compression obsession: yay or nay?

compression - runningFrom brightly coloured knee-highs to calf and arm sleeves, compression garments promise better muscle recovery and in some cases, better performance. We couldn’t help but wonder if the obsession with compression is truly game-changing or just a goofy style throwback to the days of Keds and tube socks. We asked two of our run ambassadors if they buy into the gear.

run ambassador - sam sykesrun ambassador sam sykes – yay!

Friends, strangers and athletes, I’m here to tell you: embrace the compression, love the compression, and the compression will hug you back!

Compression – it comes in many forms.  Tights, crops, shirts, tanks, arm sleeves, calf sleeves, socks. You name the body part and it can be outfitted in snug, muscle-loving fabric. The gear increases blood circulation to your tired, hardworking muscles and reduces lactic acid buildup for quicker recovery post-workout. As for wearing it during activity, it probably won’t make a difference to your race times, despite the few scientific studies out there that claim it boosts performance.

Me – I love the squeeze.  It’s like a constant massage on my tired legs when I shimmy (and shake and jump and wiggle) into my compression tights.  Wearing my compression socks post-race is the foot rub that nobody wants to give me. It is seriously awesome-amazing.


run ambassador - linda wong

run ambassador linda wong – nay! (well, impartial but that doesn’t rhyme)

I got my first pair of compression socks about two years ago. Word on the street is that they are supposed to help with recovery so I was open to a little experimenting! I went on a few longs runs and then sported my socks when I got home. The verdict – I didn’t really notice anything; I am completely indifferent. I did however continue to wear them but mostly just because I haven't worn knee highs since grade school and it was fun.

I asked a few medical professionals what their thoughts were and these were the basics of what they had to say:

  • Unless you're going to put your feet up and wear your compression socks, you're not really using the compression socks to the full effect.  Standing and walking around after a workout only causes your blood to pool – gravity is still in effect my friends!
  • There are so many different brands of compression socks out there - some are good, some are not so good.  Medical ones have different "grades" based on your needs and calf size. It’s definitely a good idea to do your research if you’re going to invest.

My conclusion - with many things in this world, do what works for you.  I can't say that I'm a full-on believer of them but I'm not ruling it out just yet.

So, is compression worth all the hoop-la or is it just another costume piece for runners who are trying too hard?

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As another point, I think compression wear helps keep you warm on a winter run!

Comment by Katherine — September 22, 2011 @ 11:10 am

The only compression that I really love for running comes in the form of shorts/crops/tights. The squeeze feels incredible on my muscles. Compression tops just feel restrictive to me around the arm/shoulder area, but I absolutely layer during the winter with some tight-fitting warmth-inducing materials.

Comment by Runfabulous — September 22, 2011 @ 11:11 am

So no point in wearing them during a run ( other then the fashion factor )… Interesting. I have been doing the 5Peaks running series for a couple years now and I have seen more and more runners showing up at the start line with the knee-highs.

Thanks for the post!

Comment by Ian — September 22, 2011 @ 11:12 am

I LOVE my compression tights and sleeves. For me, they make a huge difference in tightness and soreness the next day. If I go for a long run at night, I sleep in my calf sleeves and my legs feel great! I’m also a professional dancer and after a long day of rehearsal I wear the full compression tights for a few hours. Mine are Zoot–LOVE them!

Comment by Talese — September 22, 2011 @ 11:23 am

Just got a Free To Be bra and I love it. I thought I was going to feel like I was “falling out” but I felt supported while jumping on the trampoline at trampoline practice. It’s a comfortable fit and easy to move in.

Comment by Anita Cirillo — September 22, 2011 @ 11:59 am

I wear compression tights (Skins) for flights, and it makes an amazing amount of difference in my calf/ankle/foot swelling, and how long it takes for what swelling accumulates to go away. I wore them on the way to Zimbabwe with minimal swelling, and then forgot and packed them in checked luggage on the way back – it took me 3 days to see my ankle bones again!

Comment by Keely — September 22, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

I absolutely love my compression socks and tights!

I agree that it doesn’t do a lick for your athletic times but what it does do for me is give me the support I’m looking for.

Comment by Aleksandra S — September 22, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

I ran the Vancouver marathon in calf sleeves. The only part of me that didn’t hurt the next day were my calves. Judging by my lower legs alone, I couldn’t even tell I had gone for a run, let alone 42.2km. Not to mention, who doesn’t love obnoxious green or orange knee socks?

Comment by Barb — September 22, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

I’ve ran 3 marathons including Big Sur in compression calf sleeves and never got muscle cramps. Would’t run a marathon without them!!!

Comment by Julie — September 22, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

I LOVE my zensah calf sleeves after a long run or a half Mary. My calves end up being the only part not sore the next day! Next purchase…compression leggings!

Comment by Bri — September 22, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

my compression socks make a night and day difference for recovery time. Will Lulu be making some?? If so you can put my order in now :-)

Comment by Kitty — September 22, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

There are definite benefits from wearing compression gear during and after your run – and plenty of studies to back that up. However, it’s definitely dependant on an optimal grade of compression as well as high quality. A cheap $20 pair of compression socks isn’t going to do much unfortunately!

Comment by Jonathan — September 23, 2011 @ 9:55 am

Hey Kitty!

Not sure if we’ll be seeing any compression socks, but I can definitely let the Design Team know that you’d love some. Fingers crossed!

~ Jordan
GEC Online Community

Comment by GEC Online Community — September 23, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

Contrary to the medical professionals listed above in linda wongs post:
Compression socks and stockings are made of circular knit which means that they work best when you are moving…your muscular action against the compression material help the lymph flow more efficiently.
I am a Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist(MLD) and I have seen incredible results in recovery time and how much lighter legs feel during and after runs in my marathon runner clients….with compression socks and MLD.
Check out the ones with silver in them, a natural anti bacterial,anti fungal!

Comment by julie ackerman — September 29, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

Got to agree with Julie, OB doc’s recommend to preggo patients & post cardiac surgery patients also wear compression socks to help with circulation. Many of my fellow nurses wouldn’t make it through their 12-hour shifts without them!

Comment by Deborah — July 1, 2012 @ 12:20 am

Julie – I hear what you’re saying but I think the post was the benefits of distance running and whether they actually help with recovery. Sure, they help with circulation – they were meant for ppl who had circulation issues – but the benefits in distance running and recovery is still out. I have heard many doctors, physios, etc NOT condone them, as the actual benefits are subjective and are very individualized.

Comment by Jill — October 28, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

Does lulu no longer make knee high compression socks? I swear they were available for a week and now they are gone

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Comment by Anna Andrion — July 13, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

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