If you've ever flown on a commercial jet, you may have heard of or noticed people wearing flight socks. But what are they? Why do some people feel they need to wear special socks on long flights? How can they help you? These are all valid questions but let’s get one thing for sure: they’re not a gimmick.
In this guide, we’ll look at why and how flight socks help so many people find comfort while travelling. What’s more, we’ll take time to understand how they may help your own situation. If you fly regularly, or are on your feet for work or sports a lot, then the chances are you may benefit from the right pair of compression socks. Read on to learn more!
What Are Flight Socks?
Flight socks are, funnily enough, socks that people wear while flying! They’re designed to relieve pain and discomfort for millions of travellers each year, and not just while they are up in the air. Sitting for long periods of time can breed many health problems, even for those who are otherwise reasonably fit! Therefore, if you’ve never considered the benefits of travel socks before, it won’t do you any harm to learn a few of the facts!
Flight socks are specifically designed to help relieve pain and symptoms caused by DVT and to help reduce swelling in the legs and feet. Our veins are very sensitive. If you are likely to be at risk of swelling (oedema) in the first instance as a result of an existing condition, you will likely need to purchase flight or travel socks before you board a plane.
Flight socks are compression socks which are designed to offer moderate pressure to the calves and legs. They help to encourage blood to flow back up your veins and towards your heart. Therefore, your blood is less likely to pool in your legs and feet, thus preventing clots from forming. Clots can be extremely painful and associated swelling may lead to further complications.
As flight socks are designed to be worn to protect against blood clots forming, they can be worn all day and can be used during periods of high activity or even at rest.
Naturally, travel compression socks are ideal aids for regular flyers and are generally sold at moderate levels of pressure (around 15-20 mmHg). This means they are less intensive than some of the more specialised compression socks available.
What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?
One of the main reasons that people wear flight socks is to prevent from developing deep vein thrombosis, commonly known as DVT. DVT is something which can develop during long periods of inactivity. Therefore, certain people flying for long periods of time may find themselves at risk. But what exactly does DVT do, and why should it be avoided?
- DVT is a type of blood clot. It generally develops in the lower legs and can provide intense discomfort and pain.
- If left untreated, DVT can develop into more complicated problems. These problems can include pulmonary embolisms, where clots can split off. When clots enter your bloodstream, they can block essential blood vessels and this can be life threatening.
- People who travel via air regularly for long periods may be at serious risk of DVT.
- However, it can also be caused by a variety of different conditions. Those who may be at risk of DVT may include:
- People with hereditary DVT
- People with blood-clotting disorders
- Pregnant women
- Overweight or obese people
- People who take oestrogen supplements
What Are the Symptoms?
DVT is a condition which may occur without any particularly apparent symptoms. However, sufferers may find that they experience the following:
- Heavy, aching sensations in the legs
- Warm or red skin around the backs of the legs, or around the clot area
- Swelling and tenderness in the calves
However, DVT is something which can affect different people in different ways. Therefore, if you are set to travel via plane for a long period of time and think you may be at risk, it is worth considering purchasing flight socks.
Do I Need Flight Socks?
There are many reasons why compression socks may help you during extended duration travel. If you are already at risk of blood clots or oedema, you may find that you have already been recommended them. But what if you are otherwise healthy? Let’s take a closer look at some of the key groups of people who can benefit from wearing socks for air travel.
If You’re Going on a Long Flight
It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry! If you are due to fly long haul and are worried about the risks of DVT, but are otherwise healthy, it may still be worthwhile wearing flight socks to reduce the chances of your blood clotting. They also help prevent swelling in your feet and ankles during your flight.
Regularly Active People
If you’re up and on your feet all day, you’re going to be more at risk of blood pooling. What’s more, if you are planning a distant trip, you may be at risk of developing DVT even if you are otherwise fit and healthy. The body is a complex machine!
Whether or not you are considered at risk of blood clotting or otherwise, if you regularly fly for business or leisure, you may still benefit from wearing compression socks. Moderate-intensity flight socks are easy to measure for and help to relieve everyday discomfort. Flying regularly puts you at risk of blood pooling. Therefore, doctors generally recommend taking precautions just in case if you're likely to be up in the air a lot.
People Taking Oestrogen Supplements
If you are either undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or take certain contraceptives which release oestrogen, you may be at higher risk of developing DVT than others. This is because your blood can clot easier with the introduction of added oestrogen into your bloodstream. Therefore, wearing flight socks as a precaution is recommended.
A lot can happen to your body during pregnancy, and while you are already at risk of swollen feet, there’s also a greater chance of your blood clotting. Flight socks are always recommended for pregnant flyers regardless of their trimester.
People with Diabetes are among those most likely to be at risk from DVT. This is because they are at more risk of developing painful ulcers in their legs and feet, which can lead to considerable problems later on if left untreated. Therefore, if you are diabetic and due to fly, do always consider wearing flight socks. This may even apply if you merely have a family history of Type 1 diabetes, which can be hereditary.
Which Flight Socks Should I Buy?
If you’ve decided that you would like to wear compression socks for air travel, it’s recommended you consider the level of compression you’ll need. As we have discussed in our compression socks guide, socks and stockings are measured in mmHg or millimetres of mercury.
- For most people, a moderate amount of mmHg will be required for general air travel. Therefore, you will likely safely benefit from moderate levels of 20 mmHg and below.
- However, if you are already at risk of oedema or blood clots, you may wish to look for socks with higher pressure of 20-30mmHg.
- This is recommended for those who may already suffer from severe leg or foot pain, or for those who may already be recovering from DVT.
If you are unsure about the level of mmHg to be looking for when shopping for flight socks, or if you have a medical condition always consult a doctor in the first instance to find out which type might be best for you.
Furthermore, you should also consider carefully measuring for flight socks ahead of time. Measure carefully around your ankle and calf for the majority of air travel socks. It’s important to get the exact measurement to fit smooth against your legs and feet.
Other Things to Consider
If you’re thinking about buying travel socks for an upcoming journey, do remember that there are other things you can do to increase your comfort, too:
- Drink water regularly
- Do light exercise where possible
- Wear loose clothing
- Avoid alcohol or medication which may make you drowsy
Many people are able to stave off the symptoms of DVT by wearing well-fitted travel socks. Whether you travel regularly or only once or twice a year, you should definitely consider a pair.
Please note: The information provided here is for general information only and is not intended to act as medical advice. We advise anyone interested in this subject to seek, qualified, professional advice.