It seems to me that compression socks are the ‘marmite of the running world’ – you either love them or you don’t.
Originally more a piece of gear for long distance and ultra runners they seem to make their way more and more into everyday running. Often in very poppy colours you can spot them on your run in the neighbourhood, park runs or the very popular half marathon.
What are their benefits? Research has indicated that wearing compression gear speeds up post-run recovery, decreases muscles soreness and perceived fatigue. On the other hand, the often proclaimed benefits of increased blood circulation and decreased lactic acid, therefor resulting in better performance during a run has yet to be proven. Saying that, often it is enough to believe in something to see improved performance, the so called placebo effect. Personally, I’m always a bit sceptical when it comes to improving running performance by simply using or wearing certain gear. Sure, for example a good pair of shoes will help you become a better runner but they don’t make you a better runner.
So I wanted to see for myself what all the fuzz is about and ordered my own compression gear. I opted for some reasonably priced compression calf sleeves. I went for sleeves instead of full socks to be able to wear them with my waterproof socks during winter trail runs should I like them. I was a bit worried about sizing as I don’t necessarily have thin legs or calves but was positively surprised when they arrived and fit perfectly. Oh, and I also opted for a very ‘poppy’ black.
Having used them for several weeks on and off-road now I’m still a bit undecided. Admittedly, the longest run I have used them for was 10miles but I tried different terrains, steep climbs and decents as well as flat road running.
Do I see any benefits during runs?
No, not really. On the first runs it was almost as if my legs felt heavier on uphill sections but this passed and might have been down to my overall health issues at the time. However, they didn’t feel too warm during sunny late summer runs and I also didn’t feel restricted in my movements.
And what about post-run recovery?
Maybe my calves feel a bit less tense after a run and for a shorter period, so yes, there might be benefits there, especially after long runs. They sure help protecting your legs from nettles and brambles during trail runs when you’re wearing shorts though.
My verdict? I would love to give you a definite yay or nay. For me it’s more of a nay but because of the post-run benefits I will keep wearing them every now and again. And I will give them a proper long run trial too.