Today we're talking all things compression socks and sleeves, as part of the Tuesdays on the Run blog link up with My No-Guilt Life, MCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. When you're done reading here, be sure to check them out!
Compression socks have been a part of chronic disease management for a long time. They haven't always been as cute and fashionable as they are now. For instance, diabetics have problems with circulation, especially in the lower legs, and it's recommended they wear compression socks, particularly for when they will be sitting for long periods of time. Basically, compression helps increase the blood flow through the veins/arteries of the legs. This is important for diabetics because circulation is impaired as a side effect of the disease, but it's for this exact reason that compression socks and sleeves have become so popular in the running community. This increased circulation allows for more oxygenated blood to enter the legs through the arteries, providing oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc., (helping to repair them) and waste products such as those from inflammation as well as lactic acid to leave the legs through the veins, helping to reduce muscle fatigue and promote faster recovery.
I remember compression socks really starting to gain momentum when I was training for my first ultra in 2010. I was working for Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg at the time and we had access to all the new stuff coming out, often before anyone else. I first tried compression socks by Zensah when I was traveling for race in South Carolina. We drove there and I wore them the whole way to help keep my legs feeling good for race day. And they definitely helped. Wearing the compression in between runs or in preparation for a run will keep oxygen and nutrients coming to your muscles, while moving waste products out, promoting muscle repair and recovery (which will help your muscles feel great before a run!). I recommend wearing a compression sock in between runs, to be sure the blood is flowing well throughout the whole extremity. The tightness at the end of the compression sleeve may not allow for the best blood flow to the foot and back to the heart while you're sitting still.
I always recommend compression to my clients with lower leg injuries. As mentioned above, the increased blood flow will help repair muscles, tendons and ligaments. If your injury is in the lower part of the leg as well as the foot or ankle, the compression sock would be better. If it's the calf, a sleeve would be ok. And you'd wear the compression in between workouts as part of your recovery from the injury. They're not magic socks though. Don't think they'll take the place of good old fashioned rest when it comes to dealing with an injury.
What about during the run? You can wear them during your runs as well. In addition to the increased blood flow, compression also reduces vibration of the muscles of the lower leg. This can help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness. Personally, I wear the sleeves, typically PRO Compression, during a race so that I can wear the socks I want but you can wear the socks if you prefer. And with all the patterns and manufacturers available, the sky's the limit with your choices. Just be sure to get the right size for you (typically based on your calf measurements). You may also want to check on the return policy as some socks/sleeves are going to offer more compression than others. Try them on first, whenever possible.
Have you tried compression? What are your thoughts?