Compression Sock Considerations: Yay or Nay?

IMG_3437I’m not sure exactly when compression socks made it on the running scene but one article I read credited Paula Radcliffe with being among the first to really introduce them to long distance running. I know a few running friends that run with compression socks (some swear by them) and I certainly see plenty of people at the starting line of races sporting them. I’ve loosely wondered for a couple years what the big deal is and whether or not it’s something I need to try. After reading an article in the July issue of RW that recommended wearing compression socks on a long flight before a marathon, I decided they’d be worth a try if nothing else for the flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake City for the Big Cottonwood Marathon.I headed to a local running shop where the salesperson measured my ankle to help determine which size compression sock I needed. We talked about the different brands (I think he only carried two) and he reinforced some of the benefits of compression socks that I’ve read about. I’m very particular about the socks I wear both for training and racing and knew that I did not want an actual full compression sock but rather the sleeve style. I opted for the 2XU calf guard so that I can pair them with my Feetures running socks on long runs. The specific benefits this brand suggests are:

  • Reduced Muscle Fatigue, Damage & Injury
  • Less Muscle Damage Means Faster Recovery
  • Minimize Shin Splints
  • Increased Oxygen to Muscles
  • Stronger Performance For Longer Durations
  • Improved Training & Race Performance

Running in Compression Socks

IMG_3436Post-purchase I wasn’t sure what counted as a long enough run to test out the compression socks so I waited until I had an 18-miler on the schedule. I was worried about being hot in the socks but having run in them a couple times now on long runs in August I can say that they don’t seem to make me any hotter than I already am and I think in the fall they will actually double as the perfect ‘layer.’ I’m not sure yet how it will work out in the winter. Do you wear compression socks under running tights? Seems like a lot of extra compression.

The first time I put the sleeves on I looked at the package and realized I had them on backward. It shouldn’t be that hard to know which is the right way but for this brand, at least according to the picture (they didn’t come with any instructions) the ‘X’ should be on your calf rather than your shin. Once running I was trying to pay attention to whether or not I noticed a difference and I am still not sure if I did or not. There’s a possibility I felt less fatigue on some of the hills but I could also credit that to my training paying off.

Post-run I left the sleeves on for about an hour while stretching and putzing around. I do think that in general my legs might have felt less tired after a long run but quite frankly, I am not sure it is my calves that have ever had the problem. I typically feel more fatigued in my quads and lower back but perhaps the overall function of the compression socks and the way in which they are supposed to improve circulation has a more comprehensive effect.

Long story short, I’m not convinced that the compression socks improved my runs or my post-run recovery but I also can’t come up with a good reason not to wear them. I plan to wear them on a couple more long runs, on my flight to Salt Lake City and during the Big Cottonwood Marathon. They’re sure to make an appearance in my post-race recap.

Definitely would love to hear about your experience–good, bad or indifferent–with compression socks. Please share!

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