If you have been running for a while, you have probably tried using compression socks before. If you are new to the sport, however, you may still be trying to figure out if compression gear will help you.
Many runners, including both elite athletes and amateur sports enthusiasts, swear by compression stockings, and it is well-known that correctly fitted compression socks can improve athletic performance, enhance endurance, and decrease post-workout soreness. Knowing your correct stocking size will ensure you are able to reap all of these benefits.
What Are Compression Stockings?
Compression stockings are sturdy, elastic socks that extend upwards to the knee. They are tightly fitted so that they apply pressure to the muscles, veins, and arteries in your legs.
How Does Leg Compression Help With Running?
The short answer is that leg compression helps with blood flow. Your heart oxygenates blood, which is then pumped to your limbs and muscles via your arteries. The cells in your body consume the oxygen and other nutrients in the blood, which is then pumped through the veins back to the heart.
The process begins again when the heart provides oxygen to the newly deoxygenated blood. The faster this cycle is completed, the better your cells function.
Since compression socks promote efficient blood circulation, your cells will receive more oxygen when you wear them.
No wonder so many runners swear by compression gear!
What Can Compression Stockings Do For You?
Compression socks are designed to be tighter near the ankle than near the knee. This helps your veins work against gravity when bringing blood back to the heart, creating more efficient circulation.
Wearing compression stockings may also reduce the amount of lactic acid in your body by enabling it to be efficiently pumped back to the heart. If the lactic acid does not build up, you will not be as sore the day after a workout.
Other runners have noticed that compression stockings decrease leg cramping and swelling.
Sizing for Compression Socks
It’s important to make sure that you get compression socks in the right size. If they are too small, you will likely see negative performance effects. Socks that are too tight can also cause discomfort and bruising. On the other hand, socks that are too large may not give you all of the benefits of compression.
To figure out what size stocking will work best, you will need to measure your legs. Use a flexible tape to determine the width of your lower leg at several points, including the ankle and the widest part of your calf.
There is no universal sizing for compression gear, so you will need to look at a sizing chart before making a purchase. Find a size that closely matches the measurements you took. Before going out on a long run with your new socks, it is also a good idea to wear them around the house for a bit to make sure they fit correctly and feel comfortable.
How Much Compression Do You Need?
Compression socks also come with various compression ratings. The pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg. Running socks are typically available from 15mmHg to 30mmHg.
A light compression level of 15mmHg is useful for people who stand for long periods of time. More moderate compression levels are used to treat problems like swelling or deep vein thrombosis.
Runners usually benefit most from compression levels between 20 and 30mmHg. This higher level of compression is sometimes referred to as “medical-grade” compression because it is also used to treat blood clots and varicose veins.
It is important to remember that, above all, compression socks should be comfortable and enhance your running experience. You are much more likely to experience these benefits if you ensure you are wearing properly sized compression gear.