The Benefits of Compression Socks for Running
What Do Compression Socks Do for Runners?
There’s been a great deal of research on the subject, studying the effects of running in compression socks on performance, as well wearing them for recovery.
The theory behind the performance benefits is that graduated compression increases oxygen delivery to the muscles, improves blood circulation to the heart and speeds the removal of lactic acid. According to "The Science of Running," another theory is that compression socks may decrease muscle vibration caused by impact. It’s possible this decreased vibration can lessen the soreness most runners experience as well as improve leg power.
When it comes to measuring the actual performance benefits of compression socks for running, results are mixed. This is due in part to the variations in studies — some taking place in the lab, some on the track — and the variations in the type of socks used. Takeaways ultimately vary from study to study, with some finding improved performance and some seeing no difference at all.
However, there is much more agreement about recovery benefits, as the studies lean toward compression socks having a positive effect on reducing muscle soreness and recovery time. Graduated compression seems to not only reduce soreness and fatigue in the lower leg muscles, but also produce faster lactate recovery. One thing studies do agree on is that, in order for compression to be effective, it must be graduated — with pressure greatest at the ankle and gradually decreasing at it goes up the leg.
So, should you wear compression socks while running? While they may or may not improve performance, many athletes swear by compression socks, praising the recovery benefits and reduction in soreness and calf strain. And knowing that elite runners use them increases their popularity within the sport. The bottom line is there have been absolutely no adverse effects reported. You can rest assured knowing there's no harm in trying them out to see if they'll give you an edge!
For those curious to learn more, you can read an in-depth examination of compression garments and sports from the Phase IV Health & Performance Center.
If you’d like to try compression socks for running to experience the benefits for yourself, Ames Walker has an extensive collection of socks and other products that may enhance athletic performance.
Kaki Zell - Vice President of Sales, Marketing, eCommerce at Legs-4-Life LLC Kaki holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She’s been working in the medical device industry for over 11 years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greensboro Science Center.
Medically Reviewed March 2022
Dr. Chris Dickson, M.D., is a board-certified vascular surgeon and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons who received his M.D. Degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and has received general surgery training from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Dr. Dickson has obtained two vascular fellowships and three research fellowships and has also had authored 19 publications and two book chapters. Since 1996, Dr. Dickson has been in practice in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Written January 2015 | Page last updated May 2022
Healthline. “Compression Stockings for Varicose Veins”
Irish Times. “Why Socks Could Be Key for Marathon Runners” https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/fitness/why-socks-could-bekey-for-marathon-runners-1.3665332
The National Institutes of Health. “Wearing Compression Socks During Exercise” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30554612/
The National Institutes of Health. “Compression Garments Reduce Muscle Movement” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31592978/