What are the best compression socks for men? Great question. If you’re here, you already trust the GQ imprimatur on all matters style, wellness, and grooming. But dispensing medical advice, as our friends and family are wont to remind us, isn’t exactly our primary MO. So what makes us qualified to weigh in? We don’t have a DPT in an obscure branch of electrophysiology—or, for that matter, a color-coded Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of our weekly flight itineraries. What we do Have, though, is access to a deep network of high profile MDs, gym sharks, and travel gurus, each with their own intense feelings about the compression socks you should invest in today.
So in lieu of blowing our entire annual budget on a frighteningly realistic cockpit simulator—or, like, an advanced degree in podiatry—we rang up every relevant contact in our rolodex to corral tricks of the trade from the specialists who know best. The results of our exhaustive canvassing? A comprehensive guide to all the compression socks for men worth noting right now, whether you’re gearing up for your next transatlantic flight or looking to milk maximum mileage out of your early-morning runs. Here’s where to start.
Why Should You Wear Compression Socks?
In layman’s terms, compression socks improve blood flow by applying a graduated pressure at the ankles that slowly lessens as it rises up the leg. That pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (or mmHg), typically in a range of 10 to 30. (The higher the pressure, the tighter the socks.) And—spoiler alert—if you’re not an old fogie, or plagued with varicose veins, they still deserve a spot in your regular rotation.
Even superficial veins outside your muscles benefit from added support, says Dr. Ryan Jones, a surgeon and US Air Force veteran. “Circulation doesn’t care how in-shape you are.” Compression socks help decrease muscle damage and inflammation as you age, agrees Dr. Mohammad Rimawi, an NYC-based podiatrist, but that’s not all they’re good for. Venous insufficiency and other related foot injuries can be the result of arduous hours on the road or intense, long-distance runs. (To say nothing of the havoc a half-day flight will wreak on your lower body.) So if you’re in the habit of clocking an ungodly amount of hours in economy class—or routinely shattering PRs on the track—the right pair of compression socks might help stave off the inevitable march of time when it matters most.
Unless you’re dealing with significant swelling, both doctors generally recommend finding compression socks in the 15-20 mmHg range; Too tight, and you run the risk of cutting off circulation entirely. Dr. Jones prefers ones from Jobst, whose sleek, mid-priced options hold up particularly well after consistent wear. (He also digs Copper Fit’s more affordable, knee-high versions.) Rimawi’s go-tos are from SB Sox, which he favors for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties, a crucial means of preventing excess sweat build-up, a common precursor to an athlete’s foot.
The Best Compression Socks for Serial Travelers
If you spend most weeks shuttling between airport terminals, you’re going to need a pair of compression socks specifically designed for your high-flying lifestyle. Don’t believe us? Take it from Isaac Shapiro, a first officer pilot who met his wife—GQ’s own Nicole Shapiro!—on…a plane. (Hallmark, feel free to reach out any time.) Shapiro wears compression socks 3-4 days a week and cycled through myriad less expensive options before, ahem, landing on 2XU’s $50 version. He promises you’ll feel the difference.
While working as a private flight attendant, Carolyn Paddock, the founder of In-Flight Insider, always made sure to keep a grip of Sigvaris’ compression socks handy for clients and crew members, especially on longer trips. At around 40 bucks a pop they’re not cheap, but a quality cosign from the pros is tough to beat.
If you’re panic-shopping a week before takeoff and price is top of mind, there’s plenty of options too. David Adler, founder and CEO of The Travel Secret, favors 3-packs you can score on the low from Amazon, which come in all sorts of zany patterns and promise to help keep your blood circulating when you’re stuck in a middle seat and Opportunities to stretch your legs are few and far between.
The Best Compression Socks for Long-Distance Runners
Hardcore runners, we didn’t forget about you. Dr. Josh Jones, a certified DPT and trainer to a world-class roster of elite athletes—including a few gold medalists from the Beijing Olympics—points his clients to Naboso’s recovery socks, which he considers, uh, a step above the competition. They enhance circulation and work like “a mini-massage, releasing tension in the intrinsic muscles of the feet,” all while increasing neurostimulation in the nerves that need it most.
Along with a handful of other experts we contacted, George PH at Shoethority sings the praises of compression socks from Physix, largely thanks to their firm on-foot feel. Unlike other athletic compression socks, they won’t threaten to slip off mid-run or limit mobility when you’re halfway up the steepest part of your route.
The Best Compression Socks for Everyday Outdoorsmen
If you tend to get your steps in wandering the great outdoors, there’s plenty of compression socks to keep you company. Mark Whitman, an avid hiker who’s scaled Machu Picchu and Mt. Kilimanjaro (and enjoys the occasional leisurely stroll every now then too) recommends 1000 Mile’s nylon compression socks; he credits them with relieving his muscle fatigue during gnarly ascents up some of the most perilous slopes on the planet.
Martin Soto, an intrepid blogger at the Travel Explorator, stresses the importance of moisture-resistant fabrics when you’re hightailing it through the muck, and champions Fitrell’s “exceptionally cushioned” compression socks for that very reason. He also shouts out a pricier alternative from MudGear, an aptly-named brand that specializes in compression socks while designed to withstand the worst of the elements, all keeping your feet dry—and perfectly pressurized—in high style.