If you’re an avid runner, sticking to your schedule is a big deal. A missed jog in the morning throws off your entire day and an injury that slows you down will quickly ruin your mood. Anything that keeps you moving is worth a shot, and compression socks could be just the thing you’re looking for.
Runners ask a lot of their legs, so giving something in return is a good way to keep the relationship on solid footing (pun very much intended). Compression gear does more than most people realize; for someone who depends on running for their physical and mental health, good socks can make a world of difference.
During the Run
From style to support, compressions socks offer loads of helpful functions when you’re on the move.
Circulation is the name of the game with graduated compression. With smart fabric putting a little pressure at the ankle and decreasing the tension as it moves up the leg, blood flows more easily. This is why compression socks are used to treat a number of medical issues - it’s also exactly why runners benefit from them so greatly.
As muscles get overworked during a run, they burn through oxygen at a pretty quick pace. To keep up and endure, muscle tissue demands more oxygen and blood functions as the delivery driver. Just as you stay more alert with a steady air flow, your legs move better with improved circulation.
Exercise gets your heart rate up as the blood pumps, but steady circulation isn’t a guarantee. With the aid of compression socks, blood flow gets just the boost it needs. As you tack on the miles, you’ll probably notice less fatigue and soreness. Your wall might come a little later, encouraging you to push a little harder and go a little farther.
Circulation might be the most important benefit, but the exterior comfort provided by compression socks is nothing to scoff at.
On a cold day, a little extra cover with zero wind resistance is hard to pass up. On a warmer day, you’ll be happy to have breathable socks there to wick away sweat and allow you to power on without lugging around all that moisture. Anything that improves how you look and feel will also enhance the mental comfort that’s so important for a challenging run.
Athletic brands sell all sorts of glitzy leg and footwear meant to make you feel fast and sporty. At the end of the day, very few of those fashion-forward items deliver the comfort and appeal you’ll get from a quality pair of compression socks.
During the Cooldown
The run might be done, but the need for compression is just beginning.
That blood flow your muscles crave while you run? It’s just as important in the hours after exercise. When you get home and all you want to do is shower and lounge, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you can remember to lounge with your compression socks on.
As your body tries to mend the muscles you strained while running, lactic acid sneaks in and builds up in the tissue. The steadier the blood flow, the more quickly you move the acid along. Wearing compression socks might be the difference between waking up with a bounce in your step and waking up unable to take any steps because everything hurts so much.
The faster your calves and thighs repair themselves, the sooner you can get back on the track. Ibuprofen can help a little, but improved circulation is really what you want during your recovery.
If you’ve ever followed up a long run with an insufficient recovery period, you know your risk of soreness and cramping goes way up. Unfortunately, a lot of runners have to get in a couple of miles on their lunch break or right before driving to work. You don’t always have time to work out, recover, and take care of all your other obligations.
In the event you don’t stretch or hydrate enough after a jog, compression socks might just save the day. The cramps that flare up in your calves and the soles of your feet rely on extraneous muscle movement and limited circulation, both of which can be cured by compression. Your muscles twitch less when you have a tight stocking around your leg, and the increased blood flow brings that much-needed oxygen.
Aside from cramps being painful, they hobble you and slow down your overall recovery. The longer you’re forced to walk gingerly, the longer it takes for the lactic acid to clear. Cramps can also sneak up on you in the middle of the night, sending you flying out of bed as you try to stretch the knot out of your calf. Disrupted sleep takes its toll on muscle regeneration and it’s also really, really annoying.
On Your Rest Day
Unlike your favorite running shoes, compression socks aren’t just for marathon days.
If you only take care of your legs during and immediately after a run, you need to take a step back and think about how you treat your body the rest of the time.
Even on off days, your legs have to work. For too many people, the biggest strain comes during the week while sitting for hours on end. The time spent in your car or seated at a desk is terrible for circulation. If you’ve ever gone for a run after work and felt like your legs were extra tired, the time of day isn’t necessarily to blame; eight hours of sitting and staring at a computer screen can exhaust your legs as much as anything else.
Wearing compression socks at your desk or during your commute will help counter the effect of so many hours in a less-than-ideal position. You know when you slow down at work and start yawning incessantly, like your brain is begging for a quick oxygen boost? Circulation socks give your legs a nice little yawn break, if there could be such a thing. Along with keeping legs fresh and preventing fatigue, compression socks reduce the risk of blood clots. For people with certain medical conditions or those who fly a lot, compression has a huge medical upside that anyone can appreciate, whether or not you’re a runner.
For a long time, compression socks came in one boring, almost visually offensive, design. No matter how much a person stood to benefit from wearing them, it was hard to overcome the offputting aesthetic. Now, with improved awareness of the far-reaching health benefits, a little extra emphasis has been placed on comfort and style.
Plenty of designs and colors are available, made to match your favorite running outfit or provide an appropriate accent to whatever you wear to work. As far as athletic wear goes, sleek stockings give you that streamlined look, making you feel fast and providing a little motivation to push the pace.
If you take pride in your running, you need to take pride in how you care for yourself. During, immediately after, and in the days between your runs, compression socks can help you stay healthy, comfortable, and ready to go.