Devices for donning and doffing compression socks

User Story

Hal is a man in his 60’s, living in the Richmond area with his wife, and his dog. He enjoys singing with two different groups, watching old Western movies, and likes spending time with his dog. He is a retired pastor who values being a truth teller and influences others to do the same, especially during the events of this past year. Hal has various interests including music, justice, computers, and healthcare.

Hal wears compression socks every day and changes them every 48-72 hours, but he currently has difficulty putting them on and taking them off without his wife’s help due to pain and inflexibility in his lower back. The devices that Hal owns to aid in these tasks are not the best fit for him as they would require him to be able to bend past his limit. Hal would like to be able to don and doff his socks independently, so our team set out to make devices to help him reach this goal.

Problem Statements

User Statement: Hal who has trouble putting on and taking off compression socks due to lower back pain and pelvis inflexibility.

Point of View Question: How might we help Hal put on and take off compression socks more independently?

Design Process

Initial design

In the initial phase of our design process, we went through several stages of brainstorming, prototyping, and troubleshooting before creating our final design.


Below are pictures of the whiteboard drawings and screenshots of the jamboards we used to collaborate on brainstorming initial ideas for our prototypes.





Initial Prototypes

Below is a picture of our initial prototypes. We made two initial prototypes of each device to send to Hal in order to determine what basic design he thought would work best for him before moving on to further prototyping.

Revisions and Design Updates

After sharing our initial thoughts and prototypes with Hal and the instructors, we received helpful feedback to make improvements to our devices.


Hal’s Feedback: Hal liked the cuff design for the end of the adapted shoe horn used to doff the compression socks. We communicated with him via email, text messaging, phone calls, and Zoom calls to explain our prototypes. He told us that both devices looked like something he would use. When we met with him on Zoom for a second time to show him updated prototypes, he was very excited about what we had created so far. Once we met with Hal in person to test out our designs he said it would be easier to take his compression socks off past his heel if the top edges of the adapted shoe horn were hooked more, so we went back to the Maker Space to make this revision.

Instructors Feedback: She liked that we considered every aspect of the task, like grip of the sock aid, and how small things like this could affect Hal’s experience using the devices we create. She advised us that placing compression socks on a device and then onto a person’s leg can be difficult and suggested we consider trying to turn the sock inside out and rolling it onto the leg. Another instructor advised us to compare the functionality of adding ridges to the edges of the sock aid versus folding the compression sock over on itself as ways to ensure the compression sock would stay on the sock aid as Hal pulls it up his leg. She also suggested we consider trying different bunching patterns of the compression sock on the sock aid to determine which would allow the compression sock to be positioned correctly on Hal’s leg as he pulls the sock aid upwards.


We took all of the feedback we received into consideration and continued to brainstorm and revise our designs to produce new prototypes to show to Hal via Zoom.


We used sock aids and compression socks in the department to assist in our brainstorming and prototyping. With input from instructors, we quickly decided to buy compression socks that would match the length and resistance of the ones Hal wears to ensure our design would be a good fit for him. The first two pictures below show the sock aid we used and the third picture shows the compression sock from the department (white one on the left) and the one we bought (black one on the right).

Adapted Shoe Horn: We decided to make the end of the adapted shoe horn a combination of the cuff and fanned out design so that it would be fitted to Hal’s calf like he preferred and would be stable enough to push the sock past his heel and then off of his foot. Below are pictures of our brainstorming notes for an updated prototype (on the left) and our updated prototype (on the right).

We made a second prototype for the end of the adapted shoe horn out of thermoplastic material (first picture below). Initially, we used the duct tape covered end from our first prototype as a mold (second picture below), but we quickly decided to use the curve of the sock aid from the department as a mold for better quality (third picture below). We also used scrap pieces of thermoplastic material to make sure it would attach to the metal of the shoe horn (fourth picture below).

Sock Aid: After critically thinking about whether to use ridges versus using a folding method to hold the sock on the sock aid, we decided to add ridges on the edges of the sock aid. We also made a small model of how we planned to attach the ropes to the sock aid. Below are pictures of our brainstorming notes (first picture), rope attachment plan (second picture), and our prototyping of the ridges (third picture). The third picture shows two different ridge shape ideas.

Bunching vs. Folding: After comparing and contrasting bunching and folding methods to put the compression sock on the sock aid, we decided to use a bunching method (shown below). We also chose to incorporate binder clips to hold the compression sock onto the sock aid so that it would not fall off too soon which, in practicing, we found lead to improper placement of the sock on our legs.

Templates: We made templates for the shoe horn adaptation (first picture on the left) and the sock aid (second and third pictures on the right) to use when cutting the thermoplastic material.

