Flying with compression stockings

Why wear compression stockings?

Compression stockings, like compression garments in general, help prevent or treat certain conditions. First and foremost, compression stockings help improve blood circulation in the legs by putting pressure on the veins, facilitating blood flow back to the heart. Compression stockings are a good way to avoid the occasional feeling that your legs are heavy or swollen.

They exert gradual pressure starting at the ankle, where compression is highest. The pressure decreases moving up to the top of the leg.

Four reasons to wear compression stockings when flying

Long airplane trips cause problems with the veins in the legs for at least four reasons:

Limited movement

In economy class, seat clearance is optimized to fit as many passengers as possible in the smallest space possible. This makes it difficult to move your legs without encroaching on your neighbour’s space. Stretching is hard. Normal movements that promote blood flow are infrequent.

Uncomfortable seats

Seats have a small surface, and their edges often impede blood flow to the legs. Having pins and needles in your legs is not pleasant. Having numb legs for too long is not great either.

Low humidity

Air on board aircraft is recycled and recirculated many times during a flight. It is very dry. This causes dehydration of the body, which, if prolonged can result in venous stasis (constricted venous return where blood pools in the veins).

Poor oxygenation

Another problem with recycled air in aircraft is that it contains less oxygen than the air we breathe at ground level. Over a long period of time, this results in less oxygenation of the body and thus the blood. This can induce a minor form of hypoxia that is harmful to blood tissue and aggravates certain cardiac or respiratory conditions.

Compression stockings come in different grades, depending on the degree of compression they offer.

Find out how to choose the right ones.

Three conditions that compression stockings help prevent on the plane

Impaired blood flow in the legs can cause physiological problems. Here are three of them:


Thrombosis or blood clot

Thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a blood vessel. Venous thrombosis, also known as phlebitis, can occur in a vein on the surface of the skin or deep inside the body.

Flying for more than four hours increases the risk of developing thrombosis by up to four times.


Phlebitis due to travel

Phlebitis is deep vein thrombosis that can result from plane travel. The conditions on board an aircraft are not conducive to good venous return in the legs. Blood pooling in the veins increases the risk of thrombosis or phlebitis.



Edema is the swelling of tissue that results from an increase in the volume of fluid in a limb, in this case the legs. Decreased movement, such as that caused by the restricted space in airplane seats, can contribute to edema.

Benefits of wearing compression stockings on the plane

It is not uncommon to run into crew members on an airplane who are wearing compression stockings themselves.

Compression stockings consist of an elastic fabric that exerts constant, active pressure on the lower leg between the foot and calf. These stockings support the surface veins and also the deep veins that ensure 80% of venous return. They help the blood in the legs flow back to the upper body to reoxygenate.

As the foot moves (flexes), it activates the calf muscles, which act as a pump to return the blood in the legs to the upper body. This pumping action is particularly effective during physical activities such as walking. During prolonged immobility, blood ends up stagnating in the legs, which can lead to physiological disorders. Compression stockings compensate for the inaction of the feet and calves and facilitate venous return.

How to get your blood flowing on the plane

You may want to consult an expert before flying to check if you are at risk of developing venous thrombosis.

Whether to prevent or treat a venous disorder, you can opt to wear compression stockings.


Compression stockings

Stockings come in different lengths and different fabrics and materials. Some are made to be worn during sports, while others are more comfortable and designed to be worn at work or on the plane.

Got any questions?

Contact our certified advisors.