Wearing compression socks has been popular for a few years. Many runners swear by them. Researchers were not as enthusiastic, though, and when benefits were noted there were often flaws in the studies. While there are definite benefits for many conditions, including swelling and circulation disorders such as varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and lymphedema, and to prevent post-surgical blood clots, the question whether compression socks or sleeves help with running performance or recovery was not as certain.
5 Excellent Reasons to Wear Compression Socks or Sleeves
In 2015, a controlled and randomized study was completed, and it found that following a marathon, the runners who used compression socks had better recovery compared to runners who used a placebo. Finally, solid, if not compelling evidence. Researchers did acknowledge that there could be a placebo effect caused by runners taking note of the tightness of their compression socks.
In this study, runners were measured two weeks before and two weeks after participating in a marathon by running to exhaustion on a treadmill. Time to exhaustion, maximum and average heart rates were recorded. The group who wore the compression socks had a 2.6% improvement while the placebo group had a 3.4% decrease in time to exhaustion.
The benefit of compression socks or sleeves on performance is less clear, though one study in 2011 found that runners wearing low to medium compression maintained greater leg power following endurance exercise, though there was no difference in their performance time.
Many runners feel that compression socks are beneficial and that positive mental effect may lead to better performance. Graduated compression does help with blood circulation and there is some evidence that it can help with lactate removal during exercise, which might translate to improved performance during endurance events.
Compression socks have been shown to increase blood flow, which will help with the dispersal of lactic acid. This can lead to less soreness after exercise, as can the extra warmth provided by the compression socks or sleeves.
Compression is part of RICE, so using compression socks as part of an injury recovery plan can certainly be beneficial for lower leg injuries such as shin splints, calf strains, and Achilles tendonitis. Increased blood flow can also help speed up recovery. Just remember that compression should be part of an injury treatment plan that should include rest, ice, elevation, as well as possible changes in lifestyle, shoes, and training.
They look cool
Compression socks and sleeves come in a multitude of bright colors and patterns, so they dress up a running outfit like nothing else!
To recap, while wearing compression socks may not be a game changer, there is evidence that there are benefits for runners, especially for recovery when worn for the first 48 hours following an event. As for during an endurance event, if you like them, wear them. If nothing else, you’ll look cool.
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Do you wear compression socks or sleeves? Do you think they improve your performance or recovery?
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