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    Compression Socks vs. Sleeves: Which One Do You Need?

    compression socks for achilles tendonitis

    Compression Socks vs. Sleeves: Which One Do You Need?

    In this article, we will explore the recommended length of time for wearing compression socks after knee surgery, considering various factors and expert advice

    jUNE 12, 2023   |    3 Mins Read


    There is a need to be very clear and sure about your compression gear needs. You might think that all compression gear do the same thing, but they are designed to provide support in different ways, target different areas, and help with different medical conditions. 

    Here’s a look at the differences between them that will help you decide which one is right for you.

    Understanding Compression Socks

    Compression socks provide support to your feet and lower legs, with compression ratings ranging from 10 mmHg - 60 mmHg. 

    Compression socks are most suitable for:

    • Travel and long flights
    • Pregnancy swelling
    • Varicose veins
    • Long periods of standing or sitting 

    Top Benefits of Compression Socks

    • Improved blood circulation: Compression socks are designed to increase the pressure of your leg veins, which forces more blood back to your heart and helps improve circulation.Reduced fatigue: 
    • Faster removal of lactic acid: The increased blood circulation can also help to speed up the removal of built-up lactic acid, which is another cause of muscle fatigue.
    • Varicose vein prevention: Compression socks can help alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins, such as swelling, pain, and heaviness in the legs. The graduated pressure exerted by compression socks supports the veins and assists in maintaining their proper functioning.
    • Prevention of swelling: Compression socks exert graduated pressure, with the highest compression at the ankles and gradually decreasing towards the calves. This compression mechanism assists in preventing the accumulation of fluid in the legs and helps reduce edema (swelling) caused by conditions like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or prolonged standing or sitting.

    Types of Compression socks

    With a mere glance, you might think that knee-high and thigh-high compression socks are the same, but they differ in terms of support, coverage, and features. 

    Knee-High Compression Socks:

    Knee-high compression socks primarily focus on providing compression and support to the calf muscles and lower leg. They are commonly used to alleviate symptoms related to conditions such as varicose veins, edema (swelling), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These socks can also be beneficial for athletes, travelers, and individuals who spend prolonged periods sitting or standing, as they help prevent blood pooling in the lower leg.

    They are commonly used by athletes and individuals who spend long periods of time on their feet, such as nurses, flight attendants, or frequent travelers. These socks can help reduce leg fatigue, muscle soreness, and the risk of blood clots.

    Thigh-High Compression Socks:

    Thigh-high socks offer coverage to a larger portion of the leg compared to knee-high socks. In addition to the benefits provided to the calf and lower leg, they also target the muscles and circulatory system in the thigh area. 

    These socks are often prescribed for medical purposes and more specific conditions. They are commonly used to manage lymphedema, a condition characterized by swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. Thigh-high compression socks are also beneficial for individuals with chronic venous insufficiency, a condition where the veins in the legs have difficulty returning blood to the heart.

    Expert tip:

    Almost all compression socks and sleeves are built with moisture-wicking fabrics to keep sweat away. Another important features you should look at is whether they have dedicated anti-blisters, double-stitched seams and double-layered fabric.

    Understanding Compression Sleeves

    Compression sleeves are typically tubular in shape and slide over the desired body part. They are designed to exert pressure on the muscles and soft tissues, providing support and stability during physical activities. Compression sleeves are often used in sports and fitness settings to enhance performance, reduce muscle fatigue, and aid in injury prevention.

