A proper pair of compression socks will help prevent blisters and provide extra muscle support while hiking. They reduce muscle inflammation and keep blood flowing to your heart. This helps keep you energized during your hike, helps speed up your recovery time, and minimizes the effects of Delayed Onset Muscle Fatigue (DOMS) over the next few days.
But how do you know what compression socks to use for hiking and the best way to use them? I'll cover the advantages you can expect from regular hiking socks, how to get used to wearing them, and some guidelines to ensure you get the most out of your compression socks during and after your hike.
Why use compression socks for hiking
Blisters and leg fatigue are just two things that can completely ruin a hike. Using the right footwear and the right socks can help minimize these problems, or even avoid them altogether. While well-fitting standard hiking socks help prevent blisters, they tend to be thick and bulky.
Compression socks are made of elastic material that fits snugly and "compresses" your legs, taking performance and comfort to a new level and making your hikes more enjoyable. Especially on long, strenuous hikes, compression socks can help improve recovery time by encouraging the body to remove lactic acid buildup.
Runners have used compression socks for decades to help improve their performance and speed up their recovery time. It makes sense for hikers to follow suit. Hikers who switch to compression socks find that they can increase the distance they travel for the day and add unnecessary rest time on these hikes. Their legs feel more dynamic.
Long-distance hikers have found that wearing compression socks at night can also reduce foot pain the next day. Compression stockings are a must-have for those who go on multi-day hikes with little time to rest.
Hikers who have suffered sprains and tears or even broken hairlines in the past may find compression socks to prove a blessing and help prevent re-injury. Wearing compression socks to reduce inflammation can also help with recovery from a long hike.
Compression socks designed for athletes often feature progressive compression and moisture wicking to make exercise more comfortable. ZSZBACE's compression socks are also available in a range of interesting colors and styles.
You probably know compression stockings as a type of medical compression stockings that are commonly used to treat tired and painful legs, varicose veins, and people who are prone to swelling in their legs (called edema). Compression socks are fitted stockings that are usually worn to the knee to provide constant pressure along the length of the calf.
Compression garments are made of elastic and are designed to apply a compressive force to the limb and improve circulation by promoting blood flow to the heart. It's easy to see how the medical benefits of compression stockings used to treat inflammation and improve circulation translate directly to exercise.
Compression stockings may once seem like a fit only for travelers who are unwell or on long flights, but today compression stockings have moved away from their original medical background and are a staple of gear for many runners and hikers.
Technology that makes life better for people with diabetes or deep vein thrombosis can now help athletes get the most out of training and recovery, and stay energized while training. Hikers and runners often use graduated compression socks, which apply varying degrees of compression along the foot and leg.
What level of compression socks do you need for hiking?
You may be confused about the range of compression stockings and wondering which type is right for your needs. The amount of elastic in a compression sock will determine how much pressure it provides. ZSZBACE has an assortment of compression stockings and most are available over the counter. Prescriptions are only required for very strong levels, such as medical level three, which are not required for trekking.
On a daily basis, over-the-counter compression stockings are useful for people who fly long distances or stand for long periods of time, such as nurses or shop assistants. Still, for most hikers, the rating you want will be what's known as Moderate or Medical Grade 1. This is the most common type.
Buy a pair of compression socks for hiking
Many companies sell compression socks designed for runners, and these are also great for hikers. Usually pairs are marked left and right so that the applied pressure remains constant, so keep that in mind when looking for a pair that's right for you.
When you first go looking for a new pair of compression socks, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the options on offer. First, think about what kind of hikes you typically do, how much you're willing to spend, and what's most important to you.
Are you on a marathon hike and need strong compressions for faster recovery? Do you want a cushioned sole for extra comfort? Cushioned toes and heels to help fight blisters and irritation? Moisture-wicking fabrics help keep your feet dry and clean for longer?
Some socks are copper-infused to help keep your feet from sweating and smelling. High-end compression socks may even have built-in arch and Achilles tendon support.
Precautions for compression socks
If you're not used to using compression socks on your hikes, it's a good idea to test them for comfort and fit some shorter hikes before doing more strenuous activities. Build up longer hikes with some shorter walks so you can get a good idea of how far you can push yourself and how your new compression stockings will affect your recovery the next day.
It's always a bad idea to go on long hikes with new, untested gear like socks. You don't want to find out that the socks you bought are reducing your circulation while hiking five miles!
Compression socks will be a little more expensive than regular socks, and to keep them useful for longer and get the most out of them, it's best to follow the manufacturer's washing and care guidelines.
Here are some things to keep in mind when buying and wearing compression socks.
Make sure you get the right size compression socks for comfort
Get the compression level that suits your needs
Start with a short hike first to ensure the right fit and compression level for you
Look for gradient compression socks with moisture-wicking material
Wash them after each use - this helps them keep their shape
To take good care of them, wash them gently in a mesh laundry bag, or wash them by hand. This will keep the fabric elastic for longer
Replace every three to six months of use for maximum compression benefit. Old socks will start to lose elasticity and will not compress as well
Do not do
When taking off or putting on compression socks, avoid rolling them. Depending on the grade, this can create a belt that stops looping and is very uncomfortable
Sports compression socks are not for sleeping. Keep your feet elevated at night
Harsh chemicals like bleach can damage the elastic fabric in compression socks. Avoid harsh detergents when washing.
To dry compression socks, roll them up and squeeze lightly. Wringing them dry can damage the fibers and shorten their lifespan.
The oils in moisturizers and creams can affect the fibers in socks, destroying elasticity. Use body cream after taking off your socks, not before.
While using compression socks while hiking is a personal choice, many walkers find that the extra support helps boost their energy, makes longer hikes more comfortable, reduces foot and leg pain, and greatly shortens their recovery time.