Compression: Does it work?

I’m not a medical doctor though I did drop out of a PhD program in the humanities so that’s got to count for something, right?

It's literally glowing. Can you hear the angel chorus?

It’s literally glowing. Can you hear the angel chorus?

So there’s lots of talk about compression as a means of recovery and bouncing back from tough runs. Thus far, I have made it known that I am skeptic when it comes to this kind of crap, like my criticism of KT tape and my questioning of compression calf sleeves. I’m about 70-80% a believer in KT Tape and 100% believe that it is the only thing that got me through the Dopey Challenge (the IT band that started hurting was on the untaped leg, of course).

I’ve been bitching quite a bit about my foot injury and when the foot had sufficiently swollen I decided to try putting a compression sock on it. Dr. Google had suggested this and I actually bought a pair of pro-compression socks through an Active Gear-Up sale for $15. (That’s right, I’m a coupon discount ninja.)

Anyway, they’re made like crap compared to the Zensah calf sleeves I bought.

Those fun designs are knitted, and if you’ve ever had one of those fancy looking sweaters or been a knitter it’s basically a bunch of loose threads in the back that get caught on your toes. So strike one. Also, the compression sock stretches out such that the design has big white gaps. I got the chevron marathon socks that are no longer available online.

Aesthetics aside, though, the sock legitimately (I think) helped. I found that when I wore them to bed my foot wasn’t as sore or stiff in the morning relative to when I didn’t wear the sock and I’ve also been wearing them to run. Actually, that’s kind of misleading–I wear the one knee sock and one regular sock to really look stylish.

So, basically, my assessment remains the same as for the calf sleeves. It didn’t do anything for me when I wasn’t injured but when I was injured I felt like it was doing something to actually help me recover.


25 thoughts on “Compression: Does it work?

  1. I don’t usually wear compression socks or sleeves when I run, but after a double-digit run or race, I put on my socks, and I really think they reduce soreness. Last year after the 3M half I was sore for several days; this year I PR’d by 19 minutes, wore my socks for 12 hours after the race, and was totally fine the next day. I also found that they help my funky calves–the right one was tight last week and I wore the socks for a day, and it made a noticeable difference. I have become a believer.

  2. I became a slight convert to compression this past summer while training for Dopey. I wore Play 110% Harder Juggler Knickers and my CEP Compression socks post training runs on my back to back long runs and felt much better than the days I didn’t. It also made me feel really good between race days at DDD….despite the fact that it wasn’t the most fetching of fashions to wear out in public. lol.

    I also recently used the socks overnight with my Achilles and noticed less swelling.

    I think all of this stuff can have small impacts on one’s performance…but they won’t cure you. When I see some people with six rolls of KT tape attached to them, I wonder if they should really be running and not sitting, covered in ice packs and doing physio exercises until they are better. lol


  3. I’m a compression believer. I wear the socks for almost every run and I’ll usually throw a (clean) pair on after a long run to just relax in. If it’s all in my head I really don’t care…it works for me!

  4. I was v. skeptical about compression actually doing anything meaningful for the longest time, then I finally caved and bought some sleeves after some ouchy longish runs before last year’s Wine & Dine and Philly Marathon November Extravaganza. I’m honestly not sure if they really helped me recover or if it’s more that I’m just better at/smarter about running than I was after my first marathon, but I did bounce back a lot faster. They’re a pair of 2XU-brand calf sleeves and I don’t think I knew the true definition of “compression” until I owned them. Those fuckers are TIGHT.

    I’ve never tried KT Tape because it seems so scammy to me but what the hell do I know. I wore a velcro strap/brace thingy under my knee when I was recovering from runner’s knee and that made the nagging pain a LOT better so I guess all this nonsense helps? Or at least doesn’t hurt…

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