Do you dread how your legs feel the day after a run? If so, you may want to consider running compression socks to help your legs recover better.
You’ve seen all the hype but still aren’t sure what compression socks can do for you as a runner. Are they worth the money or are they just another running fad? Here is all the information you need to decide whether you should start chasing down the best running compression socks.
What Are Running Compression Socks?
Compression socks are tightly fitting socks that offer a varying degree of compression or pressure. You can find socks that offer a low level of compression, those that offer medium compression, and socks that provide high levels of compression.
You can find them in varying lengths, with some socks even going above the knee.
What Benefits Could Compression Socks Provide?
Better blood flow: By tightly hugging your legs, compression socks promote better blood flow in your muscles when you’re working out. That increased blood flow might mean more oxygen for your muscles, which could, in theory, mean a better performance.
Less swelling: During long runs, if your legs tend to swell up like someone has pulled the cord on a life raft, compression socks may help you. They can keep the swelling down some, which will let you concentrate more on your race and less on how your legs are beginning to resemble tree trunks.
- Less soreness: Instead of hobbling along in the days after a long run, you might feel less soreness with the help of compression socks. For many runners, completing a long, difficult run isn’t the worst part -- it’s knowing how bad they are going to feel the next day that really bothers them.
- Keeping that fresh leg feeling: During a run, your legs can feel like they’re going to give out way before your heart or lungs. But using compression socks may help you enjoy the feeling of fresher legs for a few miles longer.
The debate about whether compression socks actually help will likely rage on for years. In the meantime, you should base your decision on whether compression socks feel good. As a runner, you need to learn to trust your instincts and listen to your body because that’s where your most valuable information and insight will come from.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the backing of the scientific community -- if they make you feel better or less sore after a run, they’re worth your money. Maybe it’s a placebo effect, but if you feel better after a long run, does it really matter what’s causing it?
If you’ve never tried compression socks before, but you’ve experienced soreness, it can’t hurt to give them a whirl.
But here’s one piece of advice -- compression socks aren’t some kind of magic bullet. If you have a chronic injury or consistent undiagnosed pain in your foot or leg, you should head to a doctor’s office before trying to doctor yourself up. You don’t want to risk hurting yourself further.
A pair of socks is no substitute for a proper diagnosis and medical treatment if you need it.
What Features Should I Look for In Compression Socks?
Compression socks should be snugger at the ankle. As they go up your leg, the tightness should decrease some. They should still feel like the fabric is hugging your leg, but not like a boa constrictor has gotten ahold of you.
The amount of pressure you should look for is 22 to 32 mmHg ideally. Before getting your socks, pay special attention to the sizing charts. You’ll order them by shoe sizes or calf sizes.
You should make sure the compression socks aren’t so tight that they cause blisters while you’re wearing them. You don’t want to trade one set of problems for another.
To make sure you have the right fit, wear your compression socks on a shorter 2 or 3-mile run. You don’t want to put them on for the first time and then head out for a marathon.
Try More Than One Pair
Before running out and buying five pairs of one brand of compression socks, you might want to hold off for a while.
Buy one pair of a brand and see if you like it before buying any more. Running can be expensive enough without ponying up a lot of money for something you hate and will never use.
Even if you’re moderately pleased with the purchase you’ve made, I would still recommend trying other brands. You might have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, but it’s worth the extra effort.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your compression socks in the near future, so you owe it to yourself to make sure they are the most comfortable ones you can find.
Top 5 Running Compression Socks
Quick Look: Our Top Picks
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- These black socks, accented with a bit of bright blue will slenderize your legs if you’re concerned about your appearance while running.
- They are easy to get on, which is nice since compression socks are notoriously hard to put on.
- The toe area won’t squeeze, which will mean added comfort for runners.
- They have anti-bacterial fabric.
- The double-stitched heel will hold up well for repeated runs.
- These socks hold up well in the wash without getting stretched out and losing their compression.
- They will wick the moisture away from your feet and legs, but they still dry quickly.
- They have decent shock absorption, which will make your feet feel better when running.
- These come in very limited sizes, only 5.5 to 8.5 for women and sizes 5 to 9 for men.
- The stitching in the toe area is a bit bulky, which makes these socks a little uncomfortable for long runs.
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- These socks are designed to fight bacteria as well as odor.
- The socks will wick away the moisture to make for a comfortable run.
- You’ll have a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from.
- These are easy to wash and you can even put them in the dryer on low, unlike many other running compression socks which require you to air dry them.
- These come in a wide variety of sizes, including sizes 5 through 15 for men and sizes 4.5 through 16 for women.
- The socks have a nice thickness -- they’ll be cushiony enough for running.
- These socks will stay on with no problems -- they won’t be sliding or rolling down.
- These socks are so tight, they’ll leave a long-lasting mark just below your knee.
- You’ll struggle to put these socks on because they are so form fitting.
- The sizing chart doesn’t seem true to size.
- GRADUATED COMPRESSION (20 - 30...
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- You’ll have a wide selection of colors and patterns with these socks.
- They have a graduated compression of 20 to 30 mmHg, which is perfect for runners.
- The socks are made out of an anti-bacterial fabric.
- These will help you control your body temperature when running -- they’ll keep you cool when you’re feeling hot and hot when it feels cold out.
- They will control any odor you might be experiencing.
- If you end up with a running injury that requires a leg brace, these socks will fit fine under the brace.
- These won’t leave a long-lasting indentation on your legs if you pick the correct size.
- There is no sizing chart with these socks which makes it difficult to know which ones to choose.
- You can’t put these socks in the dryer because it will affect the compression -- they’ll have to air dry.
- These aren’t a good choice for people with thicker thighs.
- COMPRESSION THERAPY TECHNOLOGY -...
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- These have a stay-put cuff that will prevent the socks from sliding down.
- They are unisex socks.
- They won’t pinch your toes together, leading to cramped feet or even blisters when you’re running longer distances.
- The socks are backed by a money-back guarantee which means you aren’t out anything if you try them and don’t like them.
- The socks use a kinesiology taping design, which means they’ll give you pressure in all the right places.
- These can make people who have flat feet feel better because of the support they provide.
- Each sock will have an “L” or “R” on them so you’ll always know which foot to put them on for the best fit.
- There are only four colors to choose from.
- You are supposed to hand wash these socks and let them air dry -- that can be a hassle for runners who prefer to machine wash and dry their gear.
- VITALSOX EXCLUSIVE SILVER DRYSTAT-...
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- These quick-drying socks use silver to prevent bacteria from growing and keep odor at bay.
- They are easy to clean -- you have to turn them inside out and wash them in warm water in your washing machine.
- These have four-way stretch instead of the two-way stretch some compression socks have.
- The socks are washed in a chemical-free softener so they’re ready to be worn as soon as you get them.
- You’ll get a lot of color choices with these socks and unlike some other compression socks, they offer a lot of solid colors instead of only patterns that won’t match anything you have.
- The fabric almost feels like cotton -- it’s really comfortable against your skin.
- They won’t fall down or slip while you’re running.
- They keep their elasticity, even after repeated washing.
- The sizing chart is off.
- The bottoms of the socks seem to wear through fairly quickly.
And the Winner Is …
Despite their lack of various colors, Blitzu socks are the best running compression socks on this list.
They won’t slide down and they’ll work well for both men and women. You shouldn’t get blisters or sore toes while you wear these. The kinesiology taping design is really comfortable and gives you support where you most need it.
Each sock is marked so you know which foot you should put them on. Hand washing and air drying the socks is kind of a pain, but it’s nothing compared to the actual pain you might be experiencing if you run without these compression socks when you need them.