Are you thinking about suiting up in compression socks for your runs? Well, lace up your shoes and join the conversation!
Compression gear, once reserved for medical needs and long-haul flights, has taken a stride into the running world. Nowadays, it seems like every running aisle is stocked with compression socks, all boasting impressive benefits—increased power, turbocharged recovery, and race-ready performance.
But are these claims backed by science?
In this article, we’re going to unravel the science (if there is any) behind compression socks and how they might just give your running game a boost. Plus, we’ll throw in some practical tips on how to make the most of these snug companions if you decide to bring them into your running squad.
So, shall we get the compression conversation started?
What Are Compression Socks For Running?
Compression socks are specialized, snug-fitting socks designed to provide various benefits for athletes, especially runners.
Here’s a breakdown of what compression socks are and how they work:
Gradual Pressure: Compression socks are typically worn up to the knee and are designed to apply gradual pressure to different areas of the lower legs, including the veins on the surface, arteries, and muscles. The pressure is tighter at the extremities (like the calf) and gradually decreases as it moves toward the heart.
Enhanced Blood Flow: The compression from these socks is believed to improve blood circulation in the legs. By gently squeezing the veins and muscles, they assist in promoting blood flow back to the heart. This can be particularly beneficial during and after strenuous activities like running.
Reduced Lactic Acid Build-Up: Improved circulation may help reduce the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Lactic acid is a byproduct of intense physical activity and can contribute to muscle fatigue and soreness.
Faster Recovery: Many athletes wear compression socks during and after workouts to potentially speed up post-exercise recovery. The enhanced circulation and reduced muscle vibration (due to the snug fit) could contribute to reduced muscle soreness and faster healing.
Variety of Compression Gear: Compression technology is not limited to socks; it’s available in various forms, including shorts, arm sleeves, tights, tops, and more. The level of compression can vary based on factors like material, design, size, and individual preferences.
Availability: You can purchase compression socks and other gear over the counter at sporting goods stores or online retailers. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe them, and health insurance may cover the cost.
Compression Sleeves: If you prefer not to wear full socks, you can opt for compression sleeves, which cover the lower leg without including the foot portion.
What Are Compression Socks for Running Made Of
Compression socks designed for running are typically made of specialized materials that provide a balance between compression, comfort, and moisture-wicking properties. Here’s a breakdown of what these socks are commonly made of:
- Nylon: The primary component of compression socks is nylon, making up the majority of the fabric (usually around 80%). Nylon is known for its durability and ability to retain its shape, crucial for maintaining consistent compression over time.
- Spandex: Spandex (or elastane) makes up the remaining portion of the fabric, typically around 20%. Spandex is responsible for the elasticity and stretchiness of the sock, allowing it to fit snugly around the calf and foot while providing the desired compression.
- Other Synthetic Fibers: In some cases, compression sock manufacturers may incorporate other synthetic fibers, such as polyester or Coolmax, to enhance moisture-wicking properties. These fibers help manage sweat and keep the feet dry during workouts.
- Rubber: Some compression socks may include rubber components, such as silicone grip dots or bands at the top of the sock, to prevent slipping or rolling down during activity.
The Science Behind Compression
The science behind compression socks involves several key principles:
- Improved Blood Flow: Compression socks apply graduated pressure to the legs, with the highest pressure at the ankle and gradually decreasing as it moves upward. This design helps improve blood circulation, enhancing the return of deoxygenated blood to the heart and reducing the risk of blood pooling in the legs.
- Reduced Muscle Oscillation: The compression also serves to minimize muscle oscillation or vibration during physical activity. This can lead to reduced muscle fatigue and potentially lower the risk of muscle damage.
- Enhanced Recovery: Post-exercise compression socks may aid in the removal of waste products like lactic acid from muscles, which can help reduce muscle soreness and accelerate the recovery process.
- Maintaining Alignment: Compression gear can help maintain proper alignment of muscles and tissues, potentially reducing the risk of injury and improving overall performance.
Let’s delve deeper into the athletic gains.
How to Choose the Correct Compression Socks For Running
By now, you’ve likely made your decision about whether compression socks are worth considering for your running needs. These socks aren’t exactly cheap, with prices ranging from $40 to $120 for a quality pair.
Given the price tag, it’s essential to choose the right compression socks that meet your specific requirements. If you’re eager to head to the nearest sports goods store and pick up a pair, here are some tips to help you make an informed choice:
Let’s talk about “Gradual Compression.” Remember, we’re discussing compression socks here, not superhero costumes!
So, these socks are built with something called “gradient compression.” Fancy term, right? But here’s the deal: it means they’re smartly designed to give your legs the squeeze they need where it matters most – around your ankles, where the action’s happening.
But, they’re not playing favorites. Your feet get a break – no compression there! It’s like they’re saying, “Hey feet, we’ve got this.” So your dogs won’t feel like they’re in a vise.
