Updated: Oct 21, 2018
Running is one of the most democratic sports out there. No need for fancy gear or high-tech gadgets - all you need is your feet and motivation! However, many of us are looking to get an edge where we can, recover quickly, or even just look good out there on the road and in a race. This is where compression socks have their moment to shine. But, at upwards of $50 or more a pair, are they really worth it?
Compression socks are nothing new - my own dad wears them to mitigate everyday circulation issues. But what effect (if any) do they have on a runner? Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the effect of compression garments on runners and the results seem to indicate that there is no significant improvement in running performance. In fact, any positive outcomes recorded seem to be merely anecdotal. According to the NIH, compression socks MAY provide slight improvements to issues of fatigue, running economy, muscle temperature, and biometrics, but these are most often related to perception rather than actual significant, measurable improvements.
But before you toss out all your compression socks, know that all is not lost! Where compression socks seem to have some tangible benefit is actually through rest. If you're experiencing some soreness and sit for long periods of time (at work, on airplanes, etc.), compression can hold those micro tears that are causing the discomfort in place and keep them from jiggling around, which can provide some welcome relief while your body heals. Further, blood is kept from pooling when the area is compressed, and that keeps things moving, which helps in recovery as well.
So, unless your socks are integral to your fancy costume, or you're working through some minor discomfort or injury (in which case you should really evaluate if you should be resting!), there's no significant need to invest in expensive compression socks. But, hey... that means there's money freed up for race fees! Happy running!
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