I have to admit, when compression socks for runners first came out, I was skeptical. The first couple of compression sock products I tried out didn’t seem to provide much benefit. I didn’t feel that there was a degree of compression that was very beneficial, or at least noticeable. All that has changed though, over the last few years; and, the compression market for runners has evolved very quickly with a wide variety of highly advanced and very beneficial products.
A few years back, with the marriage of medical grade compression and athletic apparel, the game changed significantly. Compression socks and sleeves became an accessory with significant benefits for runners.
When I first ran in a pair of CEP Run+ compression calf sleeves, I was amazed at what a difference they made. I had been experiencing some calf soreness and tightness for a couple of weeks at the time. One good run in them, and suddenly my calves felt noticeably better. The soreness and tightness were gone. Since then, I almost always wear compression calf sleeves for both my long runs and longer races. I usually wear either the CEP Progressive+ sleeves, or Zensah Ultra sleeves. Both work great for me. The brand you choose is a matter of preference, but I have found both of these brands to provide a very beneficial level of graduated compression.
Graduated, or progressive, compression means that the highest degree of compression is in the lower part of the leg (the furthest away from the heart) with gradually lower compression higher in the leg and through the calf. This provides for enhanced blood flow. The stimulation of blood flow provided by graduated compression provides your muscles with more oxygenated blood so that the muscles recover much more quickly. An added benefit of compression socks and sleeves is that they stabilize the muscles and connective tissues of the lower leg, thus reducing muscle oscillation/vibration every time your feet hit the ground. This stabilization acts to prevent trauma to the muscles, and reduces soreness.
Compression socks and sleeves for runners are one of the most advanced product developments to come along. If you haven’t tried them, you may want to consider getting a pair. One thing you’ll need to consider is whether you run in the complete compression socks, or the compression calf sleeves. The complete compression socks provide compression for your feet, ankles, and entire lower legs; whereas the calf sleeves don’t provide compression through the feet and ankles. If you really like the running socks you normally wear and/or you don’t like the feel of the full compression sock on your feet, go with the sleeves. I personally prefer a very thin running sock, and the brands I wear provide some compression for the feet, so I go with the compression calf sleeves. I do wear the full compression socks sometimes after a particularly hard run or race because they definitely enhance and speed up the recovery process.
If you are concerned about compression socks and sleeves being hot, don’t be. The lower leg compression products we sell all are made of breathable technical fabrics that manage heat and wick away moisture. They are very comfortable. Compression products are anatomically fit for men and women, and are made in different sizes. Because of their tight fit, make sure you have both the correct gender and size for the best comfort and effectiveness.
by Brad Altevogt, 3RRC co-owner and President