The quest to make compression socks cool
With all the pleasures long-distance air travel can bring — new experiences! the sun, maybe! museums! excellent food! — there are also the pains, including that ache-y, uncomfortable feeling some people get in their legs after not moving for hours that makes them feel as if their legs have turned into overblown balloons.
For years, compression socks have been one of the most popular cures for this feeling, with their ability to help increase blood circulation, prevent swelling and alleviate that ache. The thing about compressions socks though is that they’ve long been looked at as geriatric, unsightly and definitely not something you flaunt on your way to, like, Hawaii.
But guess what, guys? It’s 2017. Of course now there’s a quest to make compression socks cute and cool.
The company Vim & Vigr has been on this quest for the past four years now, with founder Michelle Huie launching the company in 2013.
“I started Vim & Vigr mainly because of a personal need,” Huie said in an email. “I had a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep and was in the car driving for hours every day. I bought a pair of compression socks and they made my legs feel great but they were extremely expensive, plus they were made out of a rubbery feeling fabric with no design at all. It was really obvious that I was wearing a pair of compression socks. I knew that if I had a need for stylish and comfortable compression socks, there had to be many more people who could benefit too.”
This same realization struck Andrew Ferenci, the founder of the new compression sock company Comrad, which launched just weeks ago.
“Three years ago, I found that being on my feet all day and criss-crossing the country on airplanes was making my legs and feet feel achy and tired,” Ferenci said in an email. “I reached out to a friend — a physical therapist — and she recommended wearing compression socks. The rest is history; I could immediately feel the difference and they worked magic on my legs. I started wearing compressions socks to the office, on flights and after exercise.”
But the options were, according to both Ferenci and Huie, extremely lacking.
“I would classify the options available into two buckets — medical and athletic,” Huie said. “At that time, compression socks for athletes, especially runners, were really taking off but they were very athletic looking and often neon colored.”
“In other words, ugly,” Ferenci said. “I couldn’t find anything that I would actually want to wear every day.”
And so that’s how both Huie in 2013 and Ferenci in 2017 individually came to the conclusion of starting their own compression socks companies that are trying to flip this industry on its head, introducing alluring prints and modern styles.
Comrad’s socks come in pink and ombre shades, for example, with a hefty dose of good marketing. Vim & Vigr’s come in a wide variety of prints and fabrics for both women and men.
Other than just improved appearance, both companies have kept a keen eye on the performance of the socks, with Vim & Vigr offering different levels of compression socks and moisture-wicking technology, and Comrad’s socks having both moisture-wicking and odor-minimizing technology too.
“When most people hear the words ‘compression socks,’ they think they’re only for people with an existing medical condition,” Ferenci said. “At Comrad, we know that anyone who is on their feet, traveling or generally wants more energy can benefit from our companion socks. We’re changing the perception that compression socks are only for people with existing medical conditions, first by promoting not only how compression works, but why its great for your health.”
Despite Vim & Vigr being four years on the market, Huie has noticed a peak in interest from this new generation lately.
“One thing we started to notice this past year is that millennials are as interested in Vim & Vigr as baby boomers,” Huie said. “In the past, compression socks have been focused on someone who is older or has some type of medical need, but clinical studies on compression socks are much more expansive than that, and have found that there are benefits to wearing them all day.”
Perhaps with their innovation, compression socks will stop being something you secretly slip on in an airport bathroom and instead turn into something you, instead, love to wear.