The Runner’s Guide to Calf Compression Sleeves

Planning on using calf compression sleeves on your next runs?

Then read this guide before you go any further.

Compression technology has swept through the fitness world like wildfire over the last few years.

Sure, the science on its effectiveness for improving performance and recovery is still inconclusive (I wrote a whole guide to that topic here).

But all in all, I’d still recommend using compression gear since I personally believe that it helps, and it helps a lot.

In this article, I’ll explain the principle behind compression, how it can help you, and how to choose the right calf sleeves.

I know it’s a lot to cover, so let’s dig in.

Calf Sleeves Defined

Made of a blend of fabric materials such as nylon and polyester, calf sleeves consist of compression stockings worn over the lower half of the leg, putting light compression over the calf muscles, and shin.

These actually apply the same type of compression technology as compression socks.

The Benefits of Compression Sleeves For Runners

Compression kit—including calf sleeves—are intended to perform to main functions:

  • Improve blood flow throughout the lower legs, which helps increase the oxygenation of the muscles and the removal of waste products.
  • Support the muscles during running, which helps protect them from the stress effects of running.

Do they actually achieve these claims is another topic for another day.

But all in all, a lot of experts recommend using a compression kit for improving performance and recovery.

At the very least, it makes you feel good during use, and that’s enough to improve any runner’s experience.

How To Choose Compression Calf Sleeves For Runners

Here some of the features to look for when buying running compression sleeves.

Take The Right Measurements

The first thing you need to understand about sizing calf compression sleeves is that it has more to do with the circumferences of your calf rather than the length of your lower legs.

It also has nothing to do with shoe size.

Calf circumferences refer to the length from a point on the shin, around the leg, and over the thicket part of the calf, then back to the starting point on the shin.

Calf circumference involves the length around the ankle, including the joints on both sides of the ankle.

Here’s how to measure it.

Wrap a tape measure around your calf at its widest point.  Make sure the measuring tape wraps around your leg in a straight line at all points.

The Fabrics

Other than choosing the right size, the fabrics of your compression sleeve will help determine comfort level.

Calf running sleeves come in various materials made for specific uses. Some are designed with silicone taping for more support, while others are lighter and provide more breathability.

The calf sleeve fabric also varies drastically from brand to brand. Some models are made from nylon or spandex, while others are designed with moisture-wicking properties in the fabric.

As a rule, choose sleeves made with moisture-wicking fabrics. They’ll reduce sweat and odors, as well as help insulate your skin.

This not only helps keep you comfortable during your runs, but also you’ll also have to wash your sleeves less often, making them last longer.

Weather Conditions

In general, you’ll need compression sleeves for different weather conditions and temperatures. That’s why you also need to factor in what temperature you’re going to be running in.

Some models cooler or hotter than others, and this can impact your runs

Durability

If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on running sleeves, then at least make sure you’re buying a pair that’s going to last you for a while.

Compression levels

Compression levels are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and correlate to blood pressure levels.

In short, this is the amount of pressure that the sleeves can exert on your lower leg.

These levels can range from 10 mmHg to 30 mmHg, with the top range providing a higher level of intensity.

As a runner, for instance, you’ll want more compression to aid circulation to suit longer endurance runs. That’s why at a minimum, opt for compression of 20 mmHg.

The Five Best Brands

To help you make the right decision, I’m sharing some of the best brands in the market. Choose the one that suits your budget, needs, and taste.

CEP Progressive+ Compression Calf Sleeves

At 20-30 compression levels, CEP Progressive+ Compression Calf Sleeves are one of the best brands in the market today—also at a reasonable price. These are made of 80 percent polyamide, which is a strong, polyester-like material, and 20 percent spandex.

The brand also comes in different colors and sizes.

Zensah Compression Calf Sleeve

Looking for fun and colorful designs? Zensah compression sleeves have you covered.

Whether you like adding a fun pop of color to help you stand out while running or want to make a statement on your next race, these sleeves provide an instant dose of personality.

Zensah sleeves are made of 90 percent nylon and ten spandex and offer a lot of support and moisture-wicking design to keep you feeling great and comfortable while running.

2XU Compression Calf Guards

Designed to be used worn running training instead of after, 2XU Calf Guards are light but provide enough support for your leg.

This brand comes in seven different size options, so you can find exactly what suits your own calf.

Primarily made with Lycra, these sleeves are very thin and very breathable.

Doc Miller Premium Toe Compression Socks

The Doc Miller Premium Open is a fantastic choice if you’ve already tried classic compression sleeves but found them too tight, or your physician has prescribed a firmer sleeve.

The sock is made with medical-grade Nylon—77 percent—and spandex—23 percent for a snug fit that’s also comfortable.

Not only runners can benefit from these sleeves, but also people dealing with edema, spider veins, swelling, or other calf problems.

What’s more?

Thanks to the open toe design, the brand can be worn as a stocking with casual dress as well as during a run.

Kalenji Kanergy Running Leg Sleeves

Are you on a tight budget? Then these sleeves are worth a try.

These come in three unisex sizes: S, M, and L but different girth measurements.

These sleeves are not too tight or nor too loose, feeling nicely supportive.

That said, these sleeves tend to get hot on summer days and do not have enough give in the fabric.

Conclusion

If you plan to add a pair of compression calf sleeves to your running kit, then today’s article should be enough to get you started on the right foot.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.