Compression wear: what it is, and why to use it (2/2)
Compression wear: what it is, and why to use it (2/2)
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Compression wear: what it is, and why to use it (2/2)

A regular sight on Ironman triathletes, we look at the recovery benefits claimed, and explain the key areas

So what you should look for and why when choosing your compression wear? Read on…

Venous return

“Compression wear has to feature graduated pressure or it won’t work,” says Mike Martin of 2XU UK. “If, for example, there’s not greater pressure at the ankle than the calves, they won’t provide improved venous return and so won’t improve recovery.”

Research has shown that femoral bloodflow increases to 138% of the norm when the garment has ratings of 18mmHg at the ankles and 8mmHg at the calves. 


“If you watch a slow-motion video of an athlete running and in one segment they’re wearing compression products and the other not, you’ll notice a stark difference,” says de Medici.

“Without, you’ll see the muscles moving around a lot. With compression, the muscles are better aligned. And if alignment’s better, muscle efficiency is better, which means less muscle tear and less muscle damage.”

Compression wear


The venous-return benefits of compression wear derive from eliciting very precise graduated pressure. Which is all well and good out of the box, but how well do they stand up to 100 miles of running and thousands of spins in the washing machine?

“We have to conform to ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) requirements,” says de Medici. “We put ours through various tests, including multiple washes and stretching before checking the compression pressure." 


Credible compression outfits like 2XU offer nine sizes to cater for different calf and ankle dimensions. “We spent half a million on a machine to measure pressure,” says Martin.

It’s a tool where you can change the size of the calf and ankle, apply a sock and voilà – sensors measure the pressure. De Medici has a similar tool and even offers a made-to-measure service, which is the ideal as they cater exactly for your specific dimensions – albeit at a cost. 

Calf guards


“We use an Italian Lycra, which is hardwearing and durable,” says Martin. “That gives us elastic properties.” 2XU also employs a circular knit to ensure a stretchy and compressive feeling in all directions – just what you want when your limbs are moving at speed. Some companies also weave in bamboo to improve the feel against the skin, as well as increase breathability.

(Images: Paul Phillips /

Do you notice a benefit in compression wear? Let us know in the comments!


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Compression wear.
Very interesting article. I use compression wear as an aid to preventing a reoccurring shoulder injury. Having had two car accidents in which I was a passenger the muscles in my right shoulder became weakened. Compression wear has helped support the weakened muscles and prevented stiffness.

Also, as a keen cyclist I do find recovery compression wear helps my leg muscles recover much quicker, particularly if I have had a bit of a lay off. Incidentally I am in my mid 50s.

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