I bought a couple of pairs of compression socks last year and wore them two or three times. Then, they ended up in my closet, buried under a mountain of running gear and race t-shirts. I had worn them on the plane trip home after my last big race, but they never found a place in my everyday training line-up. I pulled them out the other day and wore them around the house after an unusually long run. They helped my tired legs feel better and I was reminded of why I’d bought them in the first place.

Pros

Manufacturers claim that compression socks can increase oxygen delivery, decrease lactic acid build-up, prevent cramps, improve endurance and boost recovery. That explains why compression gear is flying off the shelves. Runners are always looking for an edge on the competition or just a way to stay on their feet and injury-free.

Scientific research supports the claims, but conflicting results make it difficult to gauge just how much one will benefit from wearing the compression socks. Steve Magness has written an informative article on the subject of compression socks and the science behind them at scienceofrunning.com.

For runners that travel the friendly skies, compression socks are a good idea. Pilots have worn compression socks for many years to help prevent DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Athletes should look for socks that have graduated compression, and a 15-20 mmHg rating. For more on that topic, check out this informative article at runnersconnect.net

Cons

If you have ever tried to put on a pair of graduated compression socks in a hurry, you already know how difficult it is. If you’re feet are sweaty or wet, double the time and effort. I spent five minutes putting on a pair of socks, only to find out the L was on the right foot and the R was on the left foot. It’s happened more than once. Aaaggh!

The material on most compression socks gets thin and rough after a couple of wash cycles. I developed some friction irritation on the front of my ankles wearing some brands. Not all compression socks are good socks. Your socks should offer support and padding where it’s needed in addition to compression.

Lastly, there’s the obvious fashion statement. Look at me! I’m either a schoolgirl, a senior citizen with poor circulation, or a Meb Keflezighi wannabe. Well, I guess if you can wear nip guards, use a porta potty every other weekend, and wipe your nose on your shirt, you can deal with the ridicule.

Choosing the Right Pair of Compression Socks

It’s important to choose a pair of graduated compression socks that are sized according to your ankle and calf measurements. If you see socks sized in small, medium and large according to foot size, you’re looking in the wrong spot. Those socks are called compression socks, but they’re not the real deal.

Therafirm makes a pair of comfortable compression socks. Core-Sport® compression socks are graduated, meaning they are tighter at the ankle and compression gradually decreases towards the calf. They use core spun yarn to enhance strength, durability and comfort. The ‘stretchiness’ of Core-Sport® fabric makes these compression socks the easiest to put on out of the brands I’ve tried. (Use shipping code: SALT499 and save $4.99 until 7/31/14)

2XU is another popular brand of compression socks. 2XU has a focus on high-tech fabrics and compression gear for triathletes. 2XU uses high filament yarns for dryness. Their Performance Run socks wick sweat from the skin to the fabric exterior and offer antibacterial and UPF50+ sun protection.

CEP is another popular choice among runners. With comfortable socks boasting flat seams for comfort and channels for air ventilation, CEP is popular among triathletes and runners. CEP’s 2.0 Run Socks come in a large variety of colors as well.

Summary

Find a good pair of compression socks and wear them to train, race, or recover. Or, save your money. I wear them for recovery after my hardest workouts and when I travel by plane. I think they help my speed up my recovery, and that’s enough for me. Do you wear compression socks? If so, when do you wear them? Do they work for you?

3 thoughts on “The Truth About Compression Socks

  1. It kind of cracks me up that the studies were mainly done on people running 10k’s. I would expect no difference at that distance. I find that wearing compression socks (calf sleeves) reduces muscle soreness on runs greater than 15 miles or so. They probably have greater benefit for ultra-runners.

  2. I wear compression in recovery after long runs and hard efforts. I definitely feel I recovery faster and I’m less sore.

  3. I wear compression socks when i run in a race of 10k or more, i don’t wear them for training as my training pace is slower than my race pace. I find that from wearing them i don’t suffer with fatigued or aching legs for days after my races which i used to before wearing them. At the moment i have a pair of Red Venom compression socks and find they work for me.

Thoughts?