Pull up your travel socks

Getting compressed in Ames Walker Travel Socks (Scarborough photo)(This is a product review; I do not actively solicit travel products to test, but will investigate items if I think I’d actually use them or my readers might be interested.)

Late last year, a public relations firm sent me a “test pair” of Ames Walker Microfiber Firm Support Travel Socks, but until last week’s trip to Chicago for the SOBCon08 blogging conference, I hadn’t flown anywhere so that I could check them out.

The socks are also called “graduated compression legwear,” because they are woven in such a way that they are tighter in certain spots on your feet and legs in order to help reduce edema (swelling) and to help with proper blood flow during long periods of sitting. Benefits include improved circulation and better venous blood flow in the legs, even while scrunched up on increasingly-uncomfortable airplanes.

“Economy class syndrome” is another name for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which is a blood clot (thrombosis) that can form in the deep vein system of the lower leg when a person sits for extended periods of time, like in an aircraft but also a long car journey.

The “economy class” term makes for good headlines, but in reality, anyone sitting for more than about an hour, even in business/first class, needs to get up, move and stretch periodically, and some argue that the medical evidence for DVT is rather scanty.

I’ve always made it a point to get an aisle seat and try to move around during long flights, and I encourage my kids to do the same, plus drink lots of water. It’s just a smart way to counteract flying’s stresses on the body.

In the spirit of comfort research, however, I wore my socks for two full days going and coming to Chicago from Texas, combined with black suede Rockport slip-on walking shoes (Aerosoles is another favorite brand of mine for comfy shoes that do not scream “dorky traveler in white running shoes with laces that hold up security screenings.”)

Plus, barefoot through security is rather gross, and I’m no hygiene freak, either.

The Ames Walker socks were very comfortable and my legs felt well-supported. After a long day of flying, then walking a bazillion miles through the O’Hare Airport upon arrival, then 45 minutes into downtown on the train, then walking some more blocks to my hotel, all while schlepping a purse, laptop bag and carry-on rolling suitcase, my legs felt good.

Or maybe I’m in better shape than I think I am. 🙂

On the return flight, however, the band at the top of the socks really cut into my legs. My feet and lower legs felt great, but the top of the socks were like a tight rubber band just below my knee.

I’m not sure why, since they were fine before, but I think part of the problem was that my sample pair were a Large and I’m more Medium. The sock band at the top needs to stretch flat at the top of the calf so that it isn’t constricting, and my band went all the way up onto the knee a bit, so it may not have been stretched out enough, and that caused over-compression. If I were Ames Walker, I’d make the band wider.

They’re easy to care for – I washed them with a bar of soap in the hotel room sink, and they dried quickly on a towel rack because they’re a synthetic microfiber.

Bottom line: since socks are a good idea anyway (and microfiber ones are smart because they’re easy to self-launder) I vote for packing compression socks on my next trip. Thanks to Ames Walker for the chance to review their product.

Travel guide Tim Leffel is much more of a travel product review guru – I highly recommend his excellent Practical Travel Gear blog for more info on travel-related gear, clothing and gizmos.