By L.M. Huby
Chances are, you’ve noticed the brightly coloured, often goofy, knee-high socks sported around your local gym or running on the roads. Love ’em or hate ’em, these leg coverings have become a staple in many workout wardrobes.
There are two versions of these babies: one simply for kicks and a fashion statement, the other is for actual performance properties promoted (and some substantiated) by compression garment manufacturers.
As a marathon runner-turned-Cross Fitter, I possess two pairs of compression socks, purchased based on the recommendation of a friend. Compression socks have taken endurance sports like running, triathlons, cycling by storm, boasting enhanced performance and recovery time, reduced muscle soreness, and so on. But if you check out the studies conducted on the benefits of compression garments – and there have been more than a few since the ‘80s, too many to link to here (Google it) – it ultimately comes down to you.
Compression garments were originally created to increase blood flow for individuals recuperating from surgery, or those suffering from medical conditions such as diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins and other circulatory issues. What’s been proven is that compression garments promote bloodflow away from the extremities back to the heart. When it comes to performance improvements, speed of recovery, and reduction in muscle soreness in athletes, study results are varied.
Like many other things, it appears to be highly dependent on the individual athlete whether or not they perceived or experienced a performance improvement while wearing compression gear. However, many of the athletes studied agreed that compression socks helped with delayed onset muscle soreness.
Observations from my own personal experience over the last couple of years have ascertained that compression socks do not improve or enhance my own performance, either while running or Cross Fitting. However, they feel awesome for double-unders and box jumps, and the added protection for deads (and rope climbs) can’t be understated. I’ll admit I also enjoy wearing them for long trips, or occasionally sporting them to work, hidden beneath my dress pants and boots.
That said, three things I can definitively tell you is:
- They’re tight. I’ve been known to actually work up a sweat fighting my way into a pair
- They’re available in a rainbow of colours and funky combinations – you’ll always be making a fashion statement of some kind
- Guys, try to find patterned socks somewhere. Plain white or black knee-high socks just aren’t the same unless you’re rocking granddad’s sandals with them (I know, I know – it’s about how they feel…)
When it comes right down to it, personal experimentation is how you’ll know whether they work for you, or not.
Photo by L.M. Huby, socks by Lunatik Athletiks