The 8 Best compression running socks in 2021
Eight of the best pairs of compression socks for running, enhancing your performance, reducing blisters, and improving your recovery between runs and workouts.
Compression running socks are currently all the rage, a staple for many runners, whether training, competition, or rest days lounging around the house. However, what is it that makes running compression socks so special?
For starters, these socks contain numerous benefits, including increased blood flow to the working muscles (translating to improved performance), decreased recovery times between runs and workouts, support during rehabilitation, reduced swelling, and many more advantages – of which will be discussed in more detail shortly.
This blog post is a round-up of eight of the best pairs of compression running socks, enabling you to go the distance with your training. Towards the end of the article, you’ll also find a little more info on compression gear, the benefits, potential downsides, and advice on how to choose the right pair for you.
If you’re looking for a non-compression pair of socks for running, then you can check out our best running socks post.
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1. Rockay Vigor compression running socks
- Polygiene anti-odour technology
- Sustainable and recycled design
- Extremely breathable and lightweight
- Graduated compression
- Lightweight and supportive
- Impressive anti-odour technology allows for multiple uses without washing
- Slightly pricier compared to other compression running socks
- May run a little high
Ranking in the number one spot is the Rockay Vigor compression running socks. Overall, it’s difficult to find a potential flaw with these socks, other than the slightly more expensive price tag (when compared to others).
The socks are lightweight but provide more than enough cushioning, a second-skin-like feel if you will. Furthermore, Rockay is currently leading the charge when it comes to anti-odour design, making use of Polygiene technology, eliminating bacteria and allowing for multiple uses without washing – great for a weekend away running your favourite trails.
Unlike other compression socks for running currently available, Rockay adopts a fully sustainable and recycled design, with each purchase contributing to reduced ocean waste and a better future, all while maintaining a performance-focused and comfortable design.
The only other potential downside is that the socks may run slightly high for some users. However, following the size guide should provide the very best fit.
For more information on the Rockay Vigor compression running socks, you can also read our full review.
2. Danish Endurance graduated compression running socks
- Recommended and tested with multiple Olympic athletes
- Skin-friendly organic cotton
- Increased blood circulation to the working muscles
- Tested with leading Swiss MST IT technology to guarantee increased performance and recovery
- May support injury rehabilitation with multiple users reporting several benefits relating to less pain
- Recycled paper packaging is environmentally friendly
- Thicker material than other compression socks
- No padding
- The sizing guide may be a little confusing
- Some users reported difficulty putting these on
Next up we have a pair from Danish Endurance, another big name in the running sock market. This pair of graduated compression socks are very similar to the above pair from Rockay. However, the main difference is in the materials, with Rockay adopting a recycled approach, while Danish Endurance utilizes skin-friendly organic cotton and similar materials to create a truly comfortable and durable sock.
Another similarity to the Rockay Vigor is the packaging, both of which come in fully recycled packaging. While this is certainly a great start for Danish Endurance, it would be excellent to see them adopt the use of recycled materials for their socks at some point in the near future.
Aside from this, one key feature that sets these apart from others is that they are tested and recommended by multiple Olympic athletes, including Stina Troest and Casper Mortensen. Furthermore, this pair of compression socks for running are also tested using leading Swiss MST IT technology, to further guarantee performance and recovery benefits.
The socks are slightly thicker than others, providing additional warmth. But some users reported a lack of padding and difficulty putting the socks on – just something to consider.
3. Hilly Pulse compression socks for running
- Upper foot ventilation enhances comfort when running
- Graduated compression offers performance & recovery benefits
- Does not require frequent washing
- Provides Achilles support for reduced pain (ideal for those coming back from an injury)
- Anti-blister design great for those longer runs
- Only available in one colourway
- May run a little loose towards the top of the sock (knee-high)
The Hilly Pulse compression socks are a great option for those on a budget, perhaps not able to justify purchasing a more expensive pair, such as the two aforementioned pairs above.
For starters, you will benefit from graduated compression, offering the usual compression benefits. The upper foot ventilation is also a nice addition, enhancing comfort when running. However, in particular, the additional padding provides much-needed Achilles support for some runners, excellent for those returning from an Achilles-related injury.
