When you sell compression socks, you get a lot of free samples. Yesterday I wore a pair of Gold Toe Support socks I received in the mail. My Dad used to wear these to the office everyday. They are nicely made socks. The foot portion was comfortable and the length was great, but they don’t provide graduated compression. (A higher compression at the ankle that gradually decreases up the leg.) These are just tight socks. By the time I was driving home my feet felt a little numb.
Knitting a sock with graduated compression is quite difficult. A very specialized knitting machine is required and there are only two companies in the world that make them, both in Europe. Before knitting can begin, these machines have to be set-up and programmed by a highly trained technician. Add in very specialized nylon and spandex fibers, and one begins to see why compression stockings cost more than regular socks.
So how can you tell if a sock has graduated compression? There will be a range of compression listed, like 15-20mmHg or 20-30mmHg. If you see just a single compression, like 18mmHg, it’s not graduated. 18mmHg is the typical compression of anti-embolism stockings; the white stockings you see on every patient in a hospital. They aren’t graduated because they’re designed to be worn when prone in bed because the stocking doesn’t have to work against gravity. Of course buying from a reputable company that takes these things seriously is also very prudent.
Compression stockings are an amazing product. Light compressions really do energize tired, aching legs, and higher compressions do an amazing job of treating everything from varicose veins and swollen ankles to lymphedema and venous stasis ulcers. But if the sock is promising miracles, run don’t walk in the other direction.