Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Socks For Compression.

Compression socks might be the most stereotypical piece of garment that triathletes are synonymous with. Back in the day, when your legs where 'heavy' you where advised elevate them to make them feel 'light' again.

I remember one particular story from a Commonwealth Games swimmer turned Commonwealth Games triathlete, she told me how she had fallen asleep between events during a swim meet with her legs elevated - then was suddenly woken up by her teammates before the 200m fly final, which she would end up getting a big PR because her legs feel very strong!

Anyway, over the years, athletes from different sports have adopted them. Now, even every day people have started wearing them!

But why? What do they do? When do we use them?

Firstly, lets start with the human body. Our veins have various valves along the way, their job is to let blood pass, away from the heart, but not return. Compression socks, first & foremost, increase blood flow by putting pressure on the valves & allowing the blood to circulate faster..

Think of it as putting pressure or squeezing a garden hose, the water velocity will speed up immediately!

In sport, more blood mean's more oxygen & glucose delivered to working muscles - it also removes greater amounts of carbon dioxide & metabolic acids away from the tired muscles.

How-ever, too much blood volume might not be a good idea, especially  when sedentary, as it will make the legs feel 'heavy' or bloated because of gravity pulling/keeping it down. It might have a tendency to stagnate in the lower legs when not moving, versus circulating fluidly through-out the whole body.
For Recovery

They are a great 'go to' tool for athletes of all levels after a workouts as they assist cerebral circulation. I personally use them religiously when I need to cook a big post-workout meal!

For Travelling

Long hauls can be done much more comfortably, as sitting or standing can instigate tingly feet or 'canckles' since fluids have a tendency pooling in the lower limbs due to gravity and inactivity.

For Injury's
They have helped quite a few athletes get over lower leg injury's by providing support, stability & vibration reduction. Some even swear by them on how they help to prevent or delay the onset of calf cramps!

For Health

They can also have therapeutic effects for those who suffer from varicose veins as they will help to maintain pressure on the veins as the sock 'snugs' the veins.

They will also help with those who have 'sleepless legs' when they sleep, of which can hinder deep sleep or delay it due to dis-comfort.

For Protection

They are great to cover up the skin from the sun as well to providing some extra shielding when running or cycling through long grass or in case of a sudden fall!

Some Draw Backs

Apart from looking a bit dorky, one of the major issues in triathlon, is when some athletes race with them in the swim leg of a non wetsuit swim. They will increase drag significantly & pull the legs downwards...Also, as they get wet on the bike and/or run, they tend to loose a bit of elasticity and gain weight by retaining water.

The time gained from wearing them is debatable compared to the time lost putting them on in transition or from the extra drag caused in the water.

For Every Day Work

For those who work a desk job, these can be very beneficial in being more comfortable while sitting for extended periods & avoid feeling lethargic once you get up. They are easy to put on or take off!

Elevating the Legs

Compression socks help in a similar way - doing it with compression socks will help even more for those with sore legs, heavy legs or DOMS. It also lowers the heart rate and helps to stretch the hamstrings!

Which socks?

Not all socks are the same, an important factor to look at is the lip of the sock bellow the knee. The socks being tight, a bad or thick 'rim' can make it un-comfortable after wearing them for a few hours.

That's why I love my current Zensah Compression socks, they have a very thin rim & overall very thin material, which is important for me because I have hairy legs & sweat very easily ;)

Calf Guards

They are a good option for those who wear flip-flips or wish to race with them, but want the freedom to put the sock of their choice on their foot.

How-ever, I have observed over the years some athletes with 'fat ankles' having some swelling feet. There might be a bit of blockage between the foot & the rest of the body while wearing calf guards, more specifically for endomorph legs.

Our feet, generally, are a low blood flow area, so sometimes compression sleeves can hinder circulation instead of helping it...


To conclude, it's debatable that they help directly with actual performance per say...But rather help make the PROCESS more comfortable as well to helping with recovery!

Anyway, I hope that you have found this post informative & to consider Zensah Compression because in the half dozen brands of compression socks I have used over the years, the 'feel' of these, as well to their durability & style is the best I have experienced, on & off the race course!

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