Now, these socks come in different levels of compression, measured in mmHg. Don’t worry; it’s not a secret code. It’s just a way to tell you how much pressure you’re getting.
The golden rule here is to make sure your compression socks feel snug but not like they’re out to get you. We’re talking comfy snugness, not painful pinching. They’re here to support you, not to turn your legs into sausages.
How Tight Should Compression Socks Be?
Well, the secret code here is mmHg, which stands for millimeters of Mercury. Don’t worry; you won’t need a barometer. It’s just a fancy way to measure pressure – the kind you’ll feel on your legs when you put on those socks.
Think of it like this: the higher the mmHg number, the more they’re going to squeeze. It’s the same principle your doc uses to check your blood pressure, but on your legs!
Now, when you’re shopping for compression socks, you’ll see these numbers, like 8 mmHg, 15-20 mmHg, 30-40 mmHg, and so on. It’s like a secret language of squeezing!
Here’s the deal: for most folks, a sweet spot to aim for is around 18 to 24 mmHg. It’s like Goldilocks – not too tight, not too loose, just right.
Some smart researchers found that 20 mmHg at your ankles is just the right pressure to boost blood flow and max out the recovery perks. So, you see, there’s science behind all this squeezing!
Get The Right Size
The ideal fit for your compression socks is a snug one, just like your favorite pair of running shoes. If they’re too big, you might end up with some painful blisters, and if they’re too small, they could cramp your style – and your blood flow!
So, how do you find the perfect size? Easy peasy! Just match it up with your shoe size. If you’re not sure how to measure that, don’t sweat it; there are plenty of handy YouTube tutorials out there to guide you.
Your compression socks should be like those trusty superheroes’ capes – long enough to cover your entire calf and shin, stopping just shy of the knee joint.
Too short, and they won’t give you the compression you need. Too long, and they might just decide to have a little showdown with the back of your knee while you’re out on a run!
To measure this correctly, kick off your shoes, and let’s get to it. Measure from the back of your knee’s bend to the floor behind your heel – this will give you the perfect length. And remember, accuracy is the name of the game here.
Measuring your ankle, calf, and arch length is essential when selecting the right size and fit for compression stockings or socks. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to measure these areas accurately:
- Sit down and relax, with your feet flat on the floor.
- Locate the narrowest part of your ankle, just above the ankle bone (medial malleolus).
- Use a flexible measuring tape to measure the circumference of your ankle at this point.
- Make sure the tape is snug but not too tight, ensuring an accurate measurement.
- While seated with your feet flat on the floor, find the widest part of your calf.
- Measure the circumference of your calf at this point, using the measuring tape.
- Similar to the ankle measurement, ensure the tape is comfortably snug for an accurate reading.
Arch Length Measurement:
- Sit down and place your barefoot flat on the floor.
- Identify the highest point in your foot arch, which is usually located in the center of your foot.
- Measure the length from the point on top of your foot (where the arch begins) to the highest point in your foot arch.
- Ensure the measuring tape follows the contours of your foot for an accurate arch length measurement.
Assessing Your Results
It’s crucial to use the manufacturer’s sizing chart specific to the brand you’re interested in when selecting compression stockings or socks. Each brand may have its own sizing guidelines and variations in sizing, so relying on a universal size (e.g., medium) can lead to improper fit and ineffective compression.
Here’s a summary of the steps to ensure you choose the correct size for compression stockings:
- Measure your ankle, calf, and arch length accurately using a flexible measuring tape.
- Refer to the sizing chart provided by the specific brand you’re interested in. Most compression wear brands offer their own sizing charts.
- Compare your measurements to the sizing chart to determine the appropriate size for your compression stockings.
Selecting the right size is essential for achieving the desired therapeutic benefits of compression wear and ensuring comfort during wear. If you have any doubts or questions about sizing, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from the manufacturer or a healthcare professional.
The Right Materials
Look for compression socks made from technical, moisture-wicking fabrics. Common materials used in compression socks include nylon, polyester, spandex, and Coolmax. These fabrics help wick moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry during exercise.
Breathable materials allow air circulation, preventing excessive heat buildup and moisture retention. This is crucial to avoid discomfort and blisters.
Choose socks with a texture that you find comfortable against your skin. Some compression socks have cushioning in specific areas, which can be beneficial for runners.
Proper moisture management is essential to prevent chafing and blisters. Moisture-wicking materials move sweat away from your skin, promoting a dry and comfortable environment.
You should also be wary with color selection. While white compression socks are available, they can show dirt quickly. Opting for darker colors like black, beige, or navy can help keep your socks looking cleaner for longer.
Compression Socks For Running – The Conclusion
If you get anything from today’s post is that you should serious consider trying compression socks while running.
Are they the magic pill for improving performance? I don’t think so.
Do they help with recovery? Yes. As research suggests and experience dictates, yes of course. The rest is really up to you.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Keep Running Strong