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PROTRACK » Coaching & Training » Compression Socks

Compression Socks

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1 Compression Socks on Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:58 am


Dr. Jason Karp
Exercise Physiologist | Running & Fitness Expert | Writer & Author | Speaker | IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year

Have you noticed that runners everywhere are wearing compression socks? Although compression socks are valuable for people who are sedentary, bed-ridden, or take long airplane flights to prevent blood pooling and clots and increase blood flow back to the heart, they have no value during exercise. We already have 3 ways of getting blood from the muscles back to the heart to increase the heart's stroke volume: (1) muscle pump, which is the squeezing effect that contracting muscles have on pushing blood back to the heart, (2) venous valves, which prevent backwards blood flow, and (3) inspiration, which causes a "sucking" effect on blood, drawing it up to the heart. Wearing compression socks doesn't do more than what your body already does on its own. The research doesn't show that compression socks enhance venous return or stroke volume or make you a better runner; it only shows that they can slightly enhance recovery when worn in the hours after a workout. So, if you've been wearing compression socks when you run, stop. It's not going to overcome bad training.

Shane McKenzie
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2 Re: Compression Socks on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:34 pm


Good work Shane. Thanks for posting.
Another new age sprinting aid that someone with a vested interest has conned people into using.
Don't run any faster so why bother?

3 Re: Compression Socks on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:56 pm


It is still a good argument, though, from both sides.

The research hasn't shown in improvement in performance. BUT, a guy called Les Nees posted a really good rebuttal that is worth discussion from the psychological side of things, and also a recovery side of things. Read below. I am just trying to instigate discussion among us all, see other people's thoughts and hopefully have them share their experiences.

In discussion with one certain athlete, he backed the use of them for himself, as his calf injury rate decreased as a result of wearing them. Did it improve his performance? Well you could argue to did, because instead of being injured, he was still on the track racing, therefore his overall seasonal performance had improved.

First, let me say, I'm not a believer in compression socks as a coach, however, some athletes draw psychological confidence with them and my understanding is that if they work as a placebo, there's no need to stop. You haven't said why they should stop, just that they don't work. There is some research, which is inconclusive but I've dragged this straight from the Science of running website:
First, the idea that compression socks improve venous blood flow at rest has been substantiated (Byrne et al., 2001). Similarly, the idea that graduated compression is better than constant compression at rest has been demonstrated. In theory, this should mean better clearance of by products and enhanced recovery. How much so is up for debate.

The question that has not been answered is whether compression during a run improves blood flow. Additionally, the question remains if either at rest or during running, the blood flow increase is enough to improve performance or recovery. Let’s look at the research:

During exercise, the research is mixed. Ali et al. (2007) found that no performance or changes in physiological parameters occurred during or after a 10k run. However, they did find a reduction in muscle soreness, pointing to the muscle vibration and recovery aspects of socks. Contrasting these results, Kremmier et al. (2009) found improved performance and an improved lactate threshold when wearing compression socks while running. Similarly, two separate studies found improved 5k performance and improved running economy (Chatard et al., 1998 & Bringard et al., 2006). The study by Bringard et al. (2006) is particularly interesting. They found improved economy at 3 different speeds, but it was most substantial at the middle speed (12km/hr).

Lastly, let’s look and see if compression socks can improve lactate clearance. In a study by Berry et al. (1987) they found that blood lactate clearance was improved after a maximal treadmill test. This effect has been further substantiated by other studies (Creasy, 2008). The problem according to Creasy, is in understanding why the lactate changes occur. Remember that we are measuring blood lactate, not muscle lactate. Early authors proposed that the decrease in blood lactate might be due to the compression decreasing the flow of lactate from the muscle out to the blood stream. The other option is that an increase in blood flow caused by the compression socks increases the flow of the lactate to other muscles that can take up and use the lactate. In essence, it would enhance the lactate shuttle. What exactly happens is hard to determine at this point.

Shane McKenzie
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