Compression socks in a material world – What are they made of?

Since compression socks are used in a variety of different ways, it stands to reason that they are made of many different materials. Silk, cotton, wool, nylon, Lycra (commonly known as spandex) and natural rubber are just some of the materials I could mention here.

But exactly what determines the main ingredients of a great pair of compression socks?

The material used depends not only on the intended use of the product, but on the price range, desired elasticity, thickness, warmth, durability and  style as well. To achieve optimal performance, most models are knitted from a combination of the materials mentioned above.

The type of compression also plays a major part. A heavy compression product with uniform compression requires a very different material and knitting technology than a sock with a light, graduated compression. Special ankle compression socks are a completely different story.

Travel compression socks are made of spandex mixed with nylon and some extra cotton added for comfort. If you are going to sit for hours on a plane, then the material has to have a certain softness to it.

Muscle recovery socks are less known for their comfort, but they must have excellent elasticity and hold the limbs tightly without exerting too much pressure. They are made of nylon mixed with spandex.

When it comes to compression socks for runners, hygiene is of extra importance, since runners are expected to sweat a lot.  A sweaty limb could be an  ideal growing ground for bacteria and fungi.  Sport products have lines of silver woven into them. This prevents bacterial developments and keeps the leg free of microbes even during a long and demanding workout.

Sport socks must let the skin breathe. Some manufacturers use microfiber or silk to provide the desired protection and allow the skin to breathe. Both materials can be used for wowing extremely dense socks, that still let a large surface connect with the air.  Silk is the more popular of the two, because it keeps the limb warm during winter, and cools it off during the summer.

Some socks are made with  LYCRA fibers woven into the product. LYCRA – also commonly referred to as spandex – is a synthetic material, which stretches easily and provides a tight fit. With different amounts of spandex added to the product different levels of elasticity can be achieved.


You should take into consideration the following concerns when choosing compression socks based on its ingredients:

  1. The intended use of the product

    If you are buying a mode for long distance running, you will need one made of completely different materials then if you are looking for a model to wear while sitting in front of your computer as an office worker. If you are a pensioner who is looking to treat varicose veins, that is a completely different story again.

    Check the buying guides on the site if you are unsure which is the best product for you.

  2. Allergic reactions

    Some people have bad autoimmune reactions to certain materials. If you know that your skin reacts badly to certain fibers, just check the box of the product to know what materials were used for manufacturing it.

Which are the most common materials used for manufacturing compression socks? Let’s go through each material, and the most common characteristics of each one.

Materials and their characteristics

  1. Cotton

    This is a natural material that grows in a protective case around the seeds of the plant by the same name. The fiber is almost entirely cellulose, and it is used for manufacturing different pieces of clothing all around the world.
    It is a low resistance fiber, which has to be mixed with other ingredients in order to give the final clothing product the desired resistance and durability. Prolonged exposure to sunlight weakens the fiber, so it can not be used as the main component of a compression product.

  2. Wool

    Wool is a type of textile obtained mainly from sheep. It can be obtained from goats, rabbits or muskoxen, but these sources are not prevalent in compression garment manufacturing. The processed wool fiber is shorter than the original fiber, so it is often mixed with cotton or raw wool in commercial use. It is popular for its durability yet softness and warmth.

  3. Nylon

    Nylon is one of the most popular materials used in hosiery manufacturing. It was invented by the Dupont company and quickly took over the market thanks to its resistance to the elements, elasticity and heat setting ability. It dries very quickly after getting wet. It is surprisingly strong compared to its thickness. There are two types of nylon used for manufacturing compression socks – type 6 and type 6.6. Although type 6 is the softer of the two types, the latter is more common due to its strength.

  4. Elastane

    As the name suggests, it is a pretty rubber like, elastic material. Different manufacturers might call it differently, but Lycra, Roica or Dorlastan all refer to the same material. It can stretch to as much as three to seven times its original length, and immediately go back to its original size. The ratio of its stretching ability depends on what materials are mixed together with it. Adding only as little as 2 % elastane can give a product enough elasticity. It is added to compression socks to achieve a tight fit and to make it easier to put them on.

  5. Microfibers

    Microfibers are the finest natural materials know to man. They can be twice as fine as silk. They can be used to produce incredibly tight and dense products. Such hosieries have excellent water and sweat repellent abilities. They allow the skin to breathe and easily regulate temperature. This material provides excellent protection from the elements, combined with great comfort.

  6. Polyamide

    Polyamide is a synthetic fiber that resembles polyester a lot. It is very easy to wash, and can take stress very well, hence its popularity. It is also comfortable, which makes it a common material for manufacturing pantyhose, lingerie and stockings.

  7. Silk

Marco Polo’s adventures around the Silk Road were a long time ago, but silk is just as widely used by the clothing industry as ever. This natural fiber is obtained from the cocoon of farmed silk worms. It is glossy, soft and light. It is usually woven together with wool or cotton during sock manufacturing. Its popularity is down to its warmness during the winter and coolness in the summer. It also provides great breathability for the skin.


As you can see there are many different materials used for manufacturing compression socks. The intended use of the product will determine the types of fibres used during the wowing process. You can check the box of the socks to find out what materials were used. All the reviews on this site feature the ingredients of the product in question.

Please check our guides to choosing the best products if you have a sitting occupation, a standing occupation, you are a runner or if you are an elderly citizen.

What are you preferred materials when it comes to compression socks? Do you have an especially comfortable pair? Share your experience in the comment section below!

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