Compression Socks for Running: What’s the Deal?
If you first became aware of compression socks as aides for the elderly, it might have given you a little mental whiplash to hear that they were being worn by world-class athletes. But it makes sense: the benefits of compression for seniors also translates to runners—just in different ways.
A Little History
Wearing compression socks for running has its roots as far back as the invention of bandages. Over the centuries, more doctors started prescribing them to help treat things such as:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Varicose veins
- Leg ulcers
- Leg swelling
- Circulatory problems
The Sporting World
Athletes started to adopt compression socks around the ’80s, when many runners concluded that wearing them improved:
- Muscle soreness
- Shin splints
- Recovery time
Compression socks really caught the attention of professional athletes in the 2000s, when the NBA’s Allen Iverson wore a compression sleeve. His intention was to protect his right elbow, which was suffering from bursitis, but—surprise!—the extra pressure and support seemed to improve his shooting skills.
Italian soccer players in the World Cup were next, wearing snug compression shirts as uniforms to activate muscles and minimize injury. These days, different degrees of compression socks are being worn for pretty much every sport.
Benefits For Runners
So, how does it work? The theory behind wearing compression socks for running comes down to this:
- Athletes need their blood to circulate efficiently. The more oxygen those cells get, the better your whole system operates.
- Compression socks put pressure on the veins from the bottoms of your feet up, helping runners battle gravity. Squeezing those veins actually increases the velocity of the blood that flows through them, delivering the blood back up to the brain more quickly for another load of oxygen.
- At the same time, compressed veins whisk away lactic acid, which is a waste byproduct of exercise that we’ll go ahead and label as “bad.” The longer lactic acid lingers in your muscles, the longer it takes to heal them. So, wearing compression socks after a workout keeps flushing out lactic acid which speeds up the healing of muscles.
The Finish Line
Are compression socks for running scientifically guaranteed to improve your times? No—it’s up to you to experiment with what socks make you feel the most confident when you’re pounding the pavement.