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How to Measure for Compression Socks and Stockings

What are compression socks used for?

Compression socks and stockings are specially designed to apply pressure to your feet, ankles and legs. The added pressure increases blood flow, which helps prevent blood from pooling in leg veins. This helps prevent your blood from clotting.

Prolonged sitting or standing can slow circulation and potentially cause swelling (or edema) in your legs and ankles. There are several types of compression socks, but the most beneficial ones are graduated and not uniform in strength. The graduation of the sock or stocking helps move blood back up toward the heart, helping with circulation.

What do the numbers mean on compression garments?

In general, the higher the number (or level) on a compression garment, the more pressure the garment offers. Compression socks with a lower compression level can be purchased over-the-counter and without a prescription from medical supply stores, online or at a drugstore. Generally, these items are available in compression levels of approximately 8-20 mmHg. Compression strength is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), which is the same scale used to take your blood pressure.

Higher levels of compression, ranging from 20-30 mmHg to 30-40 mmHg, are also available at Mayo Clinic Stores. By law, a prescription is not required; however, while high-level compression socks are generally safe to wear, certain people may be at risk due to such heavy contraindications, so it is recommended to wear these garments under a physician’s recommendation and care.

Compression measuring guide

It is generally recommended to take measurements for compression socks when your legs are not swollen. For most individuals, this means taking measurements early in the morning, just after getting out of bed. Also, important to note is to take measurements on your bare legs using a soft measuring tape and keep your feet flat on the floor.

Below is a stepwise guide for collecting measurements:

1.       Make a mark just above the ankle bone.

2.       Using the tape measure, encircle the leg just below the knee, and make a mark.

3.       Measure the mark from the top of the ankle bone to the mark below the knee and record the length.

4.       Using the measuring tape and the ankle mark as “0,” measure and make a mark at 5 centimeters (cm), 15 cm, 25 cm and 30 cm.

5.       Measure the circumference of the leg around the 5 cm mark and record that number.

6.       Measure remaining circumferences at the 15, 25 and 30 cm locations and record those values.

To measure the foot:

1.       Encircle the tape measure around the heel and ankle bend and record the circumference.

2.       Next, encircle the tape measure around the metatarsal head and record that measurement and make a mark.

3.       Finally, position the “0” of the tape measure at back of the heel and measure to the mark at the metatarsal location.

This is guideline for measuring standard, below the knee, compression socks and stockings. Most compression packaging has individual sizing charts you can reference once your measurements have been collected. For additional resources and information on measuring, visit the Sigvaris website or the Juzo website. 

 

Compression garments available at Mayo Clinic Store

We proudly offer compression socks, pantyhose and stockings in both men’s and women’s styles at most Mayo Clinic Stores. Our trained fitters can assist with collecting appropriate measurements to help ensure you receive the correct size and level of compression. Click here to view our locations.

 

*This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not substituted for medical advice. For medical questions and advice, it is always best to consult with your trained physician.

 

Sources:

Freedom to make the most of every day. Juzo USA. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://juzousa.com/

How to measure. SIGVARIS GROUP US. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.sigvaris.com/en-us/expertise/how-to/measure

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