What’s the difference between regular and compression socks

Table of Contents

Many of our clients who come to us for compression socks will ask what the difference is between compression socks and regular socks. Do compression socks really provide compression, or are they just a gimmick? I’m sure you will have the same confusion if you’re new to this product. So suppose you are planning to purchase a batch of compression socks for sale, it is highly recommended to read this article first. Our factory has been in the industry for 16 years, and as a product specialist, I have been working in our factory for almost ten years. Today I will introduce the differences between regular socks and compression socks in terms of function, material, length, production devices, and design. Hope it can help you figure out the difference and make the right choice.

Here are the main differences between regular socks and compression socks. First is material, most of the compression socks are made by nylon to achieve good compression. The length is also a bit different, compression socks are mainly knee-high style to provide compression. Design is also limited, you cannot make full patterns for medical-grade compression socks. The last is machine, some compression socks are made by medical Merz machines while regular socks are just made by normal machines.

1. Material

The material of the socks is mainly composed of 3 parts, the main yarn, the jacquard yarn, and the elastic or spandex. The main yarn is the major component of the sock or the one with the highest proportion among several raw materials. Take regular socks as an example, the main yarn can be cotton, silk, wool, or bamboo fiber, depending on the manufacturer’s needs for functionality or comfort, or warmth, and each main yarn has its own advantages. For example, bamboo and cotton are both natural fibers with good air permeability and softness, which are more suitable for everyday wear, dress socks, and baby socks are normally made from this material; socks made of wool or acrylic fiber have more advantages in keeping warm, like hiking or outdoor socks; some invisible stockings worn by women in summer are generally made of silk, which is more breathable and lightweight.

For compression socks, the main properties should be high elasticity, abrasion resistance, and breathability, so nylon or polyester is usually the priority material used to produce compression socks together with a high resilience Lycra elastic to achieve the best stretch. In addition, lycra can account for up to 40% of the composition of compression socks. We have previously tested the composition of our own compression stockings, as shown in the graph below. You can find the main composition of nylon is 47 %, while elastic is similar to nylon. Furthermore, the elastic we use is the brand Lycra, which can be more than 10 times more resilient than normal elastic, it is produced by the US DUPONT COMPANY, and our clients can use the Lycra description on package. There are different types of elastic bands, and will make a big difference in price. The exact composition of socks will be different due to designs but will be more or less similar to the test result we provided. Here we have an article about the specific compositions of compression socks if you’re interested to read, it also includes a guide on how to choose different kinds of material to help you find the most suitable one for your brand.

test 1

2. Length

The variation in the length of the socks can be explained by the diagram below, here we have invisible lengths to thigh-high lengths.

sock length 1

However, the length of compression socks is generally knee or thigh-high, because the main purpose of compression socks or stockings is to promote blood circulation on the leg part. This is because people who wear compression stockings are generally athletic or sedentary, when the legs are at rest for a long period of time, the blood circulation slows down and in severe cases blood clots can form in the legs, leading to a lack of blood flow. For athletes, compression socks or stockings can improve circulation during exercise, reduce muscle fatigue or soreness, and can protect against calf injuries at the same time. Stephen M. Roth, a kinesiologist at the University of Maryland, explains the pain caused by lactic acid buildup during exercise, and vascular surgeon Dr. Claire Griffin told in an interview that Compression socks help prevent the backup of blood. Here is a link to the above information.

In the meanwhile, we also chose some of the reviews from our clients’ websites, 95% of end customers tell compression socks do help them a lot. So welcome to contact us for a test sample.

reviews 1

There are two main types of compression socks/stockings by length, common knee-high compression socks and thigh-high anti-thrombotic stockings. The normal ones are suitable for daily or sportswear, while the antithrombotic stockings are medical grade compression stockings, also known as varicose veins stockings, for patients with symptoms of varicose veins, such as edema, swollen lymph, etc. Doctors usually recommend wearing antithrombotic stockings at home after such patients have undergone surgery to relieve swelling in the legs. 

The study shows deep vein thrombosis can be prevented at a certain rate when wearing compression socks or stockings, and length will not make any big difference in this function. These socks are usually added with non-slip silicone dots at the cuff so that they do not slip off even when worn for 24 hours, what’s more, our compression socks/stockings are seamless toes that will be more comfortable. The following picture shows the styles of these two kinds of socks. Can you tell the difference?

compression socks max hosiery 副本

3. Function

So What is the difference between the two types of socks in terms of functionality? Depending on the type of regular socks, the functionality includes moisture-wicking, breathability, warmth, and so on. Some sports socks also show a compression function, but there is a big difference between the so-called compression function and the real compression socks. In the picture below, for example, there is no significant difference in appearance alone, but if you stretch the socks open, you will find compression socks perform better in the stretching and rebounding, also it is thinner and breathable. Some regular socks may become loose after times of wearing and be deformed after many washes, but the lycra elastic inside of compression socks will last longer and are more durable. Generally, a pair of compression socks can be worn for 6 months to 1 year.

regular and compression socks 1

In addition, in terms of compression grade. The compression socks/stockings are made in different graduated levels, decreasing from the calf upwards, below is the example so you can get a better understanding.

