Did you know the compression stockings market is expected to hit $2.4 billion by 2026? These elastic socks boost blood circulation to alleviate the symptoms of various health problems, including varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
Many runners have also added compression socks to their athletic gear to enjoy more fulfilling running experiences. If you’re itching to learn how the garments facilitate the latter, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide explains compression socks’ benefits to help you understand why most runners wear them. You’ll also discover other essential details about the running gear, including what to do to land the best pair of compression socks on the market and ensure they stand the test of time.
Let’s start by looking into what compression socks are in the first place.
What are Compression Socks?
Compression socks or stockings are specialized stretchy socks constructed to gently squeeze your ankles and legs to facilitate blood flow from the latter to your heart.
Compression socks are popularly used for compression therapy to help reduce swelling and pain in your lower legs.
Running enthusiasts are also fond of compression socks because they help them become better runners.
Why Do Runners Wear Compression Socks?
Many runners wear compression socks to improve their running performance, increase their recovery speed, enhance blood flow, prevent leg cramps, reduce their risk of injury and regulate their body temperatures.
Here’s a deep dive into these top reasons motivating runners to wear compression socks.
Better Running Performance
A 2020 scientific review discovered that wearing compression socks boosted some runners’ actual performance, enabling them to become better athletes.
So, here’s how a pair of compression socks could enable you to up your game as a runner.
For starters, it aids proper circulation in your lower legs.The increased blood flow allows your leg muscles to receive enough oxygen to remain active and enhance your endurance, especially during long-distance runs.
In addition, running compression socks ensure your legs are under constant pressure. As many pregnant women can confirm, this reduces fluid retention in the legs to prevent swelling, which can deter you from running at full speed or completing a particular distance in good time.
Runners also wear compression socks to minimize their recovery time to ace their next run.
Since compression garments maximize blood flow to your legs, your muscles can heal more quicker than regular socks.
Furthermore, if you’ve been training too hard and have shin splints, compression socks can provide much-needed pain relief, and reduce swelling, allowing you to get back in the game sooner and more prepared than anticipated.
Besides, expect minimal muscle fatigue and cramps if you wear compression gear after a run. It reduces soreness and blood clots to deter the generation of lactic acid, a common cause of muscle aches in runners.
Wearing compression socks during and after running your run also protects you.
To begin with, you’re less prone to injuries while in a pair of compression socks. This is a result of the controlled, constant pressure over the most vital parts of your legs, including your ankle. It reduces fluid retention, soreness, and pain, ensuring you’re always up to the task.
Because compression socks expedite post-run recovery, meaning your muscles will have the oxygen and nutrients they need to see you through your next run without falls.
Compression socks can protect the skin on your legs if you slip and fall while running, so you don’t have to nurse any injuries afterward. If you’re a trail runner, they keep you safe from minor scratches and ensure your skin doesn’t come into contact with allergenic plants such as poison ivy.
A large pool of runners wears compression socks to maximize their comfort and enjoy better running experiences. This type of compression gear is super effective in temperature regulation, thanks to its fabric.
Compression stockings are typically made from a blend of spandex, lycra, microfiber, and cotton. They render the garments warm enough to keep the cold at bay if you’re running in cold weather and breathable to ensure you’re cool in the summer.
Since compression socks are elastic and tight, they feel like a second skin, so they won’t slip down while you run. This enhances your comfort and allows you to concentrate on your run.
Buying the Right Compression Socks: What to Consider
As of this writing, many brands offer compression socks, such as Ames Walker, Sockwell, JOBST, Therafirm, and Juzo, to name but a few. Since all of them claim to be the best, you might become confused when looking for compression socks to purchase. But don’t stress over it because we have your back.
Here are the most important aspects to consider when hoping to bag the best compression socks available.
Size of the Compression Garments
The best compression socks for you come in your size—a smaller one could cause a lot of pain and discomfort, while a larger one is inconvenient since the sleeves will keep sliding down.
If you buy compression socks online, use a size chart to determine your sizing based on the size of your feet and calf and ankle circumference. Finding your fit at a local store is easier since you can try several options.
Fabric Used to Make the Elastic Socks
When buying compression socks for running, you want a durable, breathable fabric to keep you cool and dry. One with a dash of anti-microbial, odor-resistant materials such as merino wool is even better if you have smelly feet.
A piece of light fabric is also recommended for compression socks as it prevents you from carrying any extra weight and allows your feet to fit perfectly in your running shoes.
How Are Compression Socks Constructed?
Compression socks for running boast different designs to suit the needs of various runners.
For instance, if you are jogging in hot weather, choose light compression socks with an open-toe design to maximize your comfort. The running gear, which is easy to slide in and out of your running shoes, is also ideal if you have toe problems.
If you don’t experience foot or leg swelling, you can select a compression sleeve instead of a sock. It’ll deliver much-needed support and pressure to your ankle to aid blood circulation for the best running experience.
Runners who dislike slowing down when running should opt for compression socks with a band at the top. It prevents them from slipping, even after months of frequent use.
Compression stockings with multi-layer construction are also available for blister-prone runners. Others have cushioned feet to absorb impact to add to your comfort.
Again, many brands offer compression socks with non-slip soles to give you more options. You can wear them during your run and around your house.
Buying the best compression socks also requires you to consider compression ratings based on your current needs.
So, a compression sock’s rating is typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg); a higher number means more pressure, and vice versa.
