Lessons learnt about Compression Socks

I cannot open a single running, multi sport or triathlon magazine without seeing some “review” spewing the virtues of compression gear. With all this hype I would expect that I would only see lycra from head to toe on the trails. However there are only a few who are sporting the new attire.

So after some conversations with my friend Adrian I investigated compression socks further. I contacted Wim de Klerck from CSock to ask him for advice and info and finally I purchased a pair for myself and a pair for Mel. Seb Coe and Haile beware, here we come!

Or so I thought!

Here is some other interesting info I have found on my journey with compression:

• There is a whole bunch of hype and very little info available on the subject. All the “reviews” we read are basically copy off the manufacturers promotional splurb. There is some interesting info on the web which I found here from Joe Friel and here.

• I chose socks over just a sleeve because I am told that you need most of the compression around the ankle.

• Compression socks are bloody hard to get on. I have on more than one occasion had to suppress laughter as both my thumbs got stuck in the socks painful vice grip.

• Only after I purchased a pair did I realise this but I have not been able to find a sock manufacturer that caters for anybody that is out of the norm. This is mad! As if all people who wear a size 9 shoe also wear a size 32 jeans and a standard inseam! I know I am tall (at 196 cm) but I certainly am not freak!

CSock can make me a custom pair of R 800,00 but that is just too dear in my book!

You need the most compression for running, less for walking and the least for recovery.

So here are my Positives and Negatives so far:

+ When wearing the compression socks from recovery my legs definitely felt better the next day than expected.

+ It was not only my claves that felt better but my quads too! They work!

+ Compression gear and lycra is sexy only in that it leaves nothing to the imagination. This may be good is some cases 😉 However I can not shake the gymp imagery associated with it.

– I wore my compression socks for one run and once under jeans for recovery and they slipped down very quickly! I contacted MedSport and CSock and discussed this with them at length. It seems like unless you fall into one size for all parameters then compression socks will have serious limitations. (unless you have a size M foot, size M calf circumference, size M length lower leg you will either have a too short or too loose sock!!

– I can see the benefits for a running only race. If I was doing Triathlon I would not want to hassle with putting these on while the clock ticks away. If this is the case for you then why train with something that you will not race with? You will feel naked on race day.

– My (unshaven legs) feel seriously itchy when I take the socks off.

So all in all it has been an interesting journey so far. I am by no means satisfied but I am glad that I have embarked on it.

If you are intrigued I would suggest that you go to somebody who knows something about compression.

So what are your comments and experiences?

4 thoughts on “Lessons learnt about Compression Socks

  1. I've used compression tights extensively for recovery only during my training for 3 Peaks Last year. And they definitely made a difference in recovery. I've worn them for a couple of 8km TT's and it seems like they do improve the performance there as well.

    I've recently got a pair of compression socks and it does seem like it helps with the runs, although I'm not always wearing them. I'm a tall guy as well, 1.94, and also find that the socks does not stay up very well.

  2. Hi Leo
    If you'd like to get a more scientific view on compression socks, I suggest you contact
    Karen Welman

    Sport Physiology Laboratory
    Sport Science Building
    Coetzenburg
    SuidwalStreet
    Stellenbosch
    7600
    South Africa

    021 808 2818 (lab)
    I took part in her survey in 2009 and use the socks on long runs. I definitely cramp later and recover faster when I use them.
    Good luck with your running.
    Klaus Kassel

  3. I've been using compression socks for the past 4 months. During this time I've tried various socks all with different amounts of compression.

    I've also read a load of science & research. And, my grasp of it all is that your arteries simply react to the applied pressure by relaxing thus increasing in diameter, therefore increasing blood circulation. And, this should be good.

    My own observations have been mostly positive. I've noticed that higher compression socks work better on faster runs, while lower compression socks feel better on slower runs. Noticeably, in the later segment of the run I was more able to increase speed.

    I've recently begun using the socks in the recovery phase and have noticed a quicker recovery when compared with doing nothing. High compression socks feel comfortable and I think they provide a faster recovery than a lower compression sock. I don't know how the recovery compares with an ice bath, but it's certainly not as uncomfortable.

    I'm 1.68m and have not experienced any problems with the socks slipping down.

  4. Thanks for all your input. Interesting point on different compression working better for different speeds!

    I think there is still a huge amount of research to be done here and hopefully we will have a huge choice of compression options which work for all!

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