Chris solinsky, former American record holder in the 10k. Meb, boston marathon champ and silver medalist in the marathon. Shalane Flanagan, Americas best marathon runner and Olympic bronze medalist in the 10k. What do these three greats have in common? Well for one, they all race in compression socks.
While I’m not here to tell you that sliding on those compression socks will instantly take you two that level, the potential performance benefits you can attain from these socks is undeniable. They aren’t only a tool to be used at race time but can also aid recovery and prevent injury during training. Here are some tips to incorporate compression into your training regiment.
Compression socks have long been debated for their abilities to improve recovery. Case studies have been formed to support both sides of the debate however in more recent studies, evidence has begun to sway in the Pro direction for compression gear. The science behind it tells us that compression gear increases circulation and this allows more blood to reach and nourish our sore muscles. There are two reasons behind this. It prevents blood from stagnating in our muscles where it causes inflammation and this clears the way for new blood to come in. Second just as massage stimulates blood to be sent to muscle, it acts as somewhat of an irritant to tell the body blood is needed. Both these factors lead to improved recovery and muscle healing.
The best times to use compression gear is post excercise as this is when your legs are the most inflamed. Also, it is important to wear compression gear when traveling as sitting for too long without moving keeps he blood in one place rather than promoting circulation. Some runners swear by wearing compression gear to bed as it makes their legs feel fresh in the morning. Try it out, you will still get benefits even if you pull your compression socks off in the middle of the night.
Another thing that compression gear does is provide added support for your limbs. If you are somebody that often experiences shin splints and other lower leg injuries then compression socks can be very helpful to you! Wear them for long runs and hard workout to take some of the stess off of your problem areas. They can also be helpful to help your legs handle the beating of hard surfaces such as pavement and sidewalk.
Compression socks also are touted to increase performance. We can see the proof with these professional athletes who swear by them. They can increase efficiency in a couple of ways. First, like the recovery benefit, the quicker we can get blood in and out of the muscles, the more efficiently they can function. Therefore the circulation benefits apply during running and while recovering.
Next they lock the muscle in its most efficient place and prevent it from wasting energy by moving too much with each stride. This may not sound like it is significant however the extra effort takes it’s toll over a long race. Plus who wouldn’t want to run just a minute faster in the marathon?!
Not all compression socks are created equal. While I’m sure you could get some benefit out of any sock you try, my favorites are socks made by CEP and 2XU. I find these socks are the most durable and have the best amount of compression for my needs. Try a couple different brands out and see what works for you! These brands are a little out of some peoples price range but for what they do for my running, I think it is worth it. Remember, those pros who are out there wearing their compression gear aren’t just doing it because they think it looks cool, it helps them run the way they do.