Also, similar to the pair from Rockay, these socks do not require frequent washing. Although the technology isn’t quite on par, you should be able to get at least two, but most likely more uses before throwing them in the wash and later hanging them up to dry.
Some runners did, however, report the Pulse compression socks to run a little loose towards the top of the sock, causing potential discomfort and perhaps frustration on longer runs (e.g. briefly stopping to pull these up).
4. NV compression 465 long compression sports socks
- 20-30mmHg compression rating
- Excellent graduated support for those recovering from an injury
- Increased blood circulation and increased muscular support
- Well suited for active recovery, cross-training or walking
- Cushioned sole and enhanced ankle/Achilles support
- Much more budget-friendly in comparison to other socks
- Better options for sports, but ideally suited for walking, light jogging or long periods of sitting
- Absorbs sweat instead of wicking it, making them uncomfortable for long runs
Straight away, what sets this pair of socks apart from others is the slightly higher compression rating (20-30 mmHg). Moreover, many runners reported these socks to be better for active recovery, resting, cross-training, and walking as opposed to running.
Nonetheless, for those on a budget, it’s difficult to go wrong with this pair from NV, especially if you only intend to walk, jog, or sit around the house in these socks. This is because the material appears to absorb sweat instead of wicking it away, quickly making these uncomfortable.
As a compression sock for recovery, however, you can’t go wrong – so it’s well worth a look if that’s what you’re looking for. If not, perhaps consider other pairs on our list which are greater intended for running.
5. Skins performance gradient running compression socks
- Arch wrap support lessens strain on the sole of the foot
- Smart moisture management system
- Anti-chafing yarns reduce blisters and increase comfort
- Increased protection for the soles of your feet
- Quick-drying material and antifungal technology reduces the need for washing
- Most expensive option on our list
- Perhaps better value for many options
The Skins performance running compression socks are the most expensive pair on our list. However, this is for good reason, with plenty of key features on offer to runners.
To begin with, the sock utilises an arch wrap support, lessening strain on the sole of the foot (great for those recovering from conditions such as Plantar fasciitis). This also lessens the risk of injury, further supported by superior shock absorption and general cushioning.
Like plenty of other socks (e.g. the Rockay Vigor compression socks), this pair from Skins also contains anti-blister properties, this time in the form of anti-chafing yarns to increase comfort and reduce friction.
Despite these benefits, the socks still contain an expensive price tag, with other options more affordable, and not far off the additional benefits you receive from this pair. However, if you are recovering from an injury, the Skins performance gradient running socks are a great choice, further lessening pain with superior cushioning and support, reducing your risk of injury and enabling you to continue your running journey pain-free much sooner than other pairs may allow.
6. Karrimor men's compression running socks
- Anatomically shaped for increased comfort
- Graduated compression design
- DRX moisture management fabric keeps sweat and discomfort at bay
- Reinforced heel and toe pads
- A much more budget-friendly and entry-level compression sock
- There is no women’s version of this sock
- Not as advanced as other running compression socks
Next up, we also have another budget-friendly option, similar to the NV compression pair. This pair from Karrimor provides everything you need from a pair of compression socks for running without breaking the bank. For example, you will benefit from DRX moisture management, reinforced heel pads, and an anatomical shaped design for increased comfort.
Similar to the pair above (Skins performance socks), this pair from Karrimor also contains reinforced heel pads, lessening the impact when running and ideal for those returning from injury. However, this is further complemented by the anatomically shaped design, providing you with all the support you need in the right places.
With this being said, the technology behind this sock is not the best, but it does get the job done. For instance, the DRX moisture management could be better and there is also no women’s version of the sock – something we would like to see released in the future.
7. Rymora compression socks
- Graduated compression design 15-20mmHg
- Additional padding at the toes, heel and sole of the foot
- Lightweight and breathable fabric
- Additional cushioning and support
- Equally as good for those with wide feet
- Compression around the ankle could be improved
- Some users report these to run a little loose in certain areas
Another cost-friendly option, especially when compared to more ‘premium’ compression running socks, such as the graduated compression pair from Danish Endurance, is this pair from Rymora, a similar price to a large cup of coffee at your favourite Starbucks.
