To be honest, I don’t even know the point at which I put any thought into compression gear. It certainly wasn’t in high school (was compression gear even a thing in 2002?) and I don’t think I paid attention to what any runner wore after college (only what they didn’t wear, if you catch my drift). If I had to guess, the first time I really had a thought about compression was when I was reading “The Lola Papers” by Amy Marxkors about three years ago (highly recommended) and she had this thought that compression socks/sleeves were only if you were super speedy. You know what? At that time, I could relate.
I get it, though. Is there clinical proof that compression gear works? Not exactly. But there isn’t proof that it doesn’t work, either. Does it make you faster? Can you run further? Do you recovery quicker? The studies are definitely inconclusive (it’s not hard to tell if you’re in the control group, y’know?), but recovering quicker? Maybe. If you spend $50 on a pair of socks and they give you peace of mind, letting you think you’re better recovered, is it worth it? I’m in the camp that it is.
I’ve been using compression socks and sleeves since June 2013. J gave me a pair for my birthday (you know it’s true love when…) It was one of those things where I scoffed at the price and no matter how much I wanted a pair, I wasn’t dropping $50 on a pair of socks. So he did for me.
In reality, the only thing I knew was that I liked the way they made my legs feel when wearing them. That’s it. I’m the girl that likes to wear a blanket in 90 degree heat just because it’s comforting. If you can understand that, you’ll understand my feelings when my shins are squished into tight, neon colored fabric.
Now, it took about 18 months for me to have an opinion on compression gear. It’s hard to judge your recovery – I drink tart cherry juice and vega sport because I’m told it helps, but I can’t really tell if it does. These damn socks were the exact same. Did they work? Pfft, what are the winning lottery numbers?
I ran an easy four miles on the treadmill [hold your applause]. A typical post-run night for me will include a hot shower, laying on the couch, and sliding into compression socks. If I’m behaving, I will also foam roll, use my R8, or a lacrosse ball. I did none of these things after my run. In my head, I was averaging over 10 minute miles and it was just four miles, so it wouldn’t matter, right? Wrong.
I curled up on the couch, eventually going straight to bed sans shower. When I woke up on Saturday, everything had an obnoxious ache. Things that normally don’t ache, ached. I’ve finished plenty of runs and avoided the foam roller, but I’ve always slept in compression socks. The socks were the one consistent thing I didn’t do and I regretted it for two days. Granted, it very well could have been everything I did (and didn’t do) that day – curling up on the couch under a heated blanket, eating Pasta Roni as dinner, not replenishing fluids, in addition to a lack of rolling and compressing. I’ll partially (mostly) blame the lack of compression… at least that part doesn’t involve any effort after they are on my feet.
So after that snafu, I’ll try to ensure there is always a clean pair of compression socks or sleeves ready for me after my runs. Even if it was just a placebo effect, that peace of mind is worth it to me. I feel better when I wear it post-run, and yes, I’ll admit that I feel faster when I wear it during short races like 5k’s. It sounds silly, but I used to look at people toeing the starting line of a 5k and if they were wearing calf sleeves? Well, I knew I wasn’t trying to pace with them. The same goes for men wearing short shorts to a race. The shorter the shorts, the faster the man, or so my brain tells me.
If you wish to read a little more about compression gear, other opinions, and studies related to it, I’ve compiled a list below.
Runner’s World: Wearing Compression Socks Post Marathon Improves Recovery
Competitor: Do Compression Socks Really Work?
Runners Connect: The Science of Compression Gear for Runners
A Fast Paced Life: PRO Compression Review
I Run Far: Zensah Compression Review
New York Times: Can Compression Clothing Enhance Your Workout?
Next Up: Compression Gear I Love (and Hate)