I have recently begun to explore the great compression sock debate. I’ve seen articles examining the science behind a compression sock. I’ve also seen articles interviewing runners about their use of a compression sock. However there does not seem to be a consensus in opinion among runners. Should you use compression socks when running, and if so, should they be used only for longer distance runs?
In the last few weeks, I’ve incorporated compression socks into my longer runs and have found them to be a nice change. However we all know that anything different can have a positive impact if you are expecting it to. So, I was unsure if my positive opinion had been swayed due to my research on the subject, or if the compression sock had been given much less credit than it deserved.
I reached out to a Chicago-based medical expert to get her opinion on the science behind compression socks.
“Compression socks improve circulation by causing the blood in your veins to flow in the proper upward direction instead of pooling in your feet and ankles. They are tightest at the foot and looser at the thigh to promote this flow,” explained Alayna Schueneman, MSN, FNP-BC, Nurse Practioner of Surgical Services at Presence Saint Joseph Health in Chicago.
“I would think that recovery would be better in some people due to the fact that compression socks are thought to help with venous return. Venous return is the flow of the blood back to the heart. With gravity, blood naturally flows to the lower extremities. Compression socks help to get that blood flowing more efficiently back to the heart.”
My practical experience parallels what NP Schueneman explained. I sported a pair of compression socks on my one of my longer mileage runs and experienced a much lower level of impact on my legs during and post-run. I also recovered quicker and was able to tackle a longer distance run a day earlier than I had originally planned.
My opinion is that the compression sock is a nice change to incorporate into some of your longer distance runs. I remember taking a cycle class once where the instructor advised us to change position of our hands during steep hills as a way to trick our minds into not focusing on the challenging incline. For me, the compression sock did this. My longer runs are not always something that I look forward to. However, putting on a pair of compression socks before the long run gave me something else to focus on and before I knew it the distance was completed. Plus anything that reduces recovery time is a good thing, in my book.
As an added bonus, what used to be a sock utilized only by those that medically required it, the compression sock has gained popularity among athletes resulting in a handful of companies launching compression sock lines with colorful, vibrant designs. Runners like to be seen and any of these newly marketed compression socks will do the trick. Companies like Crazy Compression and ProCompression carry lines of tie-dyed, neon and even holiday-themed compression socks.
Whether you are gearing up your mileage and looking for a quick recovery or simply in a running rut and need a change, try out the compression sock for some of your harder runs. Not only will your blood flow more efficiently back to your heart, but you can rock fluorescent green Shamrocks at the upcoming Shamrock Shuffle!