21-time marathon finisher Stephanie Dyer swears by compression socks
Are compression socks all hype or are they really helpful? Over the last 5 years, running circles have been enamored by them, many runners swear by them, including me. I decided to put them to the test during marathon training in 2015. I have been a believer ever since. After training and competing, I feel less sore and less swollen in my feet. I also feel an increase in leg power during my long runs. You will not find me without compression socks on a long run or at the starting line. They are helpful at any distance or pace and are not just for the serious runner.
In modern times compression socks have been used to treat a variety of medical conditions such as diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins, arthritis pain relief, leg ulcers, leg swelling, and circulatory problems. In recent years they have become a must have in athletic gear. What many may not know is that this therapy can be traced back to the era of Hippocrates (and even earlier). This famous doctor used compression bandages to prevent blood from pooling in patients’ legs.
The benefits of compression therapy are many and include:
Muscle fatigue and soreness prevention:
We feel sore when lactic acid (the waste produced during exercise) builds up in our muscles. When veins are narrowed by compression, the velocity of blood coursing through actually increases. This means the lactic acid moves out more quickly to the heart and the soreness you may feel decreases.
Swelling and cramp prevention:
Because the socks squeeze your legs, they prevent the buildup of fluid in the tissue which helps with swelling. I have also found that at the end of a marathon or half marathon, my calves are much more efficient and cramp much less while wearing compression socks. They may also help reduce the movement of your calf muscle helping decrease fatigue. Our calf muscles absorb eight times our body weight every time we land and push off so they appreciate any help we can give them.
Compression socks help blood circulate through the leg muscles, which gets blood back to your heart more efficiently. When your circulation is increased, so is the amount of oxygen to your cells creating higher functioning cells which is thought to speed the removal of lactic acid. The way this is done is “graduated” compression – they are tighter at the bottom of the sock and looser at the top.
From personal experience, I have found that training and racing (from a 5k to a marathon) in compression socks has helped me in all three areas. Now companies like Pro Compression have great patterns and colors to add a fashion component! When purchasing compression socks, look at the size charts and consider your calf circumference over your shoe size, otherwise you will not get the proper compression levels.
There have been a number of studies done on compression socks, and the overall consensus is that they are indeed effective. Compression socks are not the secret to peak performance or a cure-all for your aches and pains, however they are helpful in increasing blood flow which gets more oxygen to your cells. Start running with compression socks and you’ll be glad you did. I certainly am.
Author Note: Want to give compression socks a try? PRO Compression, a leader in compression socks and sleeves, has partnered with the Virtual Women’s Half Marathon and is providing an incredible discount to our runners and readers. Go to https://procompression.com/virtualwhm and get 50% off your order!