Don’t buy compression socks for running until you’ve read this!
If you’re a keen traveler I’m sure you’ve heard about compression socks for long haul flights. On flights greater than 3 hours medical experts suggest that compression socks help reduce the risk of developing deep vein blood clots by apply gentle pressure on the legs to help with blood flow. But did you know that the same gentle pressure supplied by compression socks for running could even improve your running performance?
Compression socks for running have been credited with a number of benefits, including helping prevent injury and cramp, speeding up your recovery and reduce exercise induced muscle soreness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that benefits can be derived from wearing compression socks both during and after the exercise period, as they improve circulation by preventing blood pooling in the lower legs once the exercise period is complete. There is also a suggestion that they can improve the lactic acid removal from the lower leg muscles which contributes to reducing muscle soreness.
How do compression socks work?
In theory compression socks work by assisting in getting oxygen rich blood to your muscles. In simplified terms, the heart pumps oxygenated blood to the body through the arteries, the oxygen and nutrients from the blood are taken into the cells, and the de-oxygenated blood and waste products are returned to the heart through the veins. The compression socks are tightest at the ankles, squeezing the calf muscles to help combat gravity and increase the efficiency of the blood circulation and thus the oxygen available to the working or recovering muscles.
There are numerous research papers focusing on compression therapy and venous return. Phlebolymphology.org has detailed descriptions of the clinical causes of lower limb edema (the accumulation of fluid around the cells). If you read them, please be aware that the majority of the research is based on medical conditions as a root cause lower limb edema, and although these are used here to inform the physical processes occurring in the body any concern regarding fluid retention in your lower limbs should be taken up with your doctor or an appropriate medical professional. If you would like some details about the anatomy and physiology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3478914/ is an excellent resource.
Compression socks (a full sock) and compression sleeves (a footless version) both need to be correctly fit to derive any benefit and to avoid the risks associated the too-tight compression gear. Too-tight compression gear can cause pain and / or bruising from excessive pressure to the skin. To find the correct fit for you make sure you take detailed measurements of your calf and consult the product sizing chart. If trying the socks on is an option I’d highly recommend it!
Compression socks are available in 4 different levels of compression which are measured in mmHg (millimeters of mercury) to indicate their level of pressure. They vary from under 15 mmHG to greater than 30 mmHG.
Compression levels meant for athletic activities are on the low end of those used for medical purposes; however, there are a number of health issues for which compression therapy is not recommended. Anyone with any concerns or medical conditions including but not limited to skin infections, thin skin, leg swelling, conditions affecting skin sensation, arterial disease, pulmonary edema, should consult with a medical professional before starting any activity and should double check whether compression therapy is a valid option for you.
Best Knee High Compression Socks For Running
Compression socks by their nature are all hard to put on, so this has not been considered to be a factor when looking for the best knee-high compression socks for running.
Physix Gear Compression socks
- Compression level 20 – 30 mmHG
- Graduated Athletic fit
- Machine Washable
- Ankle Support and moisture wicking
- Variety of colours available
- Available in 3 sizes
These socks have received excellent reviews for their quality, durability, fit, comfort, value for money and function while used for tough mudder type events, long standing shifts, long haul flights and even as calf compression guards for playing rugby! They have received 4.8 out of 5 starts based on over 3,500 customer reviews.
- Stitching in toe box can cause blisters
Calves Kelson Compression Socks / Stockings
- Compression level 20 – 30 mmHG
- 2 pairs in a pack
- Machine Washable Nylon and Elastane construction
- Variety of colours available
- extra padding at the toes, heel, soles and Achilles tendon
- Available in 2 sizes
Calves Kelson Compression Socks have received excellent review for material quality, comfort, working out, value for money and pain relief when used for cycling, long standing shifts, a substitute for medical socks and long haul flights. They have received 4.7 out of 5 stars based on over 600 customer reviews
- some sizing quality control issues
2XU Striped Run Compression Socks
- Graduated compression
- Seamless to reducing chaffing
- SPF 50 sun protection
- Antibacterial fabrics
- Airflow panels
- Machine washable in cold water
2XU compression socks have received great reviews for appearance, comfort, fit and ease of getting on and off. They have received 4 out of 5 stars from over 100 customer reviews; however they do not specify the compression level. The extensive size guide covers both foot size and calf circumference so you can choose the best possible fit.
- They have been reviewed as short by longer legged users
- limited colour choices
CEP Run Compression Socks 3.0
- Variety of colours
- Consistent quality, sizing and fit
- Achilles heel and tendon support
- anatomically shaped with left and right foot versions
- flat seams in the toe box for increased foot comfort and reduced blister risk
- Air flow channels
- Odour reducing anti microbial fabrics
- machine wash at 40 degrees
- Tumble dry on low heat
CEP run compression Socks 3.0 are consistently reviewed as comfortable, high quality and stand up well to long term use including extensive washing. They are made in a range of colours and sizes all with an 85% polyamide, 15% spandex moisture wicking fabric to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- thin fabric on the foot
Runderwear Compression Running Socks
- Graduated compression from 28.4mmHG at the ankle to 18.1mmHG at the top
- breathable and moisture wicking fabric
- designed to grip mid foot and reduce sock movement to prevent blisters
- hand finished minimising seams
- Machine washable at 40 degrees
- Tumble dry on a warm heat
Runderwear Compression Running socks are consistently reviewed as comfortable, supportive and excellent for not causing blisters. They are lauded for remembering the importance of foot cushioning in the sole in addition to the calf compression element of compression running socks.
- only available in black
- sized only on shoe size without account for different calf circumferences
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that compression running socks provide enhanced recovery from strenuous activities, such as long, intensive runs. It’s up to you to decide if you fancy giving them a try, and if you do we’d love to hear what you think and if they’ve helped you in any way.
On to the top performers then!
To money no object choice – CEP Run Compression Socks 3.0 the only downsides reported in numerous reviews were expense, counteracted by the money no object above, and the thin sock portion which is a personal preference – and if thin stock portion bothers you and money is no object consider their calf sleeves to compliment your favourite socks.
Moderate budget – Runderwear winner of the best underwear and socks brand at the 2018 Running Awards, has fantastic reviews for their compression running socks with the added elements of being designed with the foot bed specifically for running.
Base budget – Physix Gear Compression socks, with Amazon reviews of 4.8 out of 5 stars and over 3500 reviews at time of publication these are considered to be some of the best entry level compression socks available on the market, if the toe box stitching falls on the right place for your feet.
Which have you tried? What are your impressions? We’d love to hear your feedback!