You might have seen them at races or spotted other runners wearing them when you’ve been out training; it seems that compression socks are everywhere these days.
With so many runners wearing them there must be some benefit, right?
In this post we take a look at why so many athletes wear compression socks and most importantly if there’s actually any benefit.
Let’s find out…
Made popular by athletes such as Paula Radcliffe and Meb Keflezighi, compression socks are those tight looking socks that come up to the knee and are becoming increasingly popular in the running community.
Made from strong, durable elastic, these socks were originally designed for medical surgery, helping to improve blood circulation in patients where mobility is limited. The medical benefits of compression socks have long been understood, however, research is only just beginning to study the benefits for runners.
So let’s start with the most common benefits that manufacturers claim that the socks provide runners:
One of the oldest and most common benefits of wearing compression socks for running is how they improve the wearer’s flow of circulation. Improved circulation can help increase the delivery of oxygen and helps lower your heart rate, which can be especially beneficial to those who suffer from high blood pressure. All of these effects are especially helpful for runners, too.
If you’re a runner, you should be no stranger to the complications that come with the sport, such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis. With the aid of compression socks, your risk of suffering from these issues can decrease drastically. This is because many brands actually offer built-in webbing and support around your knee, calf, foot, and ankle. If you’re a runner who has certain stability issues in your leg, compression socks can be an ideal tool to help you prevent injuries while participating in the sport.
Another reason why use compression socks for running is the warmth they provide. If you plan on running in colder months, wool socks aren’t ideal, so what else are you going to use. Fortunately, compression socks are great for keeping your legs and feet warm during cold, bitter weather conditions. This is all thanks to the benefit that it increases the blood flow in your feet. With winter right around the corner, compression socks are a great item to have in your wardrobe.
Wearing thin materials along with shorts are common clothing runners wear. However, this type of attire usually leaves your legs vulnerable to plants, stones, and rain/snow. Since trail runners can be subject to poisonous plants and branches, it’s important to give yourself a little protection. Fortunately, compression socks can help keep the entirety of your legs covered from the elements outdoors and dries fast!
Compression socks can also help to decrease the amount of time it takes for runners to recover after running a race or a long training run. This is largely because of the physiological benefits these socks provide. Swelling decreases and runners feel less fatigued, which means recovery takes less time. Additionally, these socks help to increase blood flow to your muscles and joint tissues. This makes it easier for your body to get the nutrients it needs to perform to the best of its ability and recover quickly.
Cramping and sore muscles can be a serious issue for runners, especially when training for a big race. Some people are more prone to this type of discomfort than others. In fact, muscle pain and discomfort can actually prevent some runners from training as much as they would like to. Because they are so tight, compression socks help to improve blood flow. This creates less lactic acid, which leads to less muscle soreness and cramping. If you commonly experience these problems, compression socks are definitely worth a try.
Sounds promising right? Well let’s see what the scientists have to say…
A 2014 study titled “Efficacy of Compression Socks to Enhance Recovery in
Distance Athletes” set out to find if compression socks did provide any benefit for runners, particularly during long distance efforts.
While the study did find find some benefits to compression socks, noting that they did find:
…decreased lower extremity volume measurements during and after long distance running.
They did note that the results were only marginal so they couldn’t declare that they offered a noticeable benefit to runners when running.
Where running compression socks do come into their own if for post-run recovery – a benefit where significant research has been done to prove the benefits.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that wearing compression socks for 48 hours after running a marathon improved performance on a treadmill test two weeks later.
Looking at all the evidence presented from the various studies, it would seem that there is some benefit to compression socks.
Anyone wondering why use compression socks for running should possibly look to realign their expectations as while there is little evidence to support their use when running, there’s a lot of data supporting their use for recovery.