What are Circulation Socks?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Circulation socks are specially designed socks that promote proper circulation in the feet and legs. The socks generally rise to a point that is over the calf. Sometimes referred to as support or compression socks, these socks are available in both dress and sports styles.

Circulation socks are compression garments that promote circulation in the feet and legs.
Circulation socks are compression garments that promote circulation in the feet and legs.

Circulation socks can help with a number of different health conditions where blood flow to the extremities is impaired. Persons suffering with thrombosis, phlebitis, or edema can often benefit from wearing these socks. The construction of the sock applies graduated pressure on the feet and lower legs, helping to ensure a proper flow of blood in and out of the area.

In appearance, compression socks appear to be regular socks. The dressy type appears to be no different from any type of high rise sock. In like manner, the sports model is not unlike the standard cotton blend sports socks that are routinely worn by many people while playing tennis or other sports. The only difference is the amount of pressure generated by the garment. While all types of socks exert enough pressure to conform to the foot, ankle, and calf, that pressure is normally just enough to keep the sock in place. With circulation socks, the amount of pressure generated not only holds the sock in place, but provides a gentle massaging action that stimulates blood flow.

While these socks can be helpful for persons with some types of blood glucose issues, it is important to note that they are not truly diabetic socks. However, persons who are in a pre-diabetic state or who control diabetes without the use of insulin may find circulation socks are effective enough to minimize the incidence of cold feet, leg cramps, and other physical conditions that are common to the disease.

It is relatively easy to purchase these socks, as many retail outlets sell them in a range of styles. The socks can also be purchased online without much trouble. While they cost a little more than standard socks, circulation socks tend to hold their shape and last longer than standard socks.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I've heard a lot about circulation enhancing travel socks, but the whole thing just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

They're really tight, right? So wouldn't that cut off your circulation more than enhance it? I'm no big biology person, but that just doesn't connect for me.

Can you explain to me why people buy tight socks to better their circulation, but claim that tight panty hose or gloves cut off their circulation?


Using circulation socks can be a lifesaver when traveling. I always use them since my feet just swell up like basketballs if I don't, and I end up hobbling around for the first few days after my flight.

My dad also uses them religiously -- he had a leg clot a few years ago, and apparently he's still at risk, so he always uses these thigh high medical compression socks that the doctor gave him.

I just use the regular Coolmax socks, which are just over the calf socks, but I'd love to get the medical ones -- I can't even imagine how great my legs would feel with those babies! But even over the calf socks beat the pants off of work socks for flying.

I would highly recommend it to anybody who gets "flight legs" after long flights -- you will definitely be able to tell a difference, trust me on that!


When buying socks for a diabetic, should you look for socks over the knee or ones that end lower down? Should I get over the knee or over the calf socks, or ones that end at the ankle?

My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and she gets terrible edema in her feet and legs, so we're trying to find some good socks for her.

So can you give me any good tips for choosing socks for circulation for a diabetic? They all look rather like novelty socks to me, so I really don't know which ones I should get. Any and all input would be so very appreciated!

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