Final Design

For our final design we created two devices: one to don compression socks and one to doff them.

To don compression socks, we created a specialized sock aid. Though we considered using plastic from recycled materials covered in fabric and using thick, inflexible thermoplastic material for this device, we decided to use a thin, flexible thermoplastic material to ensure it could bend enough to fit inside a tight compression sock. After testing different ridge patterns, we decided to add rounded ridges along each edge to help keep the compression sock on the device and aid in bunching the material correctly. At the top of the sock aid there is space to attach two binder clips which hold the top of the sock in place and ensure the user is able to pull them completely up the lower leg with ease. Finally, we attached two long ropes with built up looped handles to grip.

To doff compression socks, we adapted a shoe horn by adding a fan shaped cuff to the end. The metal shoe horn we used provides sturdiness and stability needed to push a tight compression sock. The fan shaped cuff attached to the end is thin enough to fit under a compression sock and is a comfortable material and shape to run along the lower leg. On each corner of the end attachment there is a hook which is intended to hook onto the compression sock so the user can pull it past the heel and off the foot.


Materials for the Sock Aid Materials for the Adapted Shoe Horn
  • 13x16inch non-perforated thermoplastic that is lightweight and bendy ($15 for full sheet)
  • 2 yards of Rope ($15 for full spool)
  • 2 Binder clips ($5 for set of 40)
  • Embroidery needle
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Yard stick
  • Electric skillet filled with a minimum of 4 inches of water
  • (2) 7×7 inch pieces of non-perforated thermoplastic ⅛ inch thickness ($20 for full sheet)
  • Extended metal shoehorn ($10)
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Electric skillet filled with a minimum of 4 inches of water


Adaptive Shoe horn:

  • $20-100 Non-perforated thermoplastic of ⅛ inch thickness*
  • $10 Extended metal shoehorn

Sock Aid:

  • $15-100 Non-perforated thermoplastic that is lightweight and bendy*
  • $15 Rope (full spool)
  • $5 Binder clips (set of 40)

*Thermoplastic prices vary by type, brand, supplier, etc

Product critique


Our final design worked well for Hal and has many strengths. The main strength is that both devices make it possible for Hal to don and doff his compression socks independently while seated, which was his goal. In addition, both devices are small enough so they can be stored in any area of the house and are easily transportable.

Adapted Shoe Horn: The shoe horn we adapted is long enough for Hal to push his compression socks off without needing to bend over. Since it is made of inflexible metal it is sturdy enough to withstand resistance from compression socks. The end of the adapted shoe horn is a fan shape that is cuffed to fit the shape of Hal’s calf as well as two hooks on each corner to aid in pulling his compression socks around his heel. The thermoplastic material is smooth and has a flared edge which preserves skin condition as he pushes his socks off.

Sock Aid: The sock aid is made with flexible thermoplastic material with ridged edges. It is easier to put a tight compression sock on this material compared to less flexible plastics. We considered longevity of the device when selecting this flexible material. If Hal were to need to increase the compression of his socks, he would still be able to fit them on this device. Having ridged edges helps keep the sock on the sock aid. There are two binder clips to secure the top of the sock to the device, which adds longevity to our device. Currently, Hal is able to reach down and pull his compression socks up once they are at a few inches above his ankles. In our interview, he said that he thinks his inflexibility will get worse over time, so, by using the binder clips to secure the sock to the device, Hal will be able to pull his compression socks up to his knee without needing to bend over at all. The looped handles on the sock aid are versatile. Hal can grab the loops and use them as handles to pull the sock aid or he can just can keep them around his wrists to prevent them from falling off.

Suggestions for Improvement

While we are proud of our final design and know it will be very helpful to Hal, we also know there are some weaknesses and room for improvement.

Adapted Shoe Horn: The back panel of the end of the adapted shoe horn was made of two pieces of thermoplastic material. This made it slightly more difficult to bind the back and front panels. Part of the back panel also came detached a couple of times and needed to be reheated in order to ensure it was bound completely to the front panel. The adapted shoe horn could have been improved if we had used a single piece of thermoplastic for the front and back panels. Doing so would both improve the appearance and stability of the device.

Sock Aid: The thinner blue thermoplastic material we used to create the sock aid proved to be more difficult to work with compared to the thicker black material. This caused the sock aid to be less smooth and the ridges to be less rounded than we planned. The sock aid could be improved by using a material that is easier to work with. We also thought it would have been more efficient if we had cut the ridges before molding the shape of the sock aid.



Manufacturing instructions: Manufacturing Instructions

User instructions: User Instructions

Student designers: Rosemary Allen, Megan Osborne, Carly Schwam, Farah Yasmeen

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