What Do Compression Socks Do For Runners?

Compression socks aren’t new; in fact, people have been wearing them for decades for a wide variety of reasons. Typically, they are worn for medical reasons – the treatment and prevention of leg pain and swelling, reduced risk of blood clots, etc. – however, in recent years, there’s a group of people who are taking advantage of compression socks: runners.

Whether you’re a runner yourself or you just enjoy following pro runners, there’s no doubt that you have seen vibrantly colored knee- or thigh-high socks on runners. They aren’t wearing them just for the aesthetic appeal (they do come in so many bright colors and patterns and can really make someone stand out on the track), compression stockings offer numerous benefits for runners. Keep on reading to find out what those benefits are.

What Do Compression Socks Do For Runners?

What Are Compression Socks?

Before we explore why runners wear compression socks and the benefits that they can provide, let’s take a minute to review what these socks are.

Compression socks are a type of therapeutic garment. They’re made of durable materials, usually synthetic, such as Lycra or spandex, and they are specially constructed so that they compress or deliver even, consistent pressure to the legs, ankles, and/or feet. Compression socks are available in an assortment of styles – footless, open-toed, and closed-toed, and ankle-, knee-, thigh-, and waist-high – and they are also available in a variety of compression levels, which range from mild to super-firm prescription level.

How Do Compression Socks Work?

Because compression socks apply consistent, even pressure to the legs, they help to improve blood circulation. The veins in the legs have to work against gravity in order to transport blood back to the heart. Over time or the longer someone stands on their feet, gravity can weaken the veins, which can prevent effective circulation, and can cause blood to pool in the legs and can also lead to an accumulation of fluids in the tissues within the legs.

Compression stockings are commonly used to treat venous insufficiency syndrome, which is a condition that occurs when the valves in the veins do not close properly, and as a result, blood flows back down into the veins. This type of therapeutic garment is also commonly used to prevent and treat swelling and pain in the legs, and can also help to reduce the risk of varicose and spider veins, deep vein thrombosis (DVT or blood clots within the deep veins of the legs), heart attacks, strokes, and more.

What Do Compression Socks Do For Runners?

Why Do Runners Wear Compression Socks?

So, now that you have a basic understanding about what compression socks are and the long list of benefits that they can provide, you are probably still wondering, “Why do runners wear compression socks, anyway?” We have answers to that question! Here’s a look at just some of the benefits that runners can take advantage of when they use compression socks on a regular basis.

  • They help to minimize the risk of swelling, pain, and tiredness in the lower legs; particularly when running long distances.
  • They reduce the risk of leg cramps.
  • They help to aid in faster recovery from workouts, including running outings, injuries and other types of physical injuries.
  • They help to keep the legs cozy and warm when worn for a long period of time.
  • They offer a layer of protection for your legs while you are running, which is particularly beneficial when running takes place in a wooded area or a park, where you could be hit by rocks that kick off the track in front of you.
  • They reduce the risk of sore muscles, as they increase blood flow, which helps with lactic acid dispersal, which can lessen soreness  the exit.
  • They are aesthetically pleasing. Compression socks are also available in an assortment of styles, so runners can easily convey their personal taste while they are running on the track.

It is important to note, however, that while numerous studies have examined and proven the benefits that compression stockings can provide for runners, there are studies on the other side of the aisle that claim the question is automatically incorrect.

In order to determine whether or not compression socks would be a good idea, if you’re a runner, make sure that you speak with your health care professional before you decide to proceed with wearing them. Your health care provider will be able to provide you with more details regarding the benefits that compression socks can provide, whether or not you should wear them, and if so, which style of socks you should opt for.

How to Select Compression Socks

There are many different types of compression socks on the market. With so many choices to choose from, it can be hard to determine which one will best suit your unique needs. To help you on your quest for finding the right compression stockings, here are some tips that you can use:

  • Consider the height of the socks. While runners can wear any style of compression socks, typically, knee-high socks are the best bet, as they will be just long enough but won’t be long enough to bunch up and cause discomfort in any areas.
  • Select a pair that offer graduated compression, meaning that they are tighter around the ankle and they gradually become looser as they get closer to the knee.
  • For runners, the ideal compression level is 20 to 30 mmHg, which offers mid-range compression.
  • Look for a pair that offers padding around the heels, toes, and the top of the foot, as well as in the Achilles area, as they will offer your feet the ideal level of protection.
  • Select colorful socks over white socks, as it’s pretty much guaranteed that white socks will get pretty gross looking pretty quickly. There are tons of unique colors and patterns to choose from, so you can really put your own stamp on things and set yourself apart from the crowd on the track or course.
  • Check out the washing instructions, as you want to be sure that they are easy to clean.