What are Compression Socks?
Compression socks are socks with a gradient pressure system.
They use elastic fiber, bandage and a ribbed design stripe to apply pressure on the leg.
When pressure is applied to the leg, the blood and fluid flow is restricted to prevent it from pooling.
This, in turn, increases the flow of blood where it’s needed most.
Sculpted to match the contours all the way to the feet, compression socks reduce pooling and enhance circulation.
This accelerates the recovery time of your muscles by reducing fatigue and soreness.
Compression socks are used mainly for recovery from injury and repair of bones and muscles.
It also helps to improve circulation, speed up recovery time, improve flexibility, reduce swelling, increase endurance, and improve mental focus.
Compression socks can be worn during travel, under and over tights, when working, during an intense workout, while sleeping, and while staying at home.
Compression socks also known as “knee-high socks” are typically over-the-calf up to mid-calf length.
The majority of runners prefer to wear compression socks during long distance running, running, recovery, or after a workout.
Compression sleeves are typically shorter than compression socks.
They are worn under clothing and on visibly sweaty areas.
What are Compression Sleeves?
Compression sleeves are similar in design to the compression socks but are smaller and designed to fit comfortably around only the lower part of your legs. They are one of the most common gear garments used in athletic performance and physical therapy.
Compression is achieved by a fabric or an elastic band that provides graduated pressure or force around the targeted area, helping to increase blood flow and circulation.
The result of this increased circulation is better oxygenation of the tissue and reduction in swelling and muscle fatigue. They are specifically designed to be used in the following ways:
- Reduce muscle soreness after a long run
- Decrease muscle fatigue due to long distance running
- Help the body recover from injuries
- Prevent muscles from swelling and enhance performance
It is important to note that wearing compression garments does not increase the blood flow to your muscles enough to cause an increase in oxygen content in the blood.
Your blood is always carrying the same amount of oxygen. The blood vessels remain open and blood flow remains the same.
So what is the actual benefit of wearing a compression gear?
When wearing compression gear, you make it easier for the muscles to pump the blood out of them. It is like a vacuum cleaner in your tights. The hose remains the same size, it gets bigger at the end, but the hose itself does not get wider.
Compression Socks versus Compression Sleeves
There are two options when it comes to running compression socks and sleeves:
- Sock style
- Sleeves style
The difference between the two is that the sock style is designed such as it encloses the entire foot, including the ankle while the sleeve style fits only around the calf.
How do Compression Socks and Sleeves Work?
When it comes to compression socks, the general theory is that they work by targeting varicose veins, which are those painful, bulging blue veins beneath the skin. Compression socks can reduce the swelling of varicose veins and improve blood flow in the legs.
The specific mechanism behind this is a bit more complicated. When lymph fluid builds up in the legs because of poor blood flow, it can increase the pressure against the veins. Lymph fluid consists of mostly several waste products, which your body is trying to remove from the tissues.
This causes the lymphatic system in the legs to swell. Unfortunately, this also reduces the size of your veins … which means you have less space in your veins for blood to flow.
Compression socks work by restoring the regular size of the veins. When the lymph fluid is reduced, your veins can kick back into shape and carry more blood. You can picture it like a doughnut … the compression socks are being pulled tight and compacting the ring of lymph fluid around the leg.
Compression socks do not just push the waste product to other parts of the body. When you wear compression socks, they result in increased blood flow back to your heart and eventually into your lungs where you get healthier breathing.
Benefits of Compression Socks and Sleeves
Muscle strains, exhausted muscles, and sore joints are among the many problems athletes face during and after physical activity. Improved muscle recovery and increased performance are among the many benefits of compression garments.
What Are Compression Socks and Sleeves
Compression garments (compression socks and sleeves) are garments designed to improve blood flow, reduce fatigue, muscles soreness and swelling, and they provide comfort and support to the muscles and joints. They temporarily reduce the volume of blood in the lower extremities reducing the volume of blood that needs to be pumped back to the heart, therefore improving blood flow and reducing muscle fatigue.
Compression garments have the exact same effect than any piece of machinery that is designed to increase blood flow such as a blood pressure cuff.
Compression garments are usually made with very elastic fabrics that plan onto the skin tightly.
The arms, ankles, calves or the thighs can be targeted with these garments. They are also known as “sleeves”. They provide a mild pressure to the areas targeted.
Evidence on the Effectiveness of Compression Garments
Hundreds of studies have been carried out to study the potential benefits of compression garments. According to the results of a 2009 Cochrane database review, using compression socks or sleeves is associated with a significant reduction in the acute symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage including pain, swelling, and muscle tenderness.
Do You Have Increased Performance If You Wear Them?
That is a common question and the one that will be most asked when it comes to compression socks and sleeves for running. The underlying question is does it actually give you a better workout or a faster time. It should be obvious that the answer is yes. What you don’t realize is the science behind it coming you to that conclusion.
Before we go deeper into the results of using compression socks and sleeves for running, let us first define what compression socks and sleeves are.
Compression socks are the most common type of compression wear. They are used most for hiking, running and actually most sports that require a lot of walking, jumping or moving in general. They generally are made with an elastic material that provides a tight fit around your calf.
You wear them over your calf and up to the sock line. They are made of a form fitted breathable material. They can help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness and can increase blood circulation.
Sleeves on the other hand are tubes of form fitted material that go from the middle of the calf down to the ends of the foot. They are just like putting on a tight pair of socks around your leg.
