You have been planning every single detail of your next epic vacation and yet, you might be forgetting one detail: travel compression socks.
Did you know that traveling by plane affects your body in more than a way? As we have been coming up with new ways to make our trips more enjoyable, we are also trying to fight the negative effects that flying has on our bodies.
One of them is the constant leg pain that travelers have reported after flying for long hours. This condition is not-so-jokingly called the Economy Class Syndrome (more on it below). To alleviate those pains, travel compression socks have been more popular in the last few years.
Once you know how these travel compression socks can help any traveler make start their trip on the right foot, you will want to slip them on too!
First, let’s go over the effects of flying on our legs and how compression socks work.
Flying and Leg Pain
Our bodies aren’t designed to be suspended in the air for hours. Flying takes a physical toll on our bodies, and we should prepare ourselves accordingly whenever we’re heading to the airport.
Flying can cause stress, dehydration, dry and tight skin, throat soreness, and even colds. One of the major side effects of flying is leg pains. When we stay seated for a long time in a reduced space, like during long-haul flights, blood circulation isn’t optimal. This leads to leg pain, heavy legs, and swollen feet and ankles. These conditions make up what is known as Economy Class Syndrome. Classy, isn’t it?
But one does not need to suffer from this syndrome, even if they are traveling in Economy class. There are many tips to get your blood pumping in your body and protect your legs from hurting even miles above sea level. One major way to prevent that is wearing travel compression socks on the flight.
Want to know how we got to this conclusion? Keep on reading.
Where Do Compression Socks Come From?
Compression socks aren’t some Millenial thing we came up with in the last few years. They have been around for a long time. Compression therapy may have started thousands of years before when soldiers were bandaging their legs. It was also found that compression bandages were used around 400 BCE by the Greeks to prevent blood from pooling in patients’ legs.
Hundreds of years later, new discoveries brought to the attention of the public the relationship between some medical issues and how compression therapy can treat them.
The most notable issue that compression therapy helps treat is pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms occur when a blood clot is lodged in an artery of the lung, blocking blood circulation to a lung. It originates from a blood clot that first formed in another spot (usually the legs).
Because flying comes with its fair share of leg pains and potential blood clotting, compression socks have been increasingly used to help people start — or finish, their vacations without a mandatory trip to the ER. If you are a frequent flyer or are boarding on a plane soon, here is how travel compression socks can help you too.Read Compression Sock Reviews
How Travel Compression Socks Can Help You on Your Next Flight
5.) Reduce Leg Swelling
You may have felt that your feet feel “bigger” at the end of a flight or that your shoes become too tight. That is because sitting for long hours leads blood to pool to your lower extremities, thus leading to swollen legs and ankles.
Travel compression socks have been designed to keep greater pressure around your feet and ankles and lessen it around the calves. This prevents the blood from pouring down your legs and encourages it to flow towards your heart instead.
There are many compression socks you can choose from, depending on their pressure (or compression) level:
- Mild: 8-15 mmHg. This compression level helps relieve minor swelling of fatigued legs from long periods of standing or sitting. It also helps energize tired feet, legs, ankles.
- Medium: 15-20 mmHg. Medium compression prevents minor swelling and relieves mild varicose and spider veins. This level also helps to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (keep on reading to discover its symptoms).
- Firm: 20-30 mmHg. Firm socks are best suited for those suffering from severe varicose veins, severe edema, and lymphedema. These socks help prevent the Economy Class Syndrome mentioned above and symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension and Postural Hypotension.
- Extra Firm: 30-40 mmHg. This level is best for severe varicose veins pains.
- RX: 40-50 mmHg. This is a medical grade of compression socks.
One of the tips for long flights and for those traveling for the first time is to choose the medium compression socks.
4.) Help Prevent DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Most of them occur in the thigh or lower leg. More often than not, it affects one leg and the pain can feel worse if you bend the foot upward towards your knee.
Here are some of the symptoms of DVT:
- Pain, swelling and tenderness in one of the legs—usually the calf.
- Warmth and heavy pain in the affected area.
- Red skin—particularly below the knee at the back of the leg.
If things go south and the DVT gets swollen, it could break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism. This condition can cause breathlessness, chest pain, or sudden collapse.
DVT can happen if a person is sitting for long hours in one position — like when on a plane. You also have a higher chance of having a DVT if you:
- Have a history of DVT in the family
- Are inactive for too long, like after a surgical operation
- Take certain pills—like some birth control pills
- Are pregnant
- Are overweight
- Smoke cigarettes
- Are over 40 years old
Compression socks are particularly recommended to help prevent DVT because they help with the blood circulation in the body and the legs.
