We all know that running is one of the best ways to work out, but for some people, it can also be uncomfortable. Apart from getting the right pair of running shoes for the comfort of your feet, getting the right pair of socks is also essential to keep your lower limbs active. You can achieve this goal by using compression socks.
So, what are the benefits of running compression socks? Compression socks or compression calf sleeves are designed to provide relief for tired and sore muscles by supporting the arch of the foot with graduated compression technology. Compression socks improve blood flow and increase oxygenation in the bloodstream, which provides more energy throughout your workout or running activity.
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Table of Contents
How Blood Flows Throughout Our Body?
Before getting started with the reasoning of the improved oxygen level in the blood circulation due to a compression sock, we must have the basic knowledge of how the blood flows throughout our body.
Our heart is a pumping machine. There are channels in our body called veins and arteries through which the blood is distributed in your body. When we breathe, the oxygen gets dissolved in the blood via hemoglobin. This fresh oxygen rich blood flow is regulated by the heart through arteries.
When the high oxygenated blood reaches the lower limbs, the oxygen is consumed by our lower leg muscles so that they can work to perform activities. The deoxygenated blood is then transferred back to the heart through the veins.
The more oxygen your body cells get, the better function they can perform.
This is the purpose for which athletes and runners wear graduated compression socks or compression sleeves so that the deoxygenated blood in the veins of legs is pumped back to the heart at a faster rate. Graduated compression socks make a pressure gradient by exerting pressure on the ankles and calves. This pressure forces the deoxygenated blood to work against gravity and flow to the heart rapidly.
The faster the blood is flowing, the better your body’s oxygen levels. The more efficiently you receive air and deliver carbon dioxide back out with each breath-in through our lungs; this allows them to be refreshed many times over before they need another go at it.
What Are the Benefits of Running Compression Socks?
Before going through the benefits of compression socks or compression sleeves in running, you should first read my guide on the features of compression socks in which I’ve explained the recommended materials of compression socks, the appropriate fit of compression socks, and their pressure rating.
Several runners and athletes wear a compression stocking for post-workout recovery and reenergize themselves. During a workout or intense running activities, our muscles produce a high amount of lactic acid, which can soften our muscles and can cause leg cramps.
Wearing compression socks after work help muscles for fast recovery so that you can get ready for the next round of running.
Here’s what a person comments in a subreddit about the benefit of wearing compression socks after running activity.
My legs tend to get pretty twitchy after long runs or races as they recover from the stress. This has slowly developed over time and hasn’t always been the case. But when I wear my compression socks for several hours after my race/run I’ve noticed that the twitching goes away or is not as bad. If I don’t use them my legs are jumping all over the place that evening or the next day.https://www.reddit.com/r/running/comments/1jlt56/what_are_your_opinions_on_compression_socks/
You can also reap the benefits of compression stocking during your running activity. It entirely depends on how fast you’re running, your muscles’ existing strength, the type of running shoes you’re wearing, and the surface on which you’re running.
Some studies have shown that the major effect that compression socks impart while you’re actively running is to reduce soreness and fatigue. Moreover, runners prefer to wear compression socks for enhanced arch support, keeping their feet dry, and avoiding blisters.
Here’s what a person comments in a subreddit.
Researchers at BMC Sports Science and Rehabilitation Center conducted a study on how often athletes wear compression garments. Around 47% of athletes used compression socks to prevent re-injury, 14.5% to reduce symptoms of sports injury, 13.6% for primary prevention, 14.3% for post-running recovery, and 8.8% for sports performance improvement.
So, you can see that only a small percentage (8.8%) of athletes feel that compression socks improve performance. The majority of runners and athletes wear them for injuries prevention.
There are three benefits of wearing compression socks or compression sleeves that athletes and runners reap during workouts and running activities. The following effects are not greatly noticeable during running. But after running or workouts, compression socks can have a fast recovery for your muscles.
- Enhanced oxygen level
- Prevent muscles oscillation
- Reduction of lactic acid in muscles
- Prevention of leg cramps or cramping in calves
The results of improved blood flow extend beyond the immediate comfort while wearing a calf sleeve or compression socks. Given its importance to so many functions within our bodies, blood acts like a transport system that delivers necessary supplies where they’re needed most; keeping us alive and healthy.
With better oxygen circulation rates via an increased blood flow, runners will experience less lactic acid build-up in their muscles during running or workouts.
This is what a runner says about athletic compression socks.
Wearing Compression socks during my cross country races allows me to go all out and not feel any pain in my calves. Also, wearing them after a long run helps me recover faster.https://www.reddit.com/r/running/comments/1nunym/compression_socks/
However, if you run at a fast pace for more than 5K distances, the heart pumping rate can’t cope up with your breathing requirements and oxygen demand. Due to this reason, you won’t feel a significant improvement in your muscles activity while wearing compression socks or calf sleeves. You would only get the benefit of less muscle twitching, less moisture build-up, and protection from blisters.
