Something that has been trending in the world of sports are these things called compression gears.
They have become something that many athletes seem to obsess about because they are able to improve performance based on the experiences of the many users that religiously use them when training or running.
One issue that athletes face is the soreness in legs and how it makes recovery slower.
Which means it then takes them a lot of time to bounce back after a session.
To solve this, compression gears came to the rescue.
What Do Compression Gears Do?
Compression gears, which may include compression socks and compression sleeves, do exactly what they are named as, they compress.
When athletes are exerting a lot of effort on their legs, their muscles contract to press on surrounding veins and send oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart.
However, as they have to work against gravity, sometimes the veins face a lot of resistance when trying to send the blood back.
The compression gears help in this case by ensuring that there is more pressure on the veins so that the heart does not have to work as hard and the muscles in the legs can receive oxygen-rich blood more efficiently.
As the heart does not have to work as hard anymore, pulse rates are lower and circulation to the muscles is increased.
All of these combined, help to improve performance and endurance of the legs.
What Are The Benefits Of Compression Socks For Runners?
With lowered pulse rates and better circulation, the legs are able to perform longer before fatigue and the muscles in the legs do not get knotted as quickly.
This is great for runners as it means that their timing and performance can be improved.
Another additional benefit that comes from the tightness of compression socks is that it prevents the legs muscles, specifically the calf muscles, from moving too much during any activity.
This means that less energy is consumed by the moving of the calf muscle due to jiggles and more energy can be directed into using the legs for whichever activity you are doing.
They are also able to prevent soft tissue damage and even help with improving balance.
But the biggest and most well supported benefit is that compression socks help with more speedy recoveries.
One study for example, tested a random group of participant’s marathon performances prior to and after 2 weeks of wearing compression socks. It was found that the use of the socks for 48 hours after exhaustive exercise could lead to 6% improvement in recovery parameters for runners.
Another recent study have also found evidence supporting all the above listed benefits.
With this increasing amount of research backing the effectiveness of compression socks, it is no wonder that they have become such an obsession among athletes, in particularly, runners.
Who Will Benefit Most?
While we have been talking about athletes in general, compression socks are a great addition for those who have poor circulation.
If you notice that your legs tend to swell up easily or that you have a tendency to get varicose veins easily, then getting yourself a pair of compression socks could help reduce them.
These are also useful for athletes who have to train very regularly and would like to shorten their recovery time as much as possible.
It really comes down to your goals in the sport you are participating in and the level of performance you seek to have.
But it should be noted that if you are facing any medical problems or have had surgery recently, it would be better to approach a doctor to prescribe you a proper compression stocking. Especially if you are dealing with any illnesses regarding your skin, heart, edema, or arteries.
Otherwise, you can find many compression socks for your needs that will be able to help you perform better.
How To Choose The Right Compression Socks?
Compression socks come in many varieties and it can be hard to find the right one. They are not the same as regular socks and feel tighter around the leg.
So how do you find the right one for your needs?
Firstly, you need the right length. In order to be comfortable and not have your socks bunching up at your knee, it is best to opt for below knee socks. These will cover your entire calf while still being comfortable when you have to bend your knee.
Secondly, check the compression rating of the socks.
These ratings refer to the amount of pressure the socks apply when worn. The higher the rating, the more pressure it applies. The recommended uses of the socks based on compression ratings is as follows:
Under 15 mmHg: Mild or very light compression. For healthy people who just have tired legs.
15 – 10 mmHg: Moderate compression. Can prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and minor leg swelling.
20 – 40 mmHg: Higher compression. For medical uses such as varicose veins, edema and blood-clots post-surgery.
For athletes, the suggested compression rating is 20-30mmHg as it offers a middle range and the socks have a graduated compression, being tighter around the ankles and loser as they get higher.
Lastly, do also check whether the socks have any seams near the heals, toes or other areas on the foot that could get irritated after long wear.
When buying some compression socks, measure out you calf and ankle circumference to get an appropriate amount of pressure and sizing.
We have covered in detail in a separate post on everything you need to know about compression socks.
Compression Socks vs Compression Sleeves
Considering that both compression socks and compression sleeves have different opinions, it can be difficult to pick what would work best for you.
Although both of these are compression gears, they do come with some differences.
Both compression socks and compression sleeves are able to improve blood circulation and have all the benefits of compression wear. But compression sleeves do not have the bottom portion to cover the feet. This makes them great for different purposes from the socks.
Compression sleeves are perfect for anyone who is trying to reduce or prevent shin splits. This is a common issue athletes face when exerting themselves more or putting their legs through more than the usual.
Compression socks on the other hand are great for anyone whose feet tend to swell up often.
As the compression is focused on the foot area, it allows for the swelling to be reduced.
Since it is a full sock, it is also great for just using when you are sitting for long periods of time. So you could just go about your day and use these socks as a way to ensure your legs still get the compression they need.
When To Wear Compression Gears?
This is really up to the user.
Compression wear is versatile in the sense that it can be worn whenever and for any purpose.
If you are aiming to use them for post-workout recovery, you can try wearing them after you have cooled down after your workout.
Relax and put on a nice pair of some compression socks for the rest of the day.
Just be cautious of wearing them to sleep as you may run the risk of stopping circulation if it becomes hard for your blood to flow back up while you are laying down to sleep.
Many people do use them while working out as well.
They believe that it helps with reducing soreness during the workout and in a way, it helps improve stamina as the legs do not get tired as fast.
So, based on what you aim to use them for, you can find a suitable time to wear them.
Just stick to the precaution of not leaving them on when you go to sleep.
If you are an athlete and are looking for whether you should get yourself a pair of compression socks, there is no harm in just trying them out to see how they affect your training.
The effects will not be the same between two people but based on past studies and analysis, the likelihood of it improving your performance is high.
Compression socks come in various forms and it can be confusing at first what the hype is all about.
The medical benefits offered by them offer a huge incentive to invest in a good pair of compression socks.
As a runner, my legs tend to get sore very easily and I used to have varicose veins at the back of my legs.
Personally, using compression socks while training really did help reduce the pain for me. Whether it was placebo or if the socks were actually helping is debatable. But I can be sure that the idea of it makes sense.
Anytime my legs were swollen or in pain, I used to massage them by basically applying pressure. So, the base on which compression socks are built on is understandable.
As compression socks become more popular among athletes, they have also started to come in more styles which is fun to see. There are more designs now and even some inspired by the fashion of socks back in the 50s.
It will be interesting to see where the future of compression wear is headed and what we will be able to wear to improve our athletic performance in the future. For now, these socks seem to be doing great.
Would you get a pair of compression socks, yourself?