Compression Socks - More Than Just a Clever Invention?
Are you already a fan of compression socks? Or are you a little sceptical that wearing such socks might have any positive effects on your performance? Are they merely a new invention or something we really need in ultrarunning?
Firstly, they are designed for the longer-distance runner, although some sprinters also seem to favour them. CEP was one of the first companies to advertise compression socks by sponsoring professional long-distance triathletes, therefore making them a very popular item.
Suddenly, many other competing brands would launch a variety of the special socks. Athletes can choose between socks for regeneration, one pair for training and another one for racing. They also come in different lenghts varying from toe-to-knee and ankle-to-knee.
Rohner, for example, promotes a system where the distribution of pressure declines from 100% around the ankle up to the knee at 60%. This supposedly influences the venous system benefiting the venous return. Most compression socks also provide additional support for the achilles tendon.
What's Your Take On Compression Socks?
Compression socks have been all the rage years. Many ultrarunners vow the positive effects as wearing compression socks during long races and hours of training prevents muscle fatigue and even cramps.
The interesting question is:
Have you tried running in compression socks and what were the initial effects? Or do you think compression socks are more of a gimmick than actual must-have gear in ultrarunning?
More than any other item of running gear the use and benefits of compression socks causes great controversy.
Your contribution counts as it can help other ultrarunners form an opinion and help to decide whether such socks are worth a try.
What Other Visitors Have Said
Click on the links below to see some great stories about the purpose of wearing compression socks or not. They were all written by other ultrarunners visiting this page.
Let's find out what you can gain by wearing the socks and how exactly they function.
The principle is easy:
- The tight material compresses the muscle vessels providing better blood flow thus supplying the muscles with more oxygen
- This effect is caused because the arteries' inner musculature relaxes when pressure is put on
- The section of the vessels expands enabling better blood transportation throughout the system lowering lactic acid production
- During a long run prolonged tiredness can be expected in your calves and even feet
- After a long run or other alternative training wearing the socks for a few hours or in the night aids recovery
From my experience, I would not recommend wearing compression socks in very hot climates. Temperatures in the Sahara desert ranged between 45 - 50°C at the time of the race.
I wore socks by BV Sport for the first two days which had a reverse effect on my performance and recovery. I ascertained that I retained too much heat in my legs so that the compression didn't benefit better oxygen supply.
Don't feel scared now to go through a similar experience. It is often down to your own perception whether they can be considered performance boosters or not.
After all, it is down to the consistent conditioning and training of the various muscle groups in the lower leg.
In order to give you a better insight which pair might be the right one for you I have tested three different brands.
Find out the surprising results now.
Skins Powersox are lightweight, very thin and can be worn over normal running socks. The more you sweat the tighter they feel. That's when you can notice the benefits of the compression.
Skins Powersox don't necessarily assist recovery and are ideal during physical effort. Female runners are advised to choose size XS or S and male ultra runners can range between size M - XL.
BV Sport Booster Socks are great during running. They sit very tight on the calves and promote to improve performance.
On runs up to two hours in moderate temperatures they feel comfortable and even help to prolong tiredness on longer bike rides. If you only try to speed recovery, their special recovery socks might be a good option.
For about three weeks now, I have been wearing Nike's Compression Socks and feel happiest with those.
The Nike's are worn like common running socks and the top-quality material is blister-preventing. I choose to wear them directly after hard training and/or very long runs. Built-up lactic acid slowly catabolises which really helps to speed recovery. Additionally, these are very affordable socks at nearly half the price as what you'd pay for the Skins Powersox.
The socks can only assist but never replace a focused training routine.
Just like any other special running gear compression socks are a very individual decision. Some (ultra) runners simply don't feel comfortable wearing a tight long pair of socks.
Also keep in mind that these special socks can't do the magic trick and prevent cramping or severe tiredness in the legs.
It is more likely that cramps after or during heavy training and racing is caused by mineral defiency in the muscles.
It is very more important to focus on your energy and mineral intake during running!
Still, if you choose to wear the socks on a regular basis and are slightly more selective consider investing into made-to-measure compression socks. This long-term investment might be worth it, too.
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