    Compression sleeves are most useful for:

    • Running
    • Cycling
    • Weight lifting
    • Squats
    • Exercises

    Top Benefits of Compression Sleeves

    • Muscle Stabilization: Compression sleeves provide targeted compression to the muscles, promoting stability and reducing muscle oscillation during physical activity. This stabilization helps improve overall muscle coordination and control, enhancing performance and reducing the risk of injuries caused by excessive movement.
    • Reduced Muscle Soreness: The compression provided by sleeves aids in reducing muscle vibration and micro-tears, which are common contributors to post-workout muscle soreness. By minimizing these effects, compression sleeves can help alleviate muscle soreness and speed up recovery, allowing individuals to resume their activities more quickly.
    • Increased Performance: Wearing compression sleeves can enhance athletic performance by improving blood circulation to the muscles. This increased blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients more efficiently, improving muscle function and endurance. With enhanced oxygenation, athletes may experience improved power output, reduced fatigue, and increased performance during training sessions or competitive events.
    • Joint Support: Compression sleeves not only benefit the muscles but also provide support to the joints. The compression helps stabilize the joints, reducing the risk of strains or sprains. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with joint instability or those recovering from joint-related injuries.
    • Temperature Regulation: Similar to compression socks, some calf compression sleeves are designed with moisture-wicking properties to keep the covered area dry and comfortable. This feature helps regulate body temperature, preventing excessive sweating and aiding in thermoregulation during physical activities.

    Top Benefits of Compression Sleeves

    Knee Compression Sleeves

    Knee compression sleeves are designed to provide targeted support and stabilization for the knee, helping individuals with joint instability or recovering from knee-related injuries. They are often used in sports and fitness activities, such as running or weightlifting, to enhance performance, reduce fatigue, and aid in injury prevention.

    Ankle Sleeves 

    For common ankle injuries or conditions, such as sprains, strains, plantar fasciitis, and achilles tendonitis, ankle compression sleeves can help provide support and stabilization to improve recovery. These sleeves also aid in reducing swelling and inflammation associated with ankle injuries.

    Leg Compression Sleeves

    Leg compression sleeves provide support and stabilization to the calf, thigh, and hamstring muscles. They are beneficial for individuals with chronic venous insufficiency or other circulatory conditions, as well as athletes who require additional support and stability during physical activities.

    When you break it down, wearing compression socks and sleeves can benefit a variety of conditions and activities. It all comes down to your level of needs, the type of activities you do, and your personal preferences. 

    Expert tip:

    Note that the best compression socks or sleeves are made from synthetic materials such as nylon, spandex or latex. No cotton socks or sleeves should be used.

    Choosing the Right Compression Socks and Sleeves

    Selecting the appropriate compression gear is essential for reaping its full benefits. Here are some guidelines to consider when choosing compression socks or sleeves:

    Choosing the Right Compression Socks and Sleeves

    • Determine the Purpose: Consider the specific activity or condition for which you require compression support. Whether it's for sports, travel, medical reasons, or recovery, identifying the purpose will help narrow down your options.
    • Compression Level: Compression gear comes in different compression levels, typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Higher mmHg indicates greater compression. Consult with a healthcare professional or follow manufacturer guidelines to determine the appropriate compression level based on your needs.
    • Material and Breathability: Look for a compression garment made from high-quality, breathable materials that wick away moisture. This ensures comfort, prevents excessive sweating, and helps regulate body temperature during prolonged use.
    • Graduated Compression: Opt for compression gear that provides graduated compression, meaning the pressure is higher at the ankles or wrists and gradually decreases towards the upper part. This design promotes optimal blood circulation and supports the targeted area effectively.

    Other Tips for Choosing Compression Socks and Sleeves

    • Choose socks or sleeves that provide warmth and support in cold weather.
    • Choose socks and sleeves that wick away moisture for better breathability.Look for styles that provide arch and ankle support to improve comfort.
    • For closed-toe socks and sleeves, choose the ones that have wide toe-box design for better circulation.
    • Opt for socks or sleeves that have adjustable velcro straps for a better fit.
    • Don't buy "one-size-fits-all" socks or sleeves. Most importantly, consult with the brand's size chart and never do "guessing game". 
    • The best compression sleeves or socks are the ones that have silicone bands on the top of the cuff for better grip and comfort.


    • Arora, K. (2020). 21.1 Running mistakes and how to fix them for peak performance.


    Claire Evans worked as the content marketing manager at Koprez. Claire combined a background of writing and editing, marketing, and patient education to best serve consumers, fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and anyone who relies on the Koprez brand for helpful information.

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