A good pair of compression socks should fill an essential spot in your running kit checklist. Not only do they provide support to the muscles, they also aim to prime them for exercise and speed up recovery post-session. An easy no-effort tool to keeping you running injury-free for longer, it’s a no-brainer in our books. If you suffer with sore calves or shin splint woes, then read on…
What are the benefits of compression socks?
First and foremost, compression socks aim to increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles which should help to speed up recovery post-workout. This is becuase the extra oxygen and nutrients help to repair muscle break-down after hard sessions, making you more likely to dodge any impending DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or more serious niggles.
They can also help prime the muscles for extra stress by increasing bloodflow and readying them for effort. Those with shin splints often swear by a quality pair of calf sleeves to avoid or decrease soreness and support the shins during any high-impact activity like running. In terms of coverage, they can also provide an extra layer during cold runs, or extra sun protection when out in the elements.
What is the difference between compression socks and calf sleeves?
Both compression calf guards and socks have the same purpose – to provide compressive support and speed up recovery. However, long compression socks also wrap around the foot and some can provide extra arch support for plantar fascia and zonal padding to avoid uncomfy rubbing.
Calf guards are useful as they often stay in place better than socks, since the foot is not pulling the guard down. They can also be worn more before having to throw in the wash and some find them more comfortable as you can often choose the exact size for your calf circumference, particularly useful for extra slim or bulky calves.
Best compression socks for runners
Compress Sport R2V2 Calf Sleeves
Our go-to sleeves we’ve been donning for years, the R2V2s are an upgraded version of the original Compress model. What impressed us about these is not only the level of compressive support, but the durability of the sleeves, which held their shape after years of wear, tear and washing. Does the job and provides great value for money; you can’t go wrong with a pair of these.
Compress Sport R2 Oxygen Calf Sleeves
If you’re after a lighter pair of sleeves for hotter climes, we like the feel of the barely-there R2 Oxygen sleeves, which were originally designed for Kona pro triathletes racing in extreme heat. Strips of ventilation within the sleeves allow them to be highly breathable and fast-drying, as well as helps to avoid overheating. At only 11g, we’re surprised by the level of support and compression by such a thin pair of calf guards.
Bearhug Calf Compression Support
A young eco brand that produces ‘joint supports and muscle sleeves’ made from bamboo, Bearhug claims it’s worn by professional athletes across the sporting spectrum. With a keen focus on ‘shin splint pain relief’ and muscle support, what makes these sleeves unique is their composition, with Bearhug citing a 40% increase in bloodflow compared to other supports thanks to the bamboo charcoal material used.
Though we can’t comment on this, the sleeves certainly felt supportive and gentle on the skin, which Bearhug explains is due to the non-irritating round structure of the bamboo fibre. Microgaps in the weaved yarn aim to boost airflow and avoid sweat build-up, though we still found the sleeves to be on the warmer side.
If you don’t mind the bright orange colourway and are after a comfy pair of reasonably-priced, recovery-boosting calf sleeves, then these could be for you.
Gococo Superior Compression
Well known in the swimrun community for providing quick-drying and blister-free running socks, these long compression socks from Gococo are a good option for multisport athletes. Gococo claims that the ‘37.5 technology’ yarn of the soles allows the sock to dry extremely quickly and helps to avoid chafing and rubbing and we did find these to be highly comfortable during long runs and swimrun antics.
Unlike other compression socