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Why Wear Compression Socks for Running

The rave about compression socks raises the question: why wear compression socks for running? Do they even live up to the hype, or is it just a fad? You are about to find out.

Compression socks have been around for some time and have become increasingly popular amongst runners. You may have noticed a few runners wearing these tight, knee-high socks on their morning jog. Or you probably sighted them in a sports store and wondered if they make a difference.

The short answer is: yes, they do.

Before you grab some new compression garments, it’s best to know the benefits. This article examines why compression socks are great for runners and other essential details.

Keep reading to discover all the juicy bits.

What Are Compression Socks?

Running is an excellent form of exercise. However, it’s a high-impact exercise that puts much strain on the feet and legs. That’s why runners always seek ways to improve their performance, prevent injuries and recover faster.

Compression socks for runners offer a simple way to achieve these goals.

They are snug-fitting socks that provide graduated compression to the feet and legs. In clear terms, they are elastic socks that fit snugly around the foot and ankle. And gradually becomes less tight towards the knee or thigh.

The compression is highest at the ankle and gradually decreases towards the top of the sock.

How Do Compression Socks Work?

Compression socks apply pressure to the legs, with the strongest pressure at the ankle gradually decreasing as it moves up the leg.

The force applied by the socks helps to improve blood circulation and oxygen flow to the muscles.

Therefore, it prevents blood pooling in the feet and legs and, by extension, wards off various problems like varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and edema.

During exercise, blood is pumped from the heart to the muscles, providing them with oxygen and nutrients. After use, the blood must flow back to the heart.

This is where compression socks come in.

The graduated pressure applied by compression socks squeezes blood vessels and muscles, thus moving blood back toward the heart. By improving circulation, they reduce the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles to avoid fatigue and soreness.

When you run, your feet and legs take a lot of impact. Therefore, the muscles and joints have to work harder to support your body. This can cause micro-tears in the muscles and inflammation. But compression socks reduce the vibrations caused by impact and support the muscles and joints.

Benefits of Wearing Compression Socks for Running

Wondering why runners wear compression socks? Because of these incredible benefits.

Improved Blood Circulation

One of the primary perks of a compression sock is improved blood flow.

The socks apply pressure to your legs and squeeze the blood vessels and muscles to move oxygen-rich blood back toward the heart.

Such an increase in circulation means that your muscles receive more oxygen and nutrients, reducing the likelihood of cramps, soreness, and fatigue.

Reduced Swelling

Besides increasing blood flow, compression gear reduces swelling. When you exercise, your muscles produce lactic acid, which can cause swelling and inflammation.

But adequate compression of the muscles reduces the space available for lactic acid. Hence, your muscles will be less likely to swell. It will also reduce the risk of injury and aid in quick recovery.

Faster Recovery

Speaking of recovery, wearing compression socks speeds recovery. The increased circulation and reduced swelling that comes with wearing these socks means your muscles are getting the nutrients they need to repair themselves more quickly.

In addition, the compression can help to reduce muscle soreness, allowing you to get back to running sooner.

Improved performance

Wearing graduated compression socks helps the muscles work more efficiently. Due to the improvement of blood circulation, your muscles will get more oxygen and nutrients, making long-distance running easier. Of course, this translates to improved endurance and a lower risk of injury.

Psychological benefits

In addition to their physical benefits, these socks provide a psychological boost to runners. The feeling of compression on the legs can give runners a sense of support and stability. This could improve their confidence and mental focus immensely!

Protection against injury

Compression socks protect athletes against injury by offering stability to the muscles and joints. This is especially beneficial for runners prone to certain types of injuries, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis.

Comfort and style

What’s an athlete’s gear without some elements of style?

Compression socks come in various colors and styles, making them a fashionable accessory for runners. They are often comfortable and breathable, preventing discomfort and irritation during long runs.

When to Wear Compression Socks

Compression socks can be worn during and after running. During running, they reduce the impact on the feet and legs, improve blood flow, and reduce muscle soreness.

After running, compression socks speed up recovery by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.

You may also wear compression stockings during long flights or prolonged sitting or standing periods. They reduce the risk of circulatory problems and blood clots.

Finding The Most Suitable Compression Socks Level For Your Needs

Compression socks should be worn according to the level of compression a healthcare professional recommends. Wearing compression socks that are too tight can cause discomfort, restrict blood flow, and increase the risk of injury.

So, the first step is to find the best compression socks for you. Here are the socks levels out there.

  1. Mild compression (8-15 mmHg): These light compression socks provide the lowest compression level and are perfect for preventative purposes. They improve circulation, reduce mild swelling, and prevent the formation of blood clots. Mild compression socks are better suited for individuals who spend a long time on their feet or travel frequently.
  2. Moderate compression (15-20 mmHg): These socks provide a higher level of compression than mild compression socks. Medium compression socks are designed to treat a range of conditions, including varicose veins, spider veins, and mild to moderate edema. It’s a staple for athletes who would love to improve circulation, reduce muscle soreness, and speed up recovery time.
  3. Firm compression (20-30 mmHg): Compared to the first two, this gear provides the highest compression level. It’s often used to treat more severe medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis, severe edema, and chronic venous insufficiency. These medical grade compression socks may prevent injury during exercise and improve running performance.

Do Compression Socks Improve A Runner’s Performance?

runner wears yellow compression socks

It’s undeniable that compression socks benefit runners. However, they may not necessarily make you run “better” in terms of improving your overall running form or technique.

That being said, studies have found that wearing compression socks during a race can improve running economy and delay the onset of fatigue. And this could potentially lead to faster race times.

Additionally, by reducing muscle soreness and improving recovery time, compression socks may allow runners to train more consistently and at a higher level. This may also facilitate better running performance.

Nevertheless, compression socks are not a substitute for proper training, injury prevention techniques, and good health habits.

While they work for some runners, they are not a magic solution to bumping up your performance.

As with any new training tool or technique, experiment carefully. Most importantly,  consult a healthcare professional before incorporating it into your routine.

In A Nutshell

Compression socks are an excellent investment for runners who want to prevent injuries and recover faster. As we’ve established, they improve blood flow, reduce muscle fatigue, and support the muscles or joints.

Whether you wear them during or after running, they will undoubtedly do a stellar job easing your muscles.

Our verdict is that compression socks are worth trying out. Although they aren’t a cure-all – but they are quite muscle-friendly. So you may want to grab one before your next marathon race!

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