Workout recovery fads come and go, but compression socks are here to stay. “There’s good evidence that compression garments aid workout recovery,” says Matthew Cowling, DO, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Madison, Wisconsin.
For example, one review and meta-analysis published in November 2017 in Sports Medicine found that compression gear enhanced recovery, with the greatest benefits seen following strength workouts (1).
When worn during or after exercise, compression socks may aid recovery by promoting better blood circulation. Their snug fit keeps the blood vessels in your legs from expanding, which prevents blood from accumulating and tamps down on swelling (2).
According to Dr. Cowling, the constant pressure on your lower legs also tames inflammation by helping your lymphatic system flush out inflammation-boosting cells. The lymphatic system is a large network of tissues, vessels, and organs that move a watery fluid called lymph into your bloodstream (3). Lymph is the fluid that remains after your body tissues get their fill of plasma. It’s made of white blood cells and protein- and fat-containing fluid from the intestines (4).
Note that compression socks come in different levels of compression. The most common levels you’ll encounter include: mild compression (8 to 15 mmHg), moderate compression (15 to 20 mmHg), firm compression (20 to 30 mmHg), and extra-firm compression (30 to 40 mmHg). The higher the numbers, the tighter the squeeze (5).
You should feel comfortable in your socks. So, if you’ve never worn compression socks before, Cowling recommends starting with the lowest level. Work your way up as needed.
To boost post-workout muscle recovery, give compression socks a try. We rounded up ten top-rated picks to narrow down your choices, below.
The Best Compression Socks for Men
- Brown, Freddy et al. “Compression Garments and Recovery from Exercise: A Meta-Analysis.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 47,11 (2017): 2245-2267. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0728-9.
- Gilmerm. “What You Should Know About Compression Socks.” Cleveland Clinic, 18 Oct. 2020, health.clevelandclinic.org/what-you-should-know-about-compression-socks.
- “Lymphatic System: Parts and Common Problems.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21199-lymphatic-system. Accessed 4 Apr. 2022.
- “Lymph System.” Medline Plus, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002247.htm. Accessed 4 Apr. 2022.
- Healthwick. “Compression Socks Compression Levels.” Healthwick, healthwick.ca/pages/compression-socks-compression-levels. Accessed 4 Apr. 2022.