The Importance of Blood Flow for Runners
To be able to fully understand the importance of the compression sock, you need to know the basics about how your blood is flowing all over your body.
Your heart is responsible for pumping blood rich with oxygen to you limbs and muscles via your arteries. Once the nutrients and oxygen in your blood have been used up by your cells, you blood is sent back to your heart through your veins.
Your lungs replace the oxygen and nutrients in your blood prior to the process starting over again. This is important for the performance of every runner.
Compression Socks and Running
Runners often wear an extremely strong elastic sock. The compression sock usually reaches the knees.
The purpose is the compression of your leg’s surface veins, muscles and arteries. This enables your blood to circulate through the smaller circulatory venins. Your blood reaches your heart quicker, decreasing the chances of it pooling into your feet.
Most of the brands you will see use graduated compression. This means they are tighter at your ankle, less tight at your knee and can be difficult to put on.
Since everyone’s legs are different, both mens and womens running compression socks come in different sizes to match your calf and foot measurements. It is important you do not wear them too tightly or you can compromise your circulation.
Compression garments and socks have been around for a long period of time. In addition to being beneficial for runners, they are also used in the medical field to increase leg circulation for individuals who have limited mobility or are confined to bed. They are an excellent tool for improving your blood circulation while you are running.
Your cells function better when they receive more oxygen. Wearing compression sleeves or socks helps your blood circulate better throughout your legs.
Your blood reaches your feet faster so it goes back to your heart quicker. This improves your circulation because your cells have more oxygen. Another important concept is compression socks running shin splints. If you have had shin splints, you already know all about the painful and aching pain flaring up every time you run. It feels like it takes a lifetime to heal.
You probably tried elevating your legs, ice, rest and most likely had to stop running until your body healed. What you may not be aware of is the best compression hose or socks can help you recover faster from the pain in your shins.
The compression sock provides stability and support for your lower leg. This helps alleviate the strain on your bones and muscles. No, this is not a magical cure and you will not heal instantly.
What will happen is you will experience relief. The best compression sock for shin splints has good arch support. A full sock is preferable to a sleeve.
How to Choose Compression Socks for Running
The level of compression is dependent on numerous factors including the size, structure and material of the compression socks. Your personal preferences and the shape and size of your legs also play a role.
Most compression socks are constructed of a combination of fibers and rubber with a firmer feel than traditional socks. The most commonly used material is twenty percent spandex and eighty percent nylon.
The compression keeps your body in alignment, increases your recovery speed, prevents you from wasting energy and improves your training efficiency and performance.
Both women’s and mens running compression socks are available in different lengths. The best compression socks for running should stop just below your knees. As a runner, you will need to choose the correct level of pressure. This is measured using mm Hg.
The socks need to fit snugly without feeling painfully tight. The lower the number, the milder the compression. The majority of runners prefer 20-30 mmHg.
Although this depends on your personal preference, too high of a number will make your socks too tight while too low a number will not provide you with many benefits.
You need to measure your calves to make certain you purchase the correct size. Choose a fabric and texture that feels comfortable. You need to select different pairs for warmer or cooler weather.
You can find compression socks in a variety of breathable materials including cotton, wool, spandex, nylon, polyester and lycra. It is critical you make certain you purchase a pair with the proper length.
Too Long = Bad Fit
If they are too long you will want to roll them down. This is equivalent to putting a tourniquet on your leg. You will restrict your blood flow and can cause a serious injury.
Putting on Compression Socks
To put on your compression socks, smooth them out to eliminate any bunching. Do not roll down the tops or they will be too tight. This can cut off circulation or result in blood flow issues.
Consistency means you need to wear them every time you go for a run. If you have ever wondered should you wear compression socks while running, the answer is yes.
Running Socks – Should You Add Compression?
This question can easily be answered by all of the benefits you will receive by wearing them. This includes:
- Enhanced Oxygen Delivery: One of the most critical aspects of your performance is ensuring there is enough blood-rich oxygen flowing to your muscles every time you choose to run.
One of the worst experiences is being a marathon runner whose calf muscles lose strength prior to reaching the goal line. Compression socks are critical for making certain your have optimal oxygen delivery.
The entire purpose of a compression sock is to provide compression gradually. This means they must be looser on the top and tighter at the bottom.
- Fighting the Effects of Gravity: Another benefit for every runner is compression socks help your legs fight off the impact of gravity because your blood is pushed right back to your heart.
The stockings create pressure to help push fluid up your legs. Once your blood flow has been increased, all of the essential oxygen and great nutrients go to your legs when you need them the most.
- Preventing Swelling and Cramps: The compression sock helps decrease any excess movement of the muscles in your calves. This is the reason your calves become fatigued when you run.
