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Benefits of compression socks for running – Perception or reality?

The origin

Where this running equipment that is so popular with runners come from? To know this, we have to go back to the Middle Age (I’m not kidding….)

Some doctors at the time used the principle of compression to treat several conditions or health problems in the legs, including varicose veins. The use of the compression principle has subsequently been extended over the centuries to treat patients with deep vein thrombosis and other blood circulation disorders.

During this period, several varieties of compression garment were developed, such as laced stockings, elastic bands, resin compression bandages or other. Later, with the arrival of new textiles on the market, compression stockings appeared.

In today’s medicine, compression socks are used for people with reduced mobility, diabetics, bedridden people and people with circulatory disorders. Until very recently, the use of this compression equipment was reserved for medical use only, but today it is a completely different story. More and more amateur and professional athletes are wearing compression stockings during races, training and even in post-exercise.

Of course compression stockings are very popular with runners but Is there any benefits of using compression socks for running?

How it works

Compression stockings gradually compress the calf muscle to reduce the diameter of the veins, which increases blood flow and brings deoxygenated blood more quickly back to the heart so that it can be oxygenated again. To create this phenomenon, compression stockings have the characteristic of being tighter at the ankle/calf level and less tight at the knee level.

In short, compression stockings are designed to fight gravity!

What the studies say

More than fifteen studies have been conducted to see if there are any performance gains when compression stockings are used. Only three of them concluded that there were indeed performance benefits. However, these 3 studies are questioned within the scientific community because they have not been controlled by placebo, which makes it impossible to verify if the performance gains obtained during the studies really come from compression stockings or rather from the athletes’ perception of the effectiveness of these stockings.

Most of these studies did not observe any improvement in running times, VO2 max, heart rate between those who used compression stockings and those who used “regular” running stockings.

Although studies have not yet demonstrated that we can improve our performance by using compression stockings, it seems that we are closer to a consensus when it comes to the benefits of wearing them in post-exercise.



Several studies have shown that wearing compression stockings helps to reduce pain, fatigue and muscle cramps. Compression would also help to eliminate more quickly the waste that we produce during our exercise sessions: lactic acid. By reducing pain, fatigue and evacuating toxins more quickly, there is no doubt that you will reduce recovery time between your training.

Micro-tears reduce

When running, ground impacts are frequent and somewhat “traumatic”. These impacts create micro-tears in the calves. By using compression stockings, the calf is held in the same axis, which reduces movements related to ground impact and reduces these micro-lesions.

Prevent blood pooling

Have you ever finished a long run and suddenly felt dizzy? Or worse, fainting? It’s the gravity that makes its effect. The muscles no longer contract the vessels, once the blood that was propelled to the heart finds itself in the lower body. The principle of compression stockings is precisely to compress the veins in order to promote blood circulation and allow you to prevent this phenomenon.

Increases oxygen supply

As I mentioned earlier, the principle of compression stockings is to compress the veins and accelerate the transport of used blood to the heart. The blood flow is increased and the heart can then quickly return oxygenated blood to the muscles. Faster the blood circulation is, the more oxygen is sent to the muscles and the more the effects of fatigue are reduced.

Other significant benefits


Compression stockings keep your muscles warm!. The heat helps to relax your muscles and thus improve blood circulation


Especially during trail running, knee-high compression socks will protect you from cuts and scratches due to branches, poison ivy, rocks, etc.

Choice of compression stockings

When selecting your socks, make sure they are adjusted to the shape of your calves and feet (not loose). Also make sure that the socks are not too tight as there may be a tourniquet effect. Be careful, the same effect could occur if you roll or fold the compression socks. I recommend that you consult the manufacturer’s size chart before purchasing.

Compression rating

Below 15 mmHg (Light compression)

This level of compression is recommended for people experiencing fatigue due to a static position (sitting or standing). Target people: Pregnant women, flagmen, etc.

Between 15 and 20 mmHg (Moderate compression)

This is the level of compression preferred by most runners (especially for long distance runs) and also used to prevent blood pooling, deep vein thrombosis, etc. Target people: Runners, airline pilots, etc.

Between 20 and 30 mmHg (Firm compression)

This is the most commonly used level of compression in medicine. It is used to treat varicose veins and blood clots. Runners will use this type of stockings to speed up recovery after training.

Over 30 mm Hg (Extra firm compression)

This type of stocking is normally reserved for people with chronic blood circulation disorders. You should consult your doctor before considering using stockings with this level of compression.

For which type of runner are compression stockings intended?

Anyone can wear compression socks as long as you do not experience any health problems, whether it is in the blood system, respiratory system, skin disorders. If this is the case, you should consult a doctor before purchasing them.

Compression stockings may not improve your performance significantly, but we have seen the beneficial effects they can have especially when it is time to recover. In addition, no negative effects have been reported on wearing compression stockings.

As you can see, compression socks could be a great addition to your running arsenal but don’t forget that they are not a substitute for a good pair of running shoes and a good running technique!

Are you or do you plan to use compression socks? Let me know



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