Compression Socks: Not Just For My Grandma Anymore

English: Paula Radliffe winning in New York
I mean who wouldn’t want to copy Paula’s style, right? (Wait, are those my grandma’s socks with ankle socks over them?) Personally, I’d just like to steal her abs.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Compression Socks. Hate ’em? Love ’em? Don’t Care About ’em? Just. Another. Silly. Fad?

I was totally anti-compression socks fad. I always thought of  them as a trendy accessory for running fashion victims. At best, they were for those who wanted to mimic Paula Radcliffe’s awesomeness. But not for this girl. Upwards of $60 for a pair of stinking (pun intended) socks? Socks! I was sure this silly fad that would fade away.

But then I got curious and did a little research. Hmmm. Maybe they’re more than wannabe-wear.

Ok, I admit it: I have changed my tune, so much so that I might actually be ready to give ‘em a try this fall racing season.

These snug, knee-high compression socks are actually meant to increase circulation and reduce lactic acid build-up (the stuff that makes your legs burn when you run fast). (They were originally intended to help those suffering with diabetes.) Some swear by wearing them while racing to improve performance. Some swear by wearing them after a hard race or work out to enhance quick recovery. There is no scientific evidence supporting either camp, but that doesn’t mean either is wrong.

Decreased muscle soreness and enhanced recovery have been consistently reported by users, as the socks compress to alleviate swelling and inflammation after a tough run. After pounding the pavement for a 21-miler on Wednesday, Thursday’s run will likely be painful; however, compression socks can lessen that pain, according to some. As our own Salty blogger, Vanilla, suggests wearing skinny jeans the night after a long run might be just as beneficial, and a little more fashionable for a bar hopping or the such.

English: Ellecid.com, Mid Waisted, Single Twis...
Skinny Jeans: A more fashionable alternative compression socks? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though reducing muscle damage is generally a good thing. We runners actually need that damage to be the trigger for adaptation and improvement in performance. (Really! Read all about it in Cinnamon’s awesome Runner’s Guide to Inflammation)It’s only when we break down stuff that it gets the chance to build up, right? But to possibly alleviate some of the pain that comes along with that damage by pulling on a pair of socks sounds like a pretty legit deal to me!

Compression sock reviews are mixed depending on the individual runner and the length of training or racing runs. Personally, I’ve never tried them, but I’m going to invest in a pair as I train for the Columbus Half Marathon this fall. I’d like to try running with them during a few of my 10 and 12 miler training runs as well as try them out after tougher speed work-outs. I also plan to wear them in the Scioto miles 15k a few weeks before the actual half to see if I mind them when actually racing. I’ll plan to report back!

Do you wear compression socks? Got any brand recommendations? Are there other fads in the running apparel industry that intrigue you? Annoy you? 

I'm a new momma, full-time non-profiter, and coffee lover. I write about healthy body image, half marathon training, and recovery from eating disorders. I'm currently training to maintain fitness throughout the winter and break 1:27:00 in my next half marathon.

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10 comments

  1. I think I own a few pairs of compression socks, they’re great when I do workouts at the gym. I mean, not just socks, but a full sport garment as well. Socks don’t sag much of my leg muscles, which sometimes cause cramps.

  2. Forgot to add, I think it may just be a matter of personal preference, and definitely some of the placebo effect at work like Mark said!

  3. I too have total “old person plane cankles” despite being 25 years old :) so I’ve kinda been into compression socks since before the cool running ones went mainstream… my first pair were the elderly/diabetes kind that I bought at the airport after a flight to New Zealand when I realized I definitely needed to do something about the cankle issue for the flight home.

    That being said I now have probably 4 pairs of the running kind and LOVE them!!! I have one expensive CEP pair I bought at the running store and 3 of the Pro Compression ones that are always on sale online for cheap (well, $25). I find them super comfy and have been known to pass out for a nice nap after a long run and shower wearing only underwear and compression socks… very stylish :)

    I pretty much never wear them while actually running (I think I have done it 2-3 times), just after hard workouts or when my calves are feeling sore and/or tired. Also, every so often I get this weird popping/sliding feeling in my Achilles (not painful, just like it’s moving in a weird way) and wearing compression socks always fixes that right up.

  4. CEP socks are amazing! I actually haven’t used them for runs or recovery, but I use them when I fly on planes. My ankles and feet swell so badly that they just totally balloon into a huge “cankle,” but with the CEP socks, there is no swelling at all on a flight across country. I think that’s pretty good proof that they work!

  5. I wear compression socks after my hard, longer runs. It makes my calves ache less later in the day and my following day run seems a bit easier. I don’t wear them during my run since I can’t afford many pairs and it just seems like another layer to keep me warm.

    I’ve got a pair of Vital Socks and CEPs. The Vital socks were cheaper, but don’t seem to compress as much. The nice part about the CEPs is that they do size based on calf circumference. That’s important in getting a snug fit. Real rec- make sure to have a spare 5 minutes to put them on. It’s hard!

  6. Compression socks are like a warm hug for your soul. Except your soul is in your calf.

    After many experiments, I use them only after running, typically not during a run. It could be in my brain, but I think they tighten up my muscle, or at least don’t let it loosen. But for after a run, they do seem to speed recovery.

    The Placebo effect is the strongest healling agent known.

  7. I have a pair of CEP socks and I wear them in the winter after harder runs under my jeans. I don’t know if they work, but why not try? I do have to say, they feel uncomfortable to me after a while. I can never nap in them! I HAVE to take them off to sleep. I’m not sure I would find the comfortable to run in. I’ve never even bothered to try.

    That being said, I totally feel the same way about fads! I am so late to try new things as I wait to see if they are just fads or something useful. I remember when my husband first told me about GPS watches and I laughed at the ridiculousness. Now THAT’s funny now :)

  8. I am always wary of such claims about compression socks, but I got a pair anyways because there was a groupon deal. Only $25 for sock! *sarcasm*
    I haven’t run in them yet, and haven’t worn them much yet