It seems everybody's doing it. Triathletes, basketball players, Olympic athletes, and even seniors all swear by the benefits of wearing compression socks.
There is no denying that this latest fitness gear has its benefits.
However, before you try any new kit it is important to know what it is and how it works.
Let's find out what all the fuss is about.
About Compression Socks
As the name implies, compression garments are designed to compress your body in all the right places. They are usually made of a spandex and nylon mix fabric which clings with a firm grip, at the same time allowing for freedom of movement.
Compression socks are similar in design to ordinary socks apart from their constrictive qualities. These type of socks usually have moisture-wicking properties to keep your feet cool and dry during your exertions.
They are available in a variety of lengths from anklets to knee-highs depending on how much support you desire.
Types of Compression Socks
These souped-up versions of the humble sock are also available in a vast range of colors and designs. Prices vary just as much as the designs and will depend on several factors. As with all sports gear, brand name plays a big role in pricing along with the type of fabric, length, and purpose of the socks. Those with more detailed or medical applications naturally cost a little more. Either way, you should not let price cloud your judgment when deciding on the perfect sports gear for you.
It's more important to focus on just how tight you like them.
Levels of Compression
Compression socks come in five different levels of tightness. These are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) applied to the feet and legs.
Generally speaking, these work as follows:
- 15-20 mmHg is suitable for preventing fatigued legs in normal healthy people
- 20-25 mmHg can prevent DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) during long flights or in mild medical cases
- 25-40 mmHg and more is used to treat and prevent varicose veins, edema, and post-surgical blood clots
We don't need to tell you that if you are unsure about which level to choose, you should ask for advice.
Most athletes stick to around the 20 mmHg mark.
How Do They Work?
All compression garments are designed to apply pressure the areas of the body that they are worn over. In the case of compression stockings and socks, the legs bear the brunt of this pressure - in a good way.
This added pressure helps the blood vessels to constrict and pump blood back to the heart from the lower extremities. It prevents blood from pooling during periods of inactivity such as lengthy sessions of sitting or standing.
These circulatory benefits of compression socks have long been known by doctors for treating treat patients with poor leg circulation and varicose veins. The vascular assistance provided by the stockings can prevent blood clots from forming without the use of anti-coagulant drugs.
What does this have to do with sports though?
Why Do Sportsmen and Women Wear Them?
Getting your blood pumping during sports is more than just an expression. Blood delivers oxygen to the muscles during exertion - the more the better. So it can be assumed that compression garments may help performance.
Studies on the effects of compression items on sports performance are as yet inconclusive.
However, it has been proven that the use of compression gear can significantly reduce recovery time and stiffness after exercise. They provide a warm wonderful hug just when your body needs it most.
It is also true that increased circulation
Most sports people have a 'lucky socks' attachment to their compression outfits. That is they believe that the socks make them achieve more and this increased confidence spills over into their performance.
There's no harm in that right?
Are Compression Stockings Right for You?
It is unlikely that any compression garment can cause you any harm. They may restrict circulation if they are too tight and there are certain medical situations where they should not be used.
If you have any of the following conditions consult your doctor before wearing any restrictive socks:
- Peripheral arterial bypass grafting
- Peripheral artery disease
- Skin infection
- Massive leg swelling
- Pulmonary edema
- Congestive heart failure
It really is worthwhile to check with your GP if you have any doubts.
How to Choose the Right Fit
Any ill-fitting sports gear is going to affect your performance both during training and events. Badly-fitting compression socks can cause cramping and cut off your circulation. Before you start looking up the latest coolest designs. Take some measurements to make sure you buy the right size. Grab a tape measure and get the circumference of your calf and ankle and measure the distance from 2 fingers breadth below your knee to the ground.
Armed with these figures, you are ready to do some shopping.
Getting into Your Socks
Until you get the hang of it, putting your compression socks on can be a bit like trying to squeeze into your jeans after a long and indulgent Christmas vacation. Rubbing a little cornstarch onto your legs beforehand can help. Avoid using oil-based creams as they will erode the fabric of your socks. The easiest way to get into tight-fitting socks and stockings is to roll them down from the ankle. Get your foot into them so that your heel is in place and then roll them up inch by inch.
What Compression Can Do for You
Compression socks will not turn you into a champion or improve your performance dramatically. Only practice and dedication can do that. What they can do is give you a psychological advantage. If you look and feel good, it is bound to carry over into your performance.
Besides, you haven't spent all those hours in the gym to cover up your lean, toned physique with thick cotton socks and track pants. If you want to feel comfortable and look great on track and field, you should be looking for the 'add to cart' button right now. Have a look what's in stock and hit us up with your compression sock success stories on Twitter and Facebook.