Many people have asked, if “compression socks or sleeves really work”?
The short answer is yes and no.
So if “everyone” is wearing them, there must benefits, right?
Most of the benefits in studies have been mental versus fitness gain. Running is 80% mental anyway. Personally, while wearing compression my legs feel better during and after runs.
So what are some benefits of Compression?
Compression promotes blood flow and in turn accelerates the removal of metabolic waste. In short, it encourages blood flow with oxygen and nutrients to muscles faster. As someone who deals a lot of with calve tightness, I’ve found that compression helps to speed up recovery after a hard workout or race.
If you’ve ever had issues with needing stabilization (for instance a rolled ankle), compression can help stabilize tendons and ligaments. A few years ago, when I rolled my ankle, I used the CEP compression ankle sleeve.
What to Keep in Mind:
There are a few things to keep in mind though, and not every compression sock brand is the same. Some are just glorified tube socks. The average quality set of compression sleeves cost about $40, while the average sock is about $60. I personally have had the most success with CEP compression (they aren’t paying me to tell you that).
Socks or Sleeves?
If you aren’t having foot pain and issues, I highly recommend the sleeves versus socks. It can be tough to get a perfect fit between a calf size and foot size. For instance, my feet don’t match up because my calves are size 3 and my feet are women’s size 10-11! Plus with the sleeves, you can use your own socks or if you feel like you need a pair of compression socks, purchase the right foot size.
Look for Medical Grade:
You want to look for a brand that uses “Medical Grade Compression.” Medical Grade Compression is designed to promote and target blood flow. Typically colors are more boring and aren’t on sale every 10 minutes.
Medical grade compression comes in several different levels of compression:
- Mild (8-15 mmHg)
- Medium (15-20 mmHg)
- Firm (20-30 mmHg)
- X-Firm (30-40 mmHg)
Most runners don’t need anything more than medium or firm.
The last thing to remember is to get measured. If you need a size 11 and are wearing a size IV, then you probably won’t feel much of the benefit. You want to measure the widest part of your calve. Keep in mind to measure both, as many people’s calves (and feet) are two different sizes. Compression socks should fit snug. They should be tight enough to leave small impressions from the fabric, but they shouldn’t ever be painful. The first time you put a pair on, it should challenge you.
Finally, When to Wear Them:
There are no rules about when to wear compression socks. Many runners like myself, wear them while running to increase circulation. Others use compression after a workout or run. If you are having shin and calve issues, wear them during a run or workout, as well as after. (Don’t wear them 24-7 though, your feet need time to breath). If you’re using them for recovery, use them post run. The beauty is, you can experiment is figure out when feels the best to you.
Question for you: Do you wear compression? Socks or sleeves?