Compression socks and calf sleeves

Around the time I started to increase the lengths of my runs, when it was still cold, early enough last year, that shorts were maybe not enough to keep me warm, I came across PRO Compression socks – not knowing whether they would really help with anything, it was just as much for the fact they were long socks (given the cold weather) as for any supposed positive effects.

In all the time I’ve worn them I’ve never been sure whether they have done much for me during runs (how do you know, right?), but I did find that the compression in the hours after a long race did seem to help with recovery. Since I bought those socks I have also added some Smartwool compression calf sleeves to my collection.

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It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how helpful compression could be. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog – a bit of a long shot that – you may have noticed I have talked about some knee pain I started experiencing last week. I was a bit concerned about running the hat trick (5k, 10k, and Half) at the Runner’s World Festival because of it.

I do intend to write a post on the weekend but need to spend some time on it to do it justice (hint: fantastic event), but for now I want to talk about my knee.

I’d rested it all week but on Friday I felt like it was hurting a bit more and I thought I’d discovered that it may be related to tight muscles in my calf so I went for a massage. I wasn’t sure whether it had really helped but it felt okay for the 5k on Saturday morning, but started hurting a little after that. I managed okay in the 10k, and then as the day wore on the pain got worse. It was bad enough I almost considered not running the half on Sunday (Mrs RunNJ wanted me to bail on it). I thought it might be fine if I took it easy. I iced it and went to bed.

The next morning all seemed well again but I still planned to take it easy. I ran the race (not taking it as easy as I planned but more about that in my next post). Now, it’s worth noting that in all the races I wore compression socks (partly because it was cold on those mornings and I wanted my legs kept a little warm). After the half marathon I went back to the hotel, had a quick shower, iced the knee again as a precaution, and, as usual after a long race, put compression sleeves on.

Later in the day I was amazed that my knee felt fine, but then it came time to get ready for bed. Within minutes of removing the compression sleeves my knee was painful again! I hadn’t thought that the compression could be preventing the pain, but this was proof. I put one back on that leg and the pain subsided again.

Since then I have been using “The Stick” and wearing a compression sleeve on that leg for most of the day (and not running), and so far so good. I think I might even run tomorrow (that’s might be too soon, but I’m a runner, and a man, so listening to reason when it comes to running is sometimes difficult – besides, I’m training for Philly and need to get some miles in after low mileage for the last couple of weeks).

After this experience I’m definitely a believer in compression for recovery, and I do have to wonder whether having the compression socks during the races helped me get through them – I’m going to err on the side of saying yes, but even if they made no difference, they certainly didn’t cause any problems.


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8 Responses to Compression socks and calf sleeves

  1. rra121cpb says:

    Interesting result … I know of other runners who had great results with something a little different, a band that wraps just below the kneecap. I had issues when using those calf sleeves (foot swelling, probably related to the surgery), and went to full socks. Nonetheless, interesting read and result. Looks like you are well positioned for your marathon coming up.

    • runnj says:

      I’ll take a look at the band perhaps. I’m a little unsure where my marathon training – last night I struggled with muscle tightness after 5 miles, but I did push harder than I intended, and given the amount of racing I did at the weekend it might not be related to the issue – my knee is fine today so that’s good. Still trying to decide whether to do one more 20-miler this weekend (it’s been three weeks since I did any run longer than the half I did on Sunday).

  2. I love my compression socks for recovery. I have yet to try them during a long run or race but it could happen sometime in my future especially since it is getting cold.

  3. Pingback: Runner’s World Festival weekend | Running In NJ

  4. Andrew says:

    I’ve never heard of compression socks preventing pain before but I would come to the same conclusion if your pain returned as soon as you removed it. I’ve also been using compression socks but mainly for recovery purposes – I may give them a try during one of my long runs after reading your post. I’ve got a nagging calf pain that I’m hoping it can help with.

    Thanks for sharing your results.

  5. Miami Roadrunner says:

    Hi! I live in Miami and I’m an active runner. I used to live in the Princeton, NJ area and have a lot of family that do triathlon or marathons. I am originally from Spain and the best brand in Europe for compression garments is called Lurbel (www.lurbel.net) and has been around for over 25 years. Whenever I go to Spain I always bring a few pair of leg sleeves and somebody always ends up buying them from me. I wish they would sell them here in the US because I don’t really trust this new companies that are popping up. Really, how much have they invested in R&D when they are brand new companies….

    • runnj says:

      Not heard of that one – would imagine being around for 25 years would give them a decent hold in the market but there’s little info out there on them. There was at least one company at the Philly Marathon Expo who have been around a long while too – will have to try to remember their name.

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