Whether you want to kick your performance into high gear or speed up your recovery time, compression socks have become a must-have item for anyone who takes their fitness seriously or wants to begin their transformative journey to a more active lifestyle.
Originally designed to help improve blood flow in patients who were post-surgery, prone to deep vein thrombosis, and nurses who experienced swelling from being on their feet all day, it wasn’t long before athletes began to wonder if they could also benefit from wearing compression socks.
It turns out they were right! Research shows that wearing compression socks for running positively and significantly impacts performance. While the underlying mechanism of this performance boost requires further study, researchers suggest that it may be related to increased oxygen delivery, decreased muscle oscillation, and improved running mechanics.
But what if your sport of choice isn’t running—can you still benefit from wearing them? Absolutely! Research shows that wearing compression socks for recovery helps prevent lactic acid buildup after exercising, aids in injury prevention, and also helps athletes who struggle with shin splints or blisters.
If you’re looking for something new to add to your bag of performance and recovery tricks, look no further. Read on to see why compression stocking for athletes have become an essential accessory in gym bags worldwide, and see what they can do to help you take your performance to the next level.
How Compression Socks Work
To fully understand how compression socks work, let’s look at why they were initially created: to help patients recover post-surgery and avoid developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition where blood clots form in the legs.
Compression socks apply gentle pressure to the muscles and tissues in the feet, ankles, and lower legs, which increases blood flow and improves circulation. Of course, it’s not just post-surgical patients who can benefit from this—anyone who is on their feet all day, sitting for long periods (think long-haul flights), or is at risk of venous disorders can benefit from compression socks.
This brings us to athletes. You may be wondering, “Why do athletes wear compression socks?” It’s simple science. Due to the improved circulation compression socks provide, the muscles become better oxygenated. This means you’ll be able to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time.
But it’s not just the Pros who can benefit from wearing compression socks! One study found that even amateur runners experienced myriad positive effects while wearing compression socks for athletes. The significant increase in both arterial reserve and arterial blood flow suggests that compression socks worn during running have a substantial impact on blood volume and blood flow, leading to an overall improvement in athletic performance.
Enhancing Performance During Activity
As we’ve mentioned, the improved blood circulation that comes with wearing compression socks can lead to increased oxygen delivery to the muscles. To understand why this is such a significant benefit for athletic performance, we need to know how the muscles work.
During activity, the muscles are constantly contracting. This movement requires them to use large amounts of oxygen to replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the fuel for muscle contraction. If the muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen delivery, they cannot optimally support this metabolic activity, leading to fatigue.
By improving oxygen delivery, compression stockings for athletes delay the onset of fatigue, enabling you to train harder and longer. This increased endurance translates to better race times and increased stamina during workouts. In addition, wearing compression socks for running and sports helps improve speed and power by providing extra stability to the joints.
One study compared the performance of cyclists wearing compression socks with a control group that wore placebo garments (i.e., socks that appeared to be compression socks but weren’t). Their results show that the performance time of the cyclists who wore genuine compression socks improved their performance time, while those that wore the placebo did not. Simply put, it’s not just conjecture - there is real data behind the assertion that compression socks have major benefits for athletes.
Because compression socks reduce muscle oscillation during activity, they can reduce the force of impact which, in turn, helps reduce exercise-induced inflammation, swelling, and muscle damage. The added support that compression socks provide can also help prevent strains, sprains, and other common sports injuries. Perhaps most notably, they have shown to be extremely helpful in preventing and treating shin splints, a common injury among runners. By stabilizing the muscles and joints, compression socks help take some of the stress off of the shins, giving them time to heal.
Speeding Up Recovery
One of the most common ways to test how long it takes an athlete to reach recovery is to determine how long it takes them to regain the endurance, strength, and power they had before their training session, race, or competition. Studies show that those who wear compression socks for recovery regain their strength and power faster. This means less down time after a strenuous event and a quicker return to pre-event levels of performance.
- Decrease in post-exercise edema (swelling).
- Faster removal of the body’s waste products.
- Improved blood flow.
- Decreased delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Decrease in muscle oscillations
- Decrease in creatine kinase (the enzyme released when the muscle is damaged)
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Performance Compression Socks
Getting the most out of your compression socks will come down to whether you’re an aspiring professional athlete, an amateur athlete, or a beginner who simply wants to steadily improve their performance. Pros will want to consult with their physical therapist when choosing compression socks, as their performance metrics will be much more specific than an amateur or beginner.
For all other athletes, follow these tips to make the most of your compression socks:
- Select the right fit. Your socks shouldn’t be so tight that they leave marks on the skin, but socks that are too loose will negate the benefits of compression.
- Find the right compression sock levels. Generally, medium compression levels are recommended for athletes looking to boost their performance, while high compression sock levels are better for those recovering from an injury or surgery. If you’re getting back into exercise after injury, you should consult a medical professional before deciding on your compression sock levels.
- Choose graduated compression socks. Graduated socks fit tightly around the ankle and apply less pressure as they travel up the leg. This high-to-low pressure gradient enables blood to travel up to your heart against the force of gravity more efficiently. Want to learn more about finding your perfect compression levels? Read our blog on compression sock levels here!
- Wear them at the right time. Compression socks can be worn both during and after exercise. You can, in fact, wear compression socks throughout the day as long as you remember to take them off before bed. Of course, if you have chronic or acute illnesses, it’s always best to consult a medical professional to establish the ideal length of time you should wear them.
Whether you’re an elite athlete or taking the bold first steps on your fitness journey, wearing compression socks for exercise can help you level up your performance, reduce your recovery time, and prevent injuries.
As any athlete knows, half the battle is mental. If you find yourself constantly fatigued, dealing with muscle soreness, or stop-starting your routine to address injuries, it does more than affect your physical performance—it impacts your motivation and mindset too.
At Pear Compression, we’re proud to provide the best compression socks for athletes, while putting your performance, style, and comfort first. Our compression socks for runners and athletes are carefully designed to give you the support you need in all the right places. Made in Italy from superior-quality, hypoallergenic materials, they’re also available in various compression sock levels and range from XS - L to ensure you can find the perfect Pear for your needs.
Choose from a range of lengths and on-trend colors, or select our knee-high three-pack for a versatile collection that will go with any activewear or workout gear. Plus, all of our workout compression socks are ultra-breathable and easy to wash, so you can say goodbye to that dreaded gym bag smell forever!
Want to learn more about the benefits of compression socks beyond exercise? Read our journal for more information, or head to our online shop to find a perfect Pear of performance compression socks that can keep up with your routine.