There are a few benefits that they can give you. The first obvious advantage is that it reduces the distance between your joints. The straighter the ankles, knees and hips are, the less force you put on these areas.
Other Reasons to Wear Them
Wearing compression garments has long been associated with health. However, it’s not the only reason to wear them. Even if you’re not in recovery, you can enjoy some other benefits that make them a worthwhile purchase.
’ Blood flow. This is the big one. The socks, knee highs, and sleeves increase your blood flow by increasing the circulation of blood to the muscles, legs, etc.
This is called “venous permeability” in a medical text. So how that works is that the garment applies pressure to the vein and helps increase the amount of blood that flows back to the heart without that pressure. That makes it easier for your heart to push the blood through your entire body and keeps the blood vessels from collapsing.
’ Increasing performance at work. This is mainly because of the improved blood circulation which is beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
That’s important at work, where you’re sitting for almost the entire day. Your circulation will improve, you will feel less bloated, less tired and your energy levels will rise.
’ Healthier days. People who work jobs that are not physically active will find that this will help with their body alignment as well.
Should I Wear Them During or After a Run?
Athletes love bragging about their gear and equipment. I’ve seen runners at the gym talking about their new diet, their favorite running shoes, or their hydration packs. But what about their compression gear?
Compression gear can improve oxygen flow to your muscles and increase blood flow. Studies have shown that compression gear can increase performance and speed recovery. That’s why wear compression socks for running to help you gain endurance, muscle endurance, speed, and recovery time.
Many runners wear compression socks during a run and claim to feel a difference. I say wear them either way. You can wear compression socks during a run and experience for yourself the boost in endurance. You can also try wearing them after. That’s what I do. I’ve been wearing compression socks for over a decade and, although I can’t put my finger on how exactly they work, I know that they help me run faster and longer. If you don’t run, compression gear can still benefit you. Wear them during exercise to help your muscles recover faster after workouts.
Gear is one of the most popular topics among runners. They debate it, read about it, and still have questions unanswered. Compression gear is one of those topics. I am going to answer to the most common and some uncommon questions about compression gear.
How to Find the Right Size
It is very important to buy the right size of compression socks. If you buy a compression sock which is too tight you can cause damage to your circulatory system.
If you buy a sock which is too large, chances are that your therapy will not be as effective. In order to make sure that you buy the right size, here are some tips for you.
To find out your calf circumference, stand on a flat surface without wearing shoes and wear only socks.
Use a tape measure or measuring tape to measure the circumference of your calf and ankles.
Calf circumference is generally midpoint between the knee and ankle.
You can use this measurement to determine the size of your compression socks.
For reference, here are the general calf circumference measurements:
XS: Less than 15 inches (38.1 cm)
S: 15 inches to 16.5 inches (38.1 to 41.9 cm)
M: More than 16.5 inches to 17.5 inches (41.9 to 44.5 cm)
L: More than 17.5 inches to 18.5 inches (44.5 to 47.3 cm)
XL: More than 18.5 inches to 19.5 inches (47.3 to 49.6 cm)
2XL: More than 19.5 inches to 20.5 inches (49.6 to 52.
How Much Compression Should Socks or Sleeves Provide?
Compression wear comes in different levels of compression. The compression level you need is dependent on your needs and ability to tolerate the compression.
Compression socks and sleeves offer a more graduated compression than compression stockings or knee-highs. Most compression wear will be categorized into a Class I or higher. The reason behind the categorization is to help you determine which compression fit your needs best.
Usually, medical compression is a Class II, while compression socks are a Class I, which is the lightest.
The higher the compression the tighter the fit and the more it is able to pump blood back up to the heart. The tighter the fit the more issues you may have with tolerating the fit.
Finding a compression fit that works well for you will require some trial and error. It’s suggested that you start with a compression level that works for your basic needs. Most compression socks and sleeves come in sizes from Small to XX-Large.
If you have a calf circumference of 15 inches, then a Medium will fit you. If you have a calf circumference of 17 inches, you may consider a Large or X-Large. Make sure that you will have enough room for your toes.
Are There Any Downsides?
Compression garments like running socks and sleeves are more popular than ever with a growing number of studies and testing showing that their use can improve athletic performance (including running) and recovery. For instance, a recent study out of Eastern Illinois University found that dynamic compression socks were just as effective as compression sleeves when it comes to muscle recovery. The benefits of wearing compression garments include reduced muscle fatigue, better performance, reduced muscle soreness and improved circulation.
Now, like any new workout product on the market, there are always going to be some drawbacks. And in the case of compression socks, one of the drawbacks is that some runners claim that running in socks that are too tight can lead to the formation of blisters. If you’ve had issues with blisters on your feet while running, it might be worth while trying compression socks to see if wearing them is a better option.
Another potential draw back to compression socks is that there are more socks and sleeves on the market that might not deliver on the compression factor. An investigation by the New York Times found that compression sleeves that were being promoted as if they are great for runners could be doing more damage to their knees then providing them any benefit. That being said, it can be worth your time to do some research into compression socks and sleeves to determine whether they would benefit your workout routine (the studies seem to indicate that they do).
The benefits of wearing compression socks for running are numerous, but they can be applied to many areas of your life. Whether you have one of these problems or not, wearing compression socks will improve your blood circulation and keep you healthier.
Also, the added support and increased circulation that compression socks provide will help you feel less fatigue and pain while running.