Long before I worked at BrightLife Go and learned about the wonders of compression socks, I flew back and forth from Moscow, Russia fairly frequently. About 3 hours into the flight my legs would start to cramp up. Crossing my legs, crossing my ankles, stretching my legs into the aisle, taking my shoes off, walking to the bathroom...no amount of flexing or standing up could really relieve the achiness that set in. A few times, I noticed my feet and ankles were puffy and swollen looking when I landed, but because I was young and thought I was fairly invincible, I never really worried about it. I basically chalked the discomfort up to sitting in Economy.
Now, knowing a great deal about the circulatory system - I know exactly what was happening. The reason our legs and feet get so sore during long flights, train rides, and car rides is that our muscles are not being flexed or used, therefore blood is simply pooling in our leg veins. This can cause a heavy, sore feeling in our legs, and swelling in our ankles and feet. If you’re at higher risk for blood clots, are overweight, or you have notoriously poor circulation, this could lead to more serious problems like Deep Vein Thrombosis. A number of celebrities, who are frequently on long-distance flights, have had serious medical complications due to blood clots. Nene Leakes, Serena Williams and Hillary Clinton to name a few.
There are a number of ways to increase circulation when you’re on a long trip. First – get up and move! Stand up and walk the aisles when possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option if the seat-belt light is on or if you're like me and frequently forget to check-in to the aisle seat 24-hours ahead of your flight. The easiest way to increase circulation is by wearing compression socks or stockings, often simply called “travel socks.” Travel compression socks provide graduated compression from your feet to your knee. This increases circulation naturally, coaxing the blood to flow back to your heart, instead of getting trapped in your legs and feet.
Here are a few things to look for when you are looking for compression socks or stockings for flying:
1. Medical-grade compression socks will have a compression rating of 20-30 mmHg or 30-40 mmHg, but for traveling, it’s just fine to wear socks that have a compression rating of 15-20 mmHg. These ratings simply tell how tightly the compression socks will squeeze your leg (i.e. 15-20 mmHg is a lighter compression than 30-40 mmHg, which will feel much tighter on your legs).
2. Find socks that come in graduated compression. This means that the compression will be tighter at the bottom, at your ankle, and will gradually become looser as the sock extends up your leg. This will help return blood to your heart. Everything that we sell on BrightLife Go has graduated compression because we know it's an important feature in compression socks.
3. Pay attention to the material the socks are made out of. Customers tend to find cotton socks more plush and comfortable. Polyester, nylon, merino wool, and fabrics embedded with copper and silver are great for absorbing excess moisture on the skin and decreasing foot odor. If you're someone who likes to take their shoes of mid-flight - this might be something to consider. No one wants to share a plan with stinky feet!
4. Socks don’t have to be labeled as “Travel Socks” to be used on a long trip. You only need to find socks with approximately 15-20 mmHg of compression, and a crew or knee high length. If you find stockings or tights more comfortable – simply look for a soft pair of 15-20 mmHg stockings.
If you think of "compression socks" and immediately picture the thick flesh-colored tights your grandmother wears, you will be pleasantly surprised with the variety of styles and patterns available nowadays. No one will ever know you're wearing compression!
Here are a few of our favorite travel sock options, all in 15-20 mmHg:
• VIM&VIGR Cotton Socks - These socks are soft and stretchy and really cute.
• Sockwell Circulator Socks - Striped socks never go out of style, and the cashmerino fabric is incredibly soft. Perfect for taking a long flight nap.