping, high-compression socks could aid recovery. But these kinds of socks are often used when you’re resting. You should not try them for active sports like a hike.

I urge you to talk to your healthcare professionals before wearing socks with compression higher than 20 mmHg.

How to pick the best hiking compression socks.

I assume you’d have decided to own a pair of compression socks. If not, you may want to see if your compression socks fit you. Here’s how you should decide.

I’ve also added my top 10 suggestions to ease the work if you’re buying one.

What should you look for in hiking compression socks?

Compression rating.

The first thing you should check is how much pressure your socks offer. This is also known as the compression rating of the socks.

We’ve talked about it in the previous section as well. But here’s a summary:

  1. Below 15 mmHg – low compression – suitable for everyday use and to test if compression socks hiking fit you.
  2. 15-25 mmHg – medium compression – Usually a reasonable range for hiking compression socks
  3. Beyond 25 mmHg – high compression – Typically for medical recovery. Not compression socks for hiking.

Compression socks material

Usually, compression socks are made of a blend of merino wool and synthetic fibers.

If the proportion of synthetic materials is high, they could dry quickly. They are also very durable. Comparatively, socks made of synthetic material are less expensive.

But there are more comfortable options to consider.

Merino wool socks are excellent moisture-wicking and super soft. Merino wool, as well as bamboo socks, are breathable and warmer.

I’d lean towards Merino wool socks for their comfort and warmth. It matters more on a long hike than durability.

The design

Hiking socks must be in the proper shape and fit for maximum comfort.

Usually, you need a few inches above the ankle. This ankle support avoids friction with hiking boots and prevents irritation. But compression socks are knee-high socks. A better compression sock should have a snug fit.

You can find compression socks with a seamless toe design to prevent blisters.

10 Best compression socks in 2022

Sockwell Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock: Overall Best

Sockwell Circulator Moderate Graduated Compression Sock

Sockwell Circulator for Women

Sockwell Circulator for Men

These are the best compression socks we find in the market. On Amazon, Sockwell Circulators already have five-star ratings from more than four thousand people.

The main reason for our suggestion is its compression rating. Sockwell Circulators are moderate compression level socks at 15-20 mmHg pressure. Pressure is more near the ankle and gradually loosens up towards your knees.

Sockwell Circulators mostly have natural fabric. 32% is Merino wool, and another 31% is Rayon (Bamboo.) Thus these socks are very comfortable to wear day long. But to improve its durability, about another 32% Nylon is also there.

  1. Compression: Sockwell circulator is a moderate compression (15-20 mmHg) sock that provides graduated compression. Pressure increases in four zones, making it an excellent choice for most hikers. Compression is high around the ankle area and less in the calves.
  2. Design: The Sockwell circulator has seamless toe closure and excellent arch support. It’s not much different from other hiking socks.
  3. Material: Sockwell circulator has a mix of merino wool (32 %,) synthetic materials (Nylon-32%, Rayon -31%,) and about 5% Spandex. Thus, these socks dry quickly and are comfortable enough for backpacking.

Injini OTC compression socks: For blisters-free hiking

Injinji Ultra Compression OTC Sock for Women

Injinji Ultra Compression OTC Sock for Men

These are lightweight, well-designed, and graduated compression socks.

Its five-toe design reduces friction and prevents blisters from forming on your feet. Injini holds the patent for the design. Hence you may not find it elsewhere. Yet, it’s too light to wear as hiking socks. Thus, you may want another pair around them to give you more cushion and warmth.

These aren’t too tight. Hence, it’s on the list for anyone who wants to try compression socks for hiking.

  1. Compression: Injini Ultra Compression OTC socks have low graduated compression. Therefore, it’s an excellent option to try as your first choice.
  2. Design: Ergonomic five-toe design help reduce friction and prevent blistering.
  3. Material: Uses mostly synthetic material— 80% Nylon and 20% Lycra.