Also, the compression level can be tested by professional devices. The compression levels are normally divided into 3 grades: 15-20 mmHg, 20-30 mmHg, and 30-40 mmHg. The first type is suitable for everyday wear, for people who stand or stand for long periods of time, such as nurses, teachers, pregnant women, etc. The second type is suitable for sportspeople to relieve fatigue during exercise. The third one is a medical-grade compression stocking for those who suffer from varicose veins issues, patients with this disease have to do the surgery because deep veins will go up to affect the lung when the situation is serious. We have previously published an article on how to choose the right compression level for your brands, please refer to this article.

The picture below shows a compression level testing machine together with an example of the testing result. We use SAG testing equipment imported from Switzerland, which is also one of the most advanced compression detectors known. There’s also a video of the testing process. One question for the test result, Is the socks 7-16mmhg in the picture? Actually, the answer is wrong, 95% of people will think in this way, same as me before. After we double-check with the test machine company, the result should be 15-20mmhg. Because the compression is deduced from ankle to top part, with a range of 20-100%. Generally, the ankle ( b part in the picture) is 100% compression, and 50-80% at b1 and 3 part, then 20-50% on d part. So we should follow the data on the b part and check if another part is reduced gradually.

compression level

Meanwhile, do you know how much it will be cost if you do the compression level testing in third parties like SGS, INTERTEK OR TUV? USD 200-300 or so! BUT this service is free for all our cooperative clients.

And in terms of price, normal socks with slight compression will be cheaper than compression socks in the same conditions, so you can decide which to go for your brand.

4. Design

The same design can be made into both regular socks and compression socks, but not for medical-grade compression stockings because of the machine limit. And inside the socks with designs, there will be many threads that slightly affect the comfort, see pictures below. You can also take off the socks you wear and check. Therefore, 99% of medical-grade compression stockings, it is in plain colors. This is also the reason why most medical brands sell medical stockings in beige and black colors. And it is suggested to use a few patterns on compression socks because patterns will also affect the overall stretching.

socks 1 1

In order to get a better understanding, you should know how socks are produced. Socks are made one needle by one needle in a circle line, and we should use the jacquard yarn to do the patterns, while two different materials will affect the consistency of production thus affecting the elastane. But don’t worry, a simple text or simple pattern logo will not make a big difference in stretching.

There’s also a note if you’re designing your own compression socks, for the complex or overall patterns on compression socks, it can only be made to 15-20mmhg or lower as 8-15mmhg. The reason is once elastic affected, the whole compression of socks will be affected as well. You can also send us to discuss.

5. Production machines

The machines used to produce compression socks are different from those used for regular socks. If you need compression socks for everyday use, leisure, or sports, then ordinary machines can meet the requirements. If you need medical-grade anti-thrombotic compression stockings, you will need a specialized medical machine to produce them. We have both types of machines in our factory, the picture below shows our workshop. For medical-grade compression stockings, we use the MERZ machine imported from Germany, which allows us to increase production capacity and reduce production time and labor costs.

7.medical equipment

Moreover, the gauge of machines is different so you can find that factories like us will use “NEEDLE COUNT” to describe socks. There’re many different needles to choose from, and needles will affect the softness, stretching, and width of compression socks, as well as price. Recently we find there’s a potential sale for extra-wide calf compression socks in the US market, these socks are many by high needle count machines, and our factory has 30 pcs of this kind of machines to meet the increasing demand from our customers. Feel free to contact us for a sample.

Above are some of the differences between regular socks and compression socks, and I have listed the table below for your reference. If you need to customize or buy compression socks or normal socks in bulk, please feel free to contact us, Jiaxing Max Hosiery has been in this field for 16 years and our main export markets are Europe and America. Years of rich experience and reliable product quality make us a professional manufacturer in this field, our mission is “ customer first”, don’t hesitate to leave an inquiry to make your business more efficient and profitable!

Regular sockscotton, wool,
low cut to thigh-thighNo limitWarmth, Breathability,
Regular machine
Compression socksmainly nylon
with elastic like lyra
knee high, thigh-highNo limit for daily style,
plain color for medical
Provide blood
circulation and prevent
varicose veins
Both regular and
medical machine


“Compression socks can help prevent varicose veins.” The Scope, University of Utah, Jan 10, 2018, https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_u6yd3xaw.

Roth, Stephen M. “Why Does Lactic Acid Build Up in Muscles? And Why Does It Cause Soreness?” Scientific American, Springer Nature America, Inc., 23 Jan. 2006, www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-lactic-acid-buil/.

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