Like other pairs, these socks make use of additional padding, this time in the toes, heel, and sole of the foot, a slight improvement when compared to the above pair from Karrimor. Once again, this reduces impact when running and is a great option for those returning from a foot or lower limb related injury.
Similar to running shoes, some compression socks suit those with more narrow or wide feet. Remember: there is no one size fits all answer when it comes to shoes or socks. However, multiple runners reported these socks to fit well even with wide feet – a somewhat rarity when shopping for running socks.
Despite this, others also mentioned the compression around the ankle to be minimal, as opposed to the pair from Skins which benefited from advanced arch wrap support. Also, the socks may run a little loose in certain areas (choosing the right size should help with this), but you still may encounter some general looseness. However, this is individual-based, and may not affect you.
8. Physix gear running compression socks
- Quick-drying fabric
- Can be used for running, other sports, walking, or for those on their feet for long periods of time
- Double stitched seams increase both durability and comfort
- Durable and long-lasting
- Can be worn for multiple hours without discomfort
- Stitching on the inner toe box may cause friction and blisters
- A few users have had issues with customer service
Finally, we have the Physix gear running compression socks, a mid-range sock with over 29,000 positive reviews on Amazon. To begin with, although not as impressive as other socks on our list, the fabric is quick-drying and breathable, great for those longer outings on the fells or trails.
Similar to the pair from NV, these socks are perhaps more suited to walking, cross-training, and active recovery, for several reasons. However, these can definitely be used for running, too. Nonetheless, the anti-blister properties of these running compression socks could be improved, with multiple runners reporting the inner toe box to cause general irritation, friction, and blisters.
Also, a few users have encounter issues with customer service. If you’re looking for a mid-range recovery sock, or a sock for those cross-training days, then this pair from Physix is a great choice – but there are certainly better, higher-end performance compression socks for running available.
It’s difficult to deny the impressive reputation, and the sock definitely performs for its intended use, a mid-range sock ideal for beginners and recreational athletes alike.
Should you wear compression socks while running?
Many people have certainly heard of compression sports gear, however, are still unsure regarding whether or not they should be wearing running compression socks.
This is made further incoherent due to the increase of compression gear for those suffering from lower limb injuries, pregnant women, and those who spend countless hours on their feet working, for example, in roles such as restaurant and hospital staff.
Therefore, to help illustrate just how much of a difference these can make, we’ve outlined several key benefits below:
- Reduced muscle swelling and fewer cramps
- Added warmth (great for winter)
- Improved blood flow to the muscles and lower limbs
- Less lactic acid build-up
- An added layer of protection when trail running
Each of these benefits will now be explored in more detail.
Compression running socks reduce muscle swelling and fewer cramps
Compression running socks apply gentle but consistent pressure to the lower leg muscles, therefore providing greater blood flow. A habitual cause of cramps is due to an inadequate blood supply, even more common in endurance athletes and runners.
Wearing a pair of running compression socks will help prevent or lessen cramps, whether during training or worn around the home following your training session or on a rest day. However, we advise against wearing these throughout the night. These are not meant to be worn in bed and may block proper blood flow, so stick to wearing these exclusively for rest, recovery, and during training, as tempting as it may be.
Second, on those days where it’s too hot for a pair of running tights but too cold for a pair of shorts, you can compromise and meet in the middle with a longer, thicker pair of compression socks.
While these socks are not entirely worn for this reason, they can be a great addition to your training wardrobe or kit bag, a quick solution to chilling temperatures, especially if out on the trails.
Improved blood flow to the muscles and lower limbs
We have covered this point briefly already, however, a pair of running compression socks increases blood flow to the lower limbs and muscles. This allows you to reap many performance and recovery benefits, taking your training to the next level.
