Should You be Wearing Compression Socks?

by Dorothy Cohee | Leave a Comment

For decades, graduated compression socks have been used as a medical tool to combat deep vein thrombosis (DVTs). The socks have been found effective in reducing pain and swelling for bed-ridden and inactive patients which may support the prevention of the formation of blood clots.

A few years ago, however, athletes started wearing graduated compression socks while running and/or for recovery after endurance sports. But do compression socks really work?

should you wear compression socksManufacturers of athletic compression socks claim they increase oxygen delivery, decrease lactic acid, prevent cramps and shin splints, minimize fatigue and speed up recovery. That said, research on athletic compression socks provide mixed conclusions.

According to research:

  1. Subjects ran on a treadmill until exhaustion two weeks before and two weeks after a marathon. The time it took to get to exhaustion and heart rate were recorded. Those that wore the compression socks put them on immediately after running and kept them on for 48 hours, while all other runners were given a placebo. Those wearing the compression socks showed improved functional recovery, as two weeks after the marathon their run to exhaustion time increased by 2.6 percent. The placebo group decreased 3.4 percent1.
  1. Out of four studies looked at, only one reported negative effects using high compression socks (32 mmHG at the ankle). However, within those studies the use of compression socks is not fully supported either in assisting performance and/or recovery. Since there is little to no risk using the socks, many athletes continue to experiment to see if the socks do assist in performance or recovery2.
  1. A small study had males wear different grades of graduated compression stockings to determine the effects on 10k running performance. The socks were not found to affect the runners’ performance time, but the low and medium grade compression socks were reported to produce greater maintenance of leg power after running. The low grade compression socks were noted to be the most comfortable during exercise3.

What this means:

There is currently not strong evidence that wearing compression socks will improve one’s performance and in many cases, recovery; however, there is little to no evidence that they will hurt one’s performance or cause injury. If you are curious to know if these socks will help your recovery or performance, test them out for yourself. If you already wear them and think they help, continue to wear them as they may indeed be assisting in your recovery.

If you wear compression socks to help deal with an injury and it does not help relieve the pain, stop by one of our Athletico locations and set up a complimentary injury screen with an endurance therapist.

Happy running!

Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References

1Armstrong SA, Till ES, Maloney SR, and Harris GA. Compression socks and functional recovery following marathon running: a randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res; 2015 Feb 29(2): 528-533.

2Stanek JM. The effectiveness of compression socks on athletic performance and recovery. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 2016 August 24: 1-16.

3Ali A, Creasy RH, and Edge JA. The effect of graduated compression stockings on running performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011 May; 25(5): 1385-1392.

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