How Tight Is Too Tight When Wearing Compression Stockings?

One of the chief complaints of people wearing compression stockings is that they find them to be too tight, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable or even intolerable.

This frequently voiced grievance about compression hose or stockings may or may not be valid in each case and therefore demands further investigation.

First of all, it should be pointed out that compression stockings not being tight would be a contradiction in itself, because as the name says compression implies that pressure is applied to something.  Logic would dictate that the result would be a feeling of squeezing and tightness.  Consequently compression stockings by their very design and nature must be tight.

This obviously summons some closely related questions on this subject matter.  How tight should compression stockings be?  How tight is too tight when it comes to compression hosiery?  In the following we will try to shed some light on these important concerns.

Keep in mind that compression stockings are designed and manufactured to have “graduated compression”.  This means that they intentionally feel the tightest at the ankles where the compression is the highest.  As you move up the leg of the compression stockings or pantyhose the tightness gradually lessens because the compression also gradually decreases the higher you go.  It is therefore completely normal that compression hosiery feels tighter in the ankle and calf area than it does in the thighs.

can compression stockings be too tight The tightness of compression stockings can be particularly challenging and frustrating while trying to put them on or taking them off.

To make this process less exhausting, you absolutely must take the necessary time and patience to don and doff compression stockings or pantyhose.  You will need to ensure that they are properly situated without wrinkles or folds that could pinch, cause pain or even interfere with proper blood circulation.

Last not least, trying to rush things by pulling on the compression stockings could also quickly ruin some potentially expensive legwear.

To make life with compression stockings a little easier there are a number of ingeniously designed donning and doffing devices available that can be of great help in this strenuous process.  They may prove especially beneficial for individuals with limited hand strength or arthritic conditions.


How tight should compression stockings fit?

This is a difficult question to answer because compression stockings of different compression levels obviously also have varying degrees of tightness. In addition, it depends on the individual wearing them.

People have different tolerance levels for things such as pain or temperature, for example.  In a similar way this also applies to what a person perceives as too tight and what actually is too tight from a medical point of view.


Compression stockings or pantyhose are too tight if they

  • Make your eyes bug out of your head (just kidding and checking if you are still paying attention)
  • Cause pain
  • Pinch your skin
  • Make your legs feel numb or show discoloration


In some cases if compression stockings are too tight, an age related condition known as Senile Purpura can cause small blood vessels in the legs to break and cause bleeding under the skin.  This can usually be remedied by reevaluating the patient and changing the size and/or compression level of the stockings.


What can be done if compression stockings feel too tight?

If you feel your compression stockings are too tight, the first course of action should be to make sure they are properly sized for your legs and feet.  It is of utmost importance that compression stockings are sized correctly to get the best results while wearing them.

If you have previously taken your measurements for compression stockings yourself we suggest you have them checked by a professionally trained fitter of compression stockings.  You can call your nearest medical supply store to find a certified fitter or contact your physician or specialist office to assist you in finding one.  If you have been measured by a professional fitter have your measurements rechecked regardless (even they can occasionally make a measuring mistake).

Once you have located a certified fitter for compression stockings, make an early morning appointment to have yourself measured before your legs have a chance to swell up.

For additional information about proper sizing and fit of compression hosiery we recommend reading our post…

Problems With Graduated Compression Stockings – The Importance of Correct Measurements and Sizing

If you are new to wearing compression stockings it may be a good idea in general to start out with a lower compression and gradually build your comfort level (even just wearing them initially for a few hours at a time) to the compression your physician has recommended for your condition.


Things You Should Definitely NOT Do – In General And If Your Compression Stockings Are Too Tight:

  1. Do not cut holes into your compression garments to make them less tight
  2. Do not cut the elastic band or hold up band of compression stockings or hose
  3. Do not cut the feet off of compression pantyhose or stockings because it causes the material to roll, which could interfere with proper circulation
  4. Do not fold or roll the material of compression stockings because this could interfere with proper blood circulation
  5. Do not wear compression stockings while sleeping unless you have been advised to do so by your physician or a specialist
  6. Do not buy a bigger size of compression stockings, instead talk to your physician about lowering the compression level of your compression stockings or hose
  7. Do not buy multiple pairs of compression stockings unless you are sure you have the correct size and they fit you properly


The cold hard truth is that in order to get the benefits compression stockings can provide you need to actually wear them.

If you are certain that you have the correct size and you still cannot tolerate the tightness of the compression level you are wearing you should talk to your medical care provider to see if you could drop your compression stockings to a lower compression level.

Common sense would dictate that it is still better to wear compression hosiery at a lower compression level than not at all.

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  1. Gregory says

    Good for you Brenda, your insightful comment should be inspiring to others as well. Thank you and best wishes to you :)

  2. Brenda says

    This is very informative. When I was first prescribed compression stockings, it was a few months after my DVT & PE, and I was scheduled to fly to Europe shortly thereafter. I was wearing the highest compression level and they were so tight that my feet had turned white. I took them off at my layover stop and never wore them again. After reading this post, I think I will seek a lower compression level and resume wearing the stockings instead of playing Russian roulette with my health.

  3. Lorie L. says

    I’ve learned some excellent stuff here. Certainly valuable for revisiting. You have made such a magnificent informative website.

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