Compression Socks for Runners

It seems that compression socks for runners are big business these days along with compression tights and compression calf sleeves.

I own a couple of pairs of compression tights, compression shorts and a few compression socks. I bought them when I was going through a spate of injuries and the promo blurb seemed to indicate that compression gear would help.

What are Compression Socks?

Have you ever been in hospital and been made to wear some really tight long socks that are impossible to get on? Or maybe you've seen people wearing them on the plane or if they have varicose veins. You know those long socks that come up to your knee.

Well those are compression socks.

People wear them to help reduce the likelihood of a deep vein thrombosis or blood clot forming in their calves.

How does Compression Work?

Without compression socks, your muscles normally do the work of helping to move the blood through your veins. As your muscles contract, they put pressure (compress) on the surrounding veins which forces them to squeeze the blood back towards your heart.

However for people who might have poor circulation in their lower legs, such as if your are bed bound, have varicose veins or are sitting for hours on a long haul flight, then the muscle compression is reduced and so blood and fluid can pool in your lower legs. This could lead to varicose veins, blood clots and swollen ankles.

The idea behind compression socks is that they compress the blood vessels in your lower leg so that the blood and fluid can't pool there.  They create a positive pressure that forces the blood away from gravity. The compression tends to be tightest closer to your ankle and then eases off a bit as the socks go higher up your leg.

Compression Socks for Runners

So how do compression socks for runners work then?

Compression socks work the same way whether you are using them for running or for medical reasons. But do they give you an edge over your competition?

I've tried to look up the research as yes I want that edge! However there really is not enough research and what there is seems a bit inconclusive about how effective compression socks are for runners.

Others feel that:

  • They protect their legs when trail running.
  • They reduce swelling and lower leg tiredness on very long runs.
  • You could wear them with shorts to keep you warmer.
  • Recovery is quicker.

My thoughts are that compression socks are not necessarily going to make you go faster but they might improve your endurance as your legs will feel less tired which in turn could translate to running faster for longer. So for me that is a good enough reason to wear them.

How to Choose Compression Socks

There are lots of compression socks on the market so what makes one better or different from the others and how do you choose? Here is what I look for:

  • Go for knee high socks. They shouldn't be too long so that they bunch in any areas.
  • Choose ones that have graduated compression. Meaning that they are tighter round the ankle and gradually feel loser as you get closer to the knee.
  • Compression socks are meant to feel snug and so are a bit difficult to get on.
  • Look to see if they have a compression rating. Look for 20-30mm/Hg which offers mid range compression.
  • Check the padding around the heels, toes, top of the foot and the Achilles area. I personally like extra padding. My favorite compression socks are the  X-Socks Run Energizer compression socks which I wore for my first marathon. They definitely gave me a spring in my step and I didn't suffer from cramp like I often do.  Cause of leg cramps.
  • White socks are going to get grubby quite quickly.
  • Look at the washing instructions. You are generally not meant to use fabric softener as that affects the compression of the socks and putting them in a tumble drier could shrink them.

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