Wearing compression socks may reduce the amount of effort required of your legs. When your muscles are not working quite as hard, the impact of fatigue is effectively reduced.
Compression socks for running can additionally help control any swelling you have experienced in your legs, ankles and feet. As the socks squeeze all of these areas, the fluid buildup is prevented in your tissues.
- Decreasing Lactic Acid: Compression socks for running may also help with the soreness in your muscles. This issue has been experienced by all runners.
Every time you exercise or run, your body produces lactic acid. This is basically a waste product. If you allow the lactic acid to remain in your muscles, you are going to be extremely sore when you wake up the next morning.
This will prevent you from making the five-mile run you were looking forward to. The constriction of the socks will constrict your veins.
- Enhanced Blood Flow: This is what you want since proper compression narrows your veins enabling your flow of blood to increase. This is referred to as increased velocity.
This means both the lactic acid and your blood will reach your heart a lot quicker. This helps remove the lactic acid from your muscles so you will wake up the next morning ready for your run.
If you are competing in a marathon, this is critical.
- Leg Protection: Compression stockings protect your legs from abrasions and small scratches. If there is poison ivy on the trail, you will not need to be concerned. Any dirt kicked up during your run will collect on your socks as opposed to your legs.
- Warmth: A lot of runners are more comfortable wearing shorts. When the weather is cooler, this is an excellent option.
This is especially true is you do not like to wear tights. The muscles in your legs will also be kept warm. This is a good way to help stop muscle strain.
Heat also relaxes bunched up and tight muscles by improving your circulation and getting rid of an accumulation of lactic acid.
Wearing Compression Socks
Any serious athlete is always looking for new ways to improve their performance and hone their level of skill. Wearing this type of sock is still fairly new for any serious runner.
In the past, the compression sock was used in the medical field due to the numerous benefits. Physicians have been prescribing compression for decades to prevent and treat circulatory system issues and vein diseases. Evidence has come to light that using compression is just as effective when you are going for a run as it is after having vein or leg surgery.
The popularity of using compression by runners has led to a lot of research being conducted on the subject. The effects of compression on both recovery and performance have been studied in numerous trials.
Studies of Run Socks
Some of these studies have occurred in a laboratory while others have taken place on the track. Different variants were used such as the specific type of socks, the materials, the actual distance of the run and the fitness level of the participants. Although there were some mixed results, most of them were positive.
It is important to note even the studies that did not find benefits between athletic performance and compression did not show any negative results.
Most of the studies not finding any difference were conducted in a lab. There are a lot of well know runners who swear to the benefits provided by a compression sock. This includes the former record holder for the American 10,000 meters, Chris Solinksky, top runners such as the latest marathon record holder for women, Paula Radcliffe, the four-time Olympian Jo Pavey and the long-distance runner for Australia, Benitta Johnson.
The theory linked to the performance benefits is due to the graduated compression. This is what increases the delivery of oxygen to your muscles, speeds up your body’s elimination of lactic acid and increases the circulation of blood going to your heart.
Decreasing Vibration with Compression Stockings
One of the most frequently heard theories comes from the Science of Running. They believe wearing compression socks decreases the vibration of your muscles resulting from the impact. The decrease in vibration can reduce the amount of soreness often felt after a run in addition to increasing the actual power of the legs.
The studies conducted regarding performance have resulted in a wide variety of results. While many have concluded compression provides a significant benefit for performance, others have claimed the difference is minimal while still others have stated they found no difference at all.
Studies of Compression Stockings and Their Effect on Run Performance
The majority of studies conducted using real athletes as the participants have found the most performance benefits directly linked to compression. When all of the studies are considered, the results generally agree that compression stockings offer benefits for recovery.
Although most of the studies do not understand the reasons, muscle fatigue and soreness are decreased by using compression during your run. Compression also provides quicker lactate recovery.
Certain athletes believe using compression during their workouts not only improves their performance but their recovery speed as well. A popular online site called Competitor quoted Chris Solisky. He said compression enabled him to recover from workouts significantly faster. He uses compression for all of his rigorous workouts.
As for the question of whether or not compression socks will help you with your run, the majority of studies say yes. Compression will decrease muscle soreness while reducing your recovery period.
The only point every single study agreed on was the compression must be graduated to provide any benefits for the athlete. The most compression must be placed on the ankles while gradually decreasing as the pressure moves up the calves. A wide variety of athletes believe the compression has improved their performance level.
Athletes claim compression has reduced calf strain and soreness while providing numerous recovery benefits. Compression is becoming extremely popular because it is favored by elite runners.
No adverse effects from compression have been reported.
This means wearing compression socks may provide you with the edge you have been looking for. If you are interested in improving your performance when you run, there is no reason not to give compression a try.
Make certain you purchase the proper size and length based on your specific measurements, then see what kind of difference it makes.