Also, if your ankles are injured or you’ve pain in your shins, the athletic compression socks will offer great comfort while running over long distances.
Here’s what a person comments in a subreddit.
Another person was able to keep from getting shin splints by wearing compression socks while running. Shin splints is swelling and pain on the shinbone usually caused due to stress or repetitive motions. Compression socks reduce the chances of inflammation by compressing the injured area and improving the blood supply. In that case, knee-high compression socks will help in alleviating shin splints.
Another person, who has got tight calves, used compression socks during running. Tight calves are caused by repetitive stress the muscles receive during running. Compression socks tightly hold the calves by providing a support and diminishing the ability of muscles to abruptly respond to the stress.
Another person said that wearing graduated compression socks after long runs over long distances had helped to ward off calf pain and swelling.
Compression socks can also prevent muscle oscillations. When your foot strikes the ground, the vibration is produced in the muscles due to the impact force. When these muscles are not in proper optimum condition then it can lead to injury or pain in your lower leg which can also result in microtrauma. Wearing compression socks limits the vibration by exerting a tight pressure around the calves.
One study was conducted to study the effect of compression socks on muscles oscillations during treadmill running. 27 male participants were recruited for this research. The effect of compression stockings was observed on the thigh and calf muscle movement, and soft tissue vibrations. Compression stockings reduced the vibrations across all treadmilling speeds that were tested on participants for different time frames.
In another study, the test was conducted for three different running conditions i.e. downhill, uphill and flat surface. Downhill movement showed the highest muscle vibration. It was found that compression garments lowered the oscillations by 31%, regardless of the slope and the speed.
Some runners also consider that the effects of compression socks during running are purely psychosomatic. They consider as a placebo effect that keeps them motivated to run for longer miles without feeling fatigued.
Here’s what a person comments in a subreddit.
Scientific Studies to Evaluate the Effect of Compression Socks on Running
- One study was carried out to determine the effect of compression stockings on perpetual responses during and after exercise. Knee-high mild compression (188mmHg-22mmHg) compression socks were used during a 10km road run. It was found that compression socks directly didn’t impact running performance. However, compression socks were able to reduce the delayed-onset muscle soreness.
- Another study was conducted to determine the effect of compression socks on running performance. The test was conducted on the men without any lower-leg abnormalities. The test was performed on the treadmill. So, this study was only valid for running on flat and smooth surfaces. In the test, time under load was increased by one minute after wearing a compression stocking. However, there was no significant difference observed in the running economy (VO2).
- According to the article by CNN, Ohio State researchers also performed running tests on the treadmill. They found that compression socks reduced muscles vibrations, but they didn’t put a direct positive impact on reducing fatigue in runners.
- Another study showed that compression socks didn’t affect the concentration of lactic acid. However, compression socks were able to cause small positive changes in the clearance of blood lactate.
- Another study performed an experiment on experienced runners (averaging 10K distances in 37 to 38 minutes). The test was performed on a treadmill at a half marathon pace for 6 minutes. There was no significant difference in the running economy. However, some positive changes in physiological responses were observed in the group wearing compression socks. The group, who wore compression socks, their heart rate was decreased from 99.83 to 96.00.
Some Famous Brands of Running Compression Socks
It is hard to find the original pair of compression socks to reap the compression benefits. So, after asking several runners and athletes, here are some of the best compression socks I have found after discussion with the runners and athletes.
How to Easily Put on Compression Socks?
There are the following techniques to easily wear compression socks for running or fast recovery after running or athletic activity.
- Get into the right position first (place just your toes first into the toe area of compression socks)
- Smoothen the fabric (remove any wrinkles)
- Apply talcum powder on legs to reduce friction
You can check further details of different methods to easily put on compression socks in this article.
How to Size Compression Socks for Running?
Apart from reducing the fatigue in your calf muscles, compression socks are used to prevent chafing and make you comfortable during chafing and intense physical activity.
Too tight compression socks can cause several problems like peripheral artery disease, swelling of legs, and neuropathy. So, the sizing of running compression socks is quite important.
For the sizing running compression socks, place the measuring tool at the widest point of your calf, just above where your leg bends when you flex forward slightly.
This video will also be helpful for you to determine the right size of compression socks for running and athletic activities.
Wearing Compression Socks for Running: Final Verdict
Wearing compression socks for running may help prevent injuries and maintain performance. Running is known to create a lot of wear and tear on the body, but utilizing these garments can help you avoid many common running injuries like shin splints or calf muscle tears. Not only do they reduce fatigue by increasing circulation, but they also protect your legs from injury during impact with the ground when you take off or land after each stride.
So, in essence, the benefits of running compression socks are:
- Reducing vibration in muscles
- Decreasing of delayed-onset muscle soreness
- Positive changes in the clearance of blood lactate
- Protection of legs against minor cuts, if the running route includes the woody areas and grassy trails