Compression Running Socks – Hype or Reality?

In CategoryHealth News, Product Info

When it comes to running, cycling or training for a triathlon, whether you are a weekend warrior or a serious competitor, it seems we are all looking for an edge to help us train harder and recover more quickly.  It may be the latest shoe design, recovery drink or training program, but there is always something new to try to gain that edge.

In the past couple of years more and more runners, triathletes and cyclists have been turning to compression socks to help their performances and recovery times.  But people want to know, do compression socks actually work or are they just the latest fad?   To answer that question, let’s first take a look at the basic effect that compression has on the circulatory system. 

1. Artery musculature:  The arteries in your body have muscular walls.  The musculature of these arterial walls reacts to changes in pressure.

2. Ambient pressure and expansion of the arterial diameter: The special compression profile of compression sport socks increases the ambient pressure on the arterial walls (in effect helping to equalize the pressure inside and outside the artery walls).  As a result, the musculature in the arterial wall relaxes and the relaxed musculature increases the arterial diameter and consequently the blood flow through the arteries.

* Artery without compression                            * Artery with compression *

This increased blood flow seems to have various positive effects on athletes.  A study from 2007 found an 85% decrease in the number of athletes suffering from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)post-recovery when wearing compression socks.  In theory the increased blood flow and graduated compression helps to remove lactic acid from muscles in the lower legs more quickly and consequently reduces soreness in athletes to help them recover more quickly.

Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning in 2009 by Dr. Wolfgang Kemmler of the Institute of Medical Physics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg,Germany concluded that runners using CEP compression sport socks had 5% faster running times while using 6% less energy2.

These studies show that both recovery and performance may be increased by using athletic compression socks during and after workouts.  It should be noted, though, that the benefits of compression socks are pre-conditioned on wearing a correctly fitted sock.  If a sock that is worn is too tight or worn incorrectly, the sock can actually have the opposite of the desired effect and decrease blood flow to the muscles.  It is extremely important to see a certified fitter to be measured for socks to ensure a proper fit!

Other benefits of athletic compression socks include:

1) Muscle support – the pressure exerted by the socks decreases vibration trauma to muscles due to the pounding of running. 

2) Shin splint relief – the pressure from compression socks supports the shin muscles and reduces the severity of muscle tearing away from the shin that results in shin splints

3) Achilles heal support – CEP athletic socks have special support for the achilles heal helping to reduce soreness

At the end of the day, although the science of athletic compression socks is relatively new, it appears that they may have an impact on athletic training both in increased performance and decreased recovery times.  If you have any questions about compression athletic socks or compression in general, stop in, give us a call or e-mail us at!

1Ali, A., M.P. Caine, B.G. Snow. 2007. Graduated Compression Stockings: Physiological and Perceptual Responses During and After Exercise. J Sports Sci 25(4): 413-419.

2Kemmler, Wolfgang; Stengel, Simon von; Köckritz, Christina; Mayhew, Jerry; Wassermann, Alfred; Zapf, Jürgen Effect of Compression Stockings on Running Performance in Men Runners. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 23(1):101-105, January 2009.