Physix Gear Sport: Most Popular

Physix Gear Sport Compression socks (Unisex)

Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks are the most popular on this list. It has around 68k 4.5-star ratings on Amazon.

Their compression level is a bit high. Yet, most people wear them comfortably for high-intense sports like cycling. A few even use them when all day long, although that’s not something I recommend for hikers.

  1. Compression: High-graduated compression socks (20-30 mmHg.) Pretty snug fit around the feet. Talk to your healthcare professional if you need. These are specifically designed for athletes.
  2. Design: Solid knit double-stitched fabric. They may be comfortable to wear, but you can only hand wash them. When you do Physix gear, sport compression socks are highly durable.
  3. Material: Synthetic—70% Nylon, 30% Spandex

Sockwell Pulse Firm Graduated Compression socks

Sockwell Women’s Pulse Firm Graduated Compression socks

Sockwell Men’s Pulse Firm Graduated Compression Socks

The top of this list is also similar socks. But it’s not the only Sockwell-branded sock on this list.

The Pulse firm socks are a bit more intense in compression, yet not too tight either. Like the circulator, pulse-firm socks, too, have graduated compression in four zones.

  1. Compression: 20-30 mmHg, high graduated compression. Tighter around the ankle.
  2. Design: Seamless toe closure
  3. Material: 32% Merino Wool, 32% Nylon, 31% Rayon, 5% Spandex

MudGear Premium Compression Socks: Best Synthetic

MudGear Premium Compression Socks – OCR Socks (Unisex)

MudGear Compression is a popular synthetic material sock for hikers. Because they are synthetic, you can wash them on machines, and they are durable. These socks use a proprietary yarn blend to comfort your feet.

MudGear Compression socks are rated at the mid-level. Hence, most people can wear them casually for extended periods. They do a pretty impressive job of preventing abrasions too.

  1. Compression: 15-20mmHg mid-graduated compression. Good for a wider range of use cases.
  2. Design: knee-high seamless toe design
  3. Material: Synthetic—Nylon(63%,) Polyester(28%,) and Spandex

FuelMeFoot Copper Compression socks: Best for your transmission

FuelMeFoot Copper Compression Socks (Unisex)

Copper compression socks are Nylon low-compression socks. These are good socks for casual use too.

These socks are very thin. Hence it’s not advisable to use them as hiking socks. Use them along with your hiking shoes. Wear these fantastic socks first, and put on your regular hiking socks on top of it.

These are fantastic choices if you’ve never used compression socks before and want to try them.

  1. Compression: Mid-compression non-graduated compression socks. The pressure is even throughout the socks.
  2. Design: This sock has been designed with copper-infused material to balance pressure, warmth, and comfort. These socks are lightweight. But since they are too thin, you might need to wear another pair of socks on top.
  3. Material: Nylon

CHARMKING Compression Socks

Copper Compression Socks

Most products on this list are over-the-calf, knee-high socks. But not this one.

CHARMKING Compression Socks is an ankle sock with a mid-compression rating. The compression is within the range 15-20mmHg. Although it’s not graduated compression, which ankle socks don’t need, the level of pressure is not even. It is different at targeted points.

These socks are made of cotton. I wouldn’t recommend cotton socks for backpacking trips. But still useful if you’re planning a day hike.

  1. Compression: 15-20mmHg, mid-compression.
  2. Design: Seamless toe ankle socks
  3. Material: Cotton

CEP Tall Running Compression

CEP Men’s Tall Running Compression

CEP Women’s Running Compression Tall Socks

CEP Tall Running Compression Socks are high compression socks.

What’s unique about it is its compression profile. CEP calls it a graduation + consistent compression. This design gives you much less chance of developing muscle soreness. Further it’s excellent for extended use.

  1. Compression: 20-30mmHg graduated + consistent
  2. Design: Halo top-band
  3. Material: 88% Polyamid, 12% Elastan

NEWZILL Ankle Compression Socks

NEWZILL Ankle Compression Socks for Men & Wome

Here’s another stylish ankle-cut sock. This one is made of synthetic material, and they are durable. NEWZILL socks have excellent breathability and are moisture-wicking. This can be traced to their patented Clima-pro system.

