The Best Compression Running Socks

Compression socks can propel running performance.
i Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images

Gearing up for a long-distance run on the trail or the track leads runners to focus on wearing the footwear. The basic purpose of wearing socks is to decrease the chance of contracting blisters and uncomfortable skin irritation when perspiration takes effect. Performance-enhancing apparel, like compression socks, do more than just prevent blisters, though. The best compression running socks can help improve running performance and reduce post-run muscle fatigue.

Decreasing Muscle Fatigue

Long-distance running requires competitors to sustain extensive stamina. Runners slow down at a tremendous pace as distance increases. The world-record time for all races is multiplied by approximately 2.15 when distance is doubled, according to the New York Times. Compression socks are promoted as performance-enhancing apparel that improves runners' endurance level. This skin-tight material is designed to counteract the effects of gravity and increase oxygen intake. The scientific proposition of compression socks is derived from the idea that increasing blood flow to the heart will increase stamina and decrease post-race muscle fatigue.

Types of Compression Socks

Compression socks come in different pressures, lengths and colors, according to MedLine Plus. Variation in applied pressure stretches from light to strong. A long-distance runner is better suited for strong-pressured compression socks as opposed to non-competitive trail runners, who would likely benefit from light-pressured socks. Lengths of socks also differ. The most common type of compression sock stops at knee height whereas other socks reach the top of the thighs. All compression socks are multi-purpose. They're designed to decrease swelling in the legs, but also provide an extra layer of warmth for runners, which increases blood flow and maximizes the efficiency of working muscles.

Generating an Impact

German professor Wolfgang Kemmler studied the effects of performance-enhancing compression socks on 21 moderately trained runners in 2009. The purpose of the study was to determine if compression socks had a positive impact on endurance level in long-distance runners. Kemmler’s research concluded that the constant compression the socks upon runners’ calf muscles had a significant effect on running performance. However, individual anaerobic fitness level factored into the outcome. Only a small percentage of runners experienced an increased level of oxygen intake as a direct result of the compression socks.

Counteracting Gravity

Compression socks are simply engineered to increase blood flow and improve running performance. Runners Connect asserts that compression socks generate positive pressure across the valves in blood veins, which increases blood flow to the heart and counteracts the effects of gravity. Compression socks provide long-distance runners, trail runners and sprinters with protection from muscle swelling. In addition, some types of compression socks utilize warming technology to keep muscles loose during running activity.

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