3.) Alleviate Varicose Veins Pains
Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins. Those that are in the legs are the most commonly affected. Varicose veins and spider veins can either be a simple cosmetic concern or a major cause of pain.
They are due to weak or damaged valves. As you know, arteries carry blood from the heart to the tissues of the body and the veins carry the blood from the rest of the body to the heart. A nice loop and breezy operation if all parts of the body do their job. This is particularly critical in the veins of the legs because they have to work against gravity to send the blood back. However, things can get complicated when the tiny valves in the veins are damaged. Blood could then pool in the vein and cause the vein to twist.
Boarding a plane and sitting for too long in a limited space can worsen the symptoms. Travel compression socks help alleviate the pains of varicose veins, even out of the plane.
Wearing compression socks is one of the self-care habits those who suffer from this recurring problem adopt. In addition to this, people can also exercise, elevate their legs, watch their weight, avoid high heels (a big no-no on planes), and change their sitting and standing position regularly.
2.) Keep Your Legs Warm
You may have boarded an aircraft on a hot summer day while wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops only to discover that it can get cold once you’re up in the air.
Airplane temperature is usually kept between 71-45 degrees °F (22°C and 24°C), with some extremes reaching 64 and 80 °F (18°C and 27°C). If these temperatures seem reasonable to you, you’re right.
However, once passengers get comfy on their seats, they generally don’t move much. This leads to their bodies not producing as much heat as they would under normal circumstances, which can make them feel overwhelmingly cold.
If you have ever been in an airplane, you may have noticed that your feet are the ones that suffer from this unusual setup. Travel compression socks allow you to get two birds with one stone: wrap your feet in comfy and warm fabric, and help the blood pump into your body to fight that toe-cutting cold.
Travel compression socks usually have a blend of synthetic fabrics, including but not limited to: cotton, spandex, wool, polyamide, nylon, elastane, polypropylene, and high-tech. Each blend serves a different purpose and offers a different level of warmth and compression.
If you have sweaty feet, you might want to opt for moist-wicking or high-tech compression socks.
1.) Help You Stay Energized
Many of us feel drained after a flight. It is due to the cumulative effect of travel prep, stress and anticipation of the trip, and the change in timezones. But one of the reasons why your energy levels are so low is that the air pressure in the aircraft is quite low, which means you have less oxygen running in your body than when you are on sea-level. This gets even more problematic with the dehydration one can feel and prolonged hours of sitting.
Wearing compression socks, in addition to drinking plenty of fluids, can help you fill your energy tank. Compression socks increase oxygen delivery so they can help the blood circulate in your body more easily and keep you on your toes—in a good way.
Now that you know how travel socks can help you live your best international traveler life, here is a list of the many travel compression socks options available to you.
Types of Travel Compression Socks
You can choose your socks depending on compression, height, and style.
Compression: We already listed the different compression levels available. Go for a moderate level of compression for your travel compression socks. If you have a medical condition or are unsure which compression level would suit best, consult your GP.
Height: There are in fact many types of compression garments that fall under the “compression socks” term. Depending on your case, you can choose from:
- Compression socks like the ones we are accustomed to seeing.
- Calf compression sleeves that cover your calves only and not your feet.
- Ankle compression socks that cover the ankles and the heels only.
- Compression thigh highs that go up until the thighs.
- Compression leggings that look like a yoga pants.
Style: Compression socks might sound like a boring piece of clothing when, in fact, it is the opposite! While standard-looking compression socks exist, you have a wide range of choices if you want to zip up your outfit a notch and go for colorful and patterned socks.
How to Wear Travel Compression Socks Correctly
Now that you know what to expect, here are some tips on how to wear your socks correctly and maximize their effectiveness.
Before the flight: Wear them early in the morning. A common mistake travelers make is wearing their compression socks right before their trip. This doesn’t leave much time for your legs to get adapted to the socks. You should put them on in the morning when your legs are less swollen.
When you wear them, remember that even if they are tight, they shouldn’t be squeezing too hard on your skin. They shouldn’t be falling off either. They should snug your leg and not go higher than their intended height.
After the flight: Don’t take them off too soon. The key here is to give your feet enough time to adapt to three settings: before the flight, during the flight, and after the flight. So, don’t take them off as soon as you land. Wait a few hours instead, like after you get to your hotel or house.
Now that you are ready to gear up your feet with travel compression socks, head to our next article to discover the best options available on the internet and our expert reviews on each one of them. Happy traveling!