Dec 28

Do runners calf sleeves and compression socks really work

Calf Sleeves

For Xmas one of our sons bought me a pair of compression socks. They are now all the rage sold by many stores, worn by women in many special colors and patterns and by men generally in white or black. I have been wearing calf sleeves for well over a year (purchased for a great price on Amazon) and looking like those shown to the left. I chose to start wearing these because of the fact that I had a bad calf muscle injury, as described here, a couple of years ago.

Now I tend to wear them most of the time, or I wear spandex tights in the cooler weather, to provide support to my calf muscles.My problem is that my calf muscles are TOO big. I have wimpy hamstrings (way too tight and poor flexibility), I have small quads, but I have big calfs. They are not the size they were when I was lifting weights a lot and doing lots of “donkey calf raises”. But they are out of proportion to the rest of my leg muscles. Not at the extreme that Tom Platz’s leg muscles were though! So, when I run my calf muscles “jiggle”, like celullite on a belly.

The Incredible Legs of Tom Platz

As a result running without calf support was always slightly painful and after the tear was definitely a real challenge. I HAVE found calf support, whether calf sleeves or simply tights, to be of great value. I have NOT yet tried compression socks but research seems to suggest that it will help. There are a number of interesting pages here that describe the available evidence. Worth reading.

CompressLeg Sleeves and Socks Discussion

Running Compression Socks – What triathletes should know

An example comment:

“…. a study presented at the 2007 American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans suggested there were no statistically significant differences in maximal oxygen consumption, heart rate or minute ventilation between treadmill runners who wore compression socks and those who did not. ”

My personal advice…DEFINITELY try them! Especially if you have weird legs like me!


1 comment

  1. Rhona

    Hi Anthony, will be interesting to see how you get on with the socks vs compression guards. i have always worn socks, having suffered from achilles problems – the socks seem to give additional support around the foot/ankle, though I’ not sure how much is in my head!

    Being a sports scientist I’ve read many papers like the ones you have highlighted, and there does seem to be conflicting results from studies, but I think a lot of them vary in things like whether the compression garments have been customised – ie are they actually providing much compression – if you and I had the same size feet we’d probably get a very different affect from the socks cos I have spindly, skinny calves! So in balance, and based on my own personal use I’d agree with you and say try them! They don’t do any harm, so if they might do some good I think they’re worth it!

    I’ve got a page on my website about compression socks if you’re interested in reading it – http://www.intelligent-triathlon-training.com/compression-socks.html

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