Less lactic acid build-up
Compression running socks, especially those with a ‘graduated’ design are especially good at removing and reducing the build-up of lactic acid. If you don’t already know, lactic acid is the byproduct of anaerobic respiration, or in running talk, faster and harder running efforts with little available oxygen. Often, lactic acid is referred to as the “burning sensation” you feel when running. Compression socks may help remove this lactic acid, sending deoxygenated blood back to the heart alongside the build-up of lactic.
An added layer of protection when trail running
Finally, when you wear compression socks for trail running, you benefit from an added layer of protection. This is because these socks typically come up to knee-height length, of varying thickness.
While this isn’t perhaps an exclusive reason to make the transition, it is certainly a welcomed benefit, especially for those who regularly hit the trails, only to head home looking like they’ve been attacked by a bear.
Are there any downsides?
Upon reading thus far, you may think the world of compression socks for running. However, the question that actually matters: are there any downsides? Generally, whether or not you experience downsides is dependant on your choice of compression socks and the fit. For example, you could potentially encounter:
- Restricted movement (if the socks are too tight)
- Itchy or dry skin
- General discomfort
As you can see, there are very few downsides, especially in comparison to the abundance of benefits on offer. Typically, those who experience itchy or dry skin do so either as a result of too tight compression socks, or alternatively, a result of wearing these too long or choosing a poor brand made with lower-quality materials.
To minimize the potential downsides, it’s important to choose a high-quality pair of compression socks for running, following each companies own size guide for the best results.
How to choose the perfect pair of compression socks for running
Choosing a pair of compression socks for running is almost as difficult as finding a pair of running shoes – there is no one size fits all answer. Despite this, there are several key aspects you should look for, helping you select the best possible socks:
- Level of compression
Each of these key aspects will now be explained in more detail below.
Most compression sock sizes are not based on regular foot size. Instead, they are a combined measure of your calf and shoe size. This allows for a more precise fit, providing optimal levels of compression without either being too big or too small.
Various brands use different measurements and size guides, so be sure to find your own size independent of each brand before placing an order. As previously mentioned, there is no one size fits all type of compression sock, so it’s very important that you take the time to find the very best size for you.
Next up, when choosing a pair of socks you should pay attention to the material and fabric used. Most importantly, the material needs to be breathable, sweat-wicking, and, of course, comfortable. The majority of running compression socks are created using elastic fibres, such as Nylon and Polymide.
Also, more and more socks are beginning to use recycled materials. However, you should know that these materials do not affect the performance of the socks and are just as good as brand new materials.
Level of compression
Finally, when choosing a pair of compression socks for running, you should direct your attention to the level of compression. This is measured in mmHg, and is essentially how tight and how much pressure the socks place on your lower legs and feet. A mid-range level of mmHg, such as 15-25mmHg is recommended for running socks.
Anything too tight and you may struggle to run, while anything too low (mmHg) will not provide enough compression pressure to be of any benefit.
What is the difference between medical-grade compression socks and running ones?
Often, there is very little difference between medical-grade socks and running ones. However, the difference is found within the level of compression (mmHg), with medical socks generally being higher than running ones.
Nonetheless, if purchasing a pair of compression socks for running, you can certainly have medical-grade compression, but ensure they are designed for sports and running, unlike other exclusive medical compression socks.
Frequently asked questions
Finally, we have gathered together various frequently asked questions surrounding compression gear and compression running socks, of which can be seen below:
These socks increase the blood flow to your muscles, increasing performance, reducing fatigue, and decreasing your recovery time between runs or workouts.
We recommend wearing these for a few hours at a time, however, avoid wearing these for the entirety of the day. Similarly, you should not wear these throughout the night, as this can potentially be dangerous.
Yes, however, this is not very likely. But there is an increased risk, especially when sitting or lying down (this is one of the reasons why we recommend not wearing these throughout the night).
To find the best size compression socks for you, you should follow each brand’s sizing guide (these differ slightly for each company).
If your socks are too long, then these may slip down when running. Additionally, these may also not perform to their full potential, so do your best to find the right size for you for the maximum compression benefits.
Matthew is an avid runner, freelance writer, Durham University graduate, and the founder of Running101.