This again falls under the moderate compression range. Hence most people find it comfortable to wear during a hike.

The non-binding welt top will keep your sock up. Yet won’t feel it too tight around the ankle. Compression is high around the arch, heel, and ankle. You can also feel these socks cushier.

  1. Compression: 15-20mmHg, moderate graduated compression.
  2. Design: Ankle cut seamless toe.
  3. Material: 28% Lycra, 72% Nylon.

nCEP Athletic Compression Run Sleeves

Men’sen’s Compression Run Sleeve
Women’sen’s Athletic Compression Run Sleeves

The last one on this list is a sleeve, not a sock, technically.

But you may find it very helpful. You can combine them with your regular hiking shoes for better comfort.

It’s a lightweight, breathable sleeve. Thus, your muscles may feel well relaxed. Breathability is also critical to prevent any muscle cramping.

Yet, this sleeve is a high-compression one. Since it’s around 20-30mmHg, you might want to wear them for a short time first. If it’s causing trouble, you may have to change them.

  1. Compression: Graduated high compression
  2. Design: Sleeve
  3. Material: Nylon.

Hiking compression socks for other outdoor adventures.

Trail runners usually wear compression socks when they are out. Trail running can be lengthy. But even though it’s only a few miles, they are high-intense body exercises. There can be a high amount of lactic acid in their muscles that need a flush out.

Another high-intense workout is mountain biking. But bikers usually ride for extended distances as well.

You may have similar issues when you’re involved in high-intensity exercises for a prolonged period. You should talk to your healthcare professional and consider wearing compression socks.

My experience with hiking compression socks

I’ve already mentioned that I get feet swelling and sometimes muscle cramping. But they were not severe, and I didn’t need compression socks.

I’ve used compression socks for hiking to see if it has any benefit. The benefits are marginal in my case. My regular hiking socks are perfect for almost all the hikes.

I mostly hiked rainforests wearing compression socks. For such a humid environment, I’d prefer wearing regular socks. But Wearing merino wool compression socks gave me the best of both worlds.

Therefore, the need for compression socks is personality-dependent. Because I’ve seen my friends praising them but couldn’t see the significant benefits of hiking compression socks.

What else can you do to improve blood flow during a hike?

Besides wearing compression socks, you can do a few other things to improve blood circulation around the feet area. The key is to keep your feet warm and well-rested.

Even regular hiking socks made of merino wool give your feet extra cushion and are moisture-wicking. If you buy little snug socks, they will also give you moderate compression. Many hikers, myself included, find this level of pressure, comfort, and warmth enough.

Bring a few cushier socks with you and wear them when resting. Ideally, if you’re camping, inside your tent while sleeping, you can use your other sock while walking.

But, overall comfort has a significant impact on healthy blood circulation. Therefore when camping, you must keep yourself warmer. You could try something like a suitable sleeping bag. Keep your tent dry and wear dry clothing.

Conclusion

Your gear will make or break your entire hiking experience. Whether planning a day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, choosing the best outfit is essential.

Legs and feet are the most critical parts of the body when you’re hiking. What if you don’t protect them the right way? I trust most people would agree with me on this.

You may have unpleasant experiences if you don’t get your socks right. Friction may induce blisters; abrasions and bruises could harm your toes.

Other critical injuries that can happen to your legs are muscle cramping and muscle sourness. Both could be directly traced back to a lack of blood circulation in the legs.

Compression socks are the simplest solution to this problem. This post discussed several questions people have about compression sock hiking.

We’ve also given you our top 10 suggestions if you need a shortcut. Most of them are lightweight, thin socks. Hence you might want another pair of proper hiking socks on top.

But the extra liner is worth taking. With this, you can now take more educated guesses about what to wear for your next hike.

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