Do Compression Sleeves or Socks Help? (+ Zensah Review)
If you’ve ever watched an Ironman triathlon, you will have undoubtedly have seen many of the athletes wearing compression socks or calf sleeves. Long distance runners such as Paula Radcliffe have worn compression socks while running in marathons and have seemed to benefit from their use. For recovery, compression socks and leg sleeves have been shown to truly be beneficial. But for actual performance during a race, the jury is still out. The companies that make the compression calf sleeves and socks state that there are true performance benefits in wearing them either for performance. In terms of science, you can find studies that show some benefits to performance while other studies do not show the effectiveness of compression while running. For healthy, in shape athletes, the effects could be more psychological than anything.
Over the years compression socks and leg sleeves have been put to the test in dozens and dozens of studies. Tests have been done on subjects who ran, cycled and jumped. Some studies showed benefits during performance while a few showed no perceptible benefits during training. Most of the studies seem to point to slightly better blood oxygenation and less lactic acid build-up in the leg muscles. Many of the studies showed clear benefits with recovery in the days following and none of the studies showed any negative effects on performance or recovery for healthy athletes.
Some of the positive study results have shown:
- Improved Running Performance [Berry et al. (1987).
- Less muscle soreness (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness/DOMS) was felt the next day when worn both during performance and the following day. (2007)
- Better recovery due to lactate acid removal from the blood after periods of strenuous exercise . The effect was shown to be greater during recovery than during high-intensity exercise. (2009 study)
- A study with cyclists did show an increase in blood oxygen levels.
- A study from Germany showed slightly higher aerobic capacity in runners who wore compression socks.