Compression socks with a rating of less than 15 mmHg are ideal for most runners since they’re light and only offer mild compression. They relieve pain and prevent swelling and muscle soreness, which every runner needs.
Some runners also like compression socks with ratings between 15 and 20 mmHg. Like light compression socks, they also reduce muscle pain and swelling.
Are Compression Socks Durable?
Compression socks are made from durable, breathable fabric that allows them to last long. Ideally, these compression garments can serve you for three to six months, upon which they begin losing their stretch.
But, like with any other piece of clothing, the durability of your compression socks boils down to how well you maintain them.
Leverage these tips if you’re a first-timer hoping to make the most of your compression socks.
Wash Them Properly
Some runners prefer washing their compression socks after 3-4 times of use because they utilize anti-microbial technologies that prevent foul odor.
However, washing compression socks daily or after every use is best to help them last and retain their original shape. If the compression garments have any dirt, gently rub them to eliminate it. Or soak them in cold water for up to 30 minutes to make them easier to wash.
Always use lukewarm or cold water to hand wash your compression socks. Hot water is unrecommended because it damages the compression in the stockings, negatively impacting their lifespan.
Machine Washing Compression Socks
If you don’t have time to handwash your knee-high compression socks, throw them in your washing machine at your convenience. Use a delicate or gentle cycle with cold water to avoid damaging the fabric. You can also put them in a mesh garment bag for further protection.
It’s not advisable to throw your compression stockings in with other soiled pieces of clothing. If they have any dirt or stains, it’s best to handwash them first to remove them.
Use a Mild Detergent
It’s easy to get tempted to use harsh action detergents to wash your knee-high compression socks, especially when they’re heavily soiled. But the chemicals in the products could damage their fabric, preventing them from lasting six months.
Utilizing a mild detergent when handwashing or machine-washing compression garments is safe. At the same time, avoid fabric softeners, bleach, and stain removers, as they also harm your compression socks’ material.
Dry Them Correctly
Airdrying is the best way to dry your compression socks for running. Just hang them outside (away from direct sun) and let the fresh air dry them. They’ll only take a short time if it’s windy and smell fabulous afterward.
If you don’t have a place to hang your compression socks outside, you can also dry them indoors. Be sure to keep them separate to allow for more air circulation and quicker drying.
Never throw your pair of compression socks in the dryer. The machine’s hot environment will weaken its fabric, causing it to lose its compression properties after a while.
Ironing compression garments has the same effect as putting them in your dryer. It damages their mesh and fabric, allowing them to last only a few months.
At the same time, don’t wring out your compression socks to dry them. Such an intense movement could reduce the durability of their fabric. Instead, ball and squeeze them gently to remove excess water and speed up the drying process.
When Wearing Compression Socks is a Bad Idea
Wearing compression socks when stepping out for a jog or looking to delight in the advantages of elastic garments is recommended. However, it’s advisable not to wear them in some instances.
For example, medical compression stockings are unsuitable if you have impaired arterial flow. They could lead to a poorly oxygenated bloodstream, making you prone to fatal conditions such as heart failure. More often than not, peripheral vascular disease is characterized by the coldness in your lower legs, leg numbness, shiny skin on the legs, and muscle pain, especially in your lower body.
In addition, compression therapy is not suitable for patients who have diabetes. Although it can reduce leg swelling for a while, it could cause more problems in the future since it prevents individuals from detecting the changes in their lower legs.
People with sensitive skin should also refrain from wearing compression socks for running. Chances are, they will affect skin sensation, minimizing their capability to feel pain, touch, heat, and tickles. What’s more, the compression stockings may cause skin infection and thinning.
Furthermore, wearing compression socks for running is unnecessary when sleeping. Despite being unharmful in any way, they don’t present any advantages when you’re lying down. If they’re too tight, they might even blood circulation in your lower legs, leading to discomfort.
Why Do Runners Wear Compression Socks?
Undoubtedly, runners wear compression socks to reap the benefits of compression, such as reduced muscle soreness, faster recovery, pain relief, and injury prevention.
The compression sleeves are also great for temperature control, enabling them to run during all weather conditions.
As you might already know, runners aren’t the only people who wear these garments. Individuals with complications such as leg swelling, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis or blood clots, and leg ulcers wear medical-grade compression stockings to treat their symptoms.
Of course, you have to choose the right compression sock to enjoy these perks. This requires you to carefully analyze the features of your pick before buying it.
If you’re lucky to find the best compression socks, maintain them well to use them for up to half a year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do elite runners wear compression socks?
Most elite athletes have included compression socks in their athletic gear to enjoy their benefits, including reduced comfort and quicker recovery after a run.
Should I wear compression socks if I’m not a runner?
You can still wear compression socks if you have particular health problems, such as varicose veins, blood clots and pain, and poor leg blood flow.
In that case, choose medical grade compression socks instead of regular compression socks for running because they apply pressure in millimeters of mercury, usually from 20 to 30 mmHg, to be more effective.
Are compression socks good for my heart health?
Compression socks for runners enhance oxygen delivery to your heart due to improved blood flow. This keeps the vital body organ healthy enough to pump blood around your body.
How tight should my compression socks feel?
Compression gear should feel snug and tight but not so painful that they limit your comfort. You can know that your compression socks are too tight if they hurt, change your skin color, and leave visible vertical marks on it.
Will wearing compression socks reduce swelling in my lower legs?
Compression socks improve blood flow to your legs to reduce swelling, discomfort, and pain. Noticing these improvements could take a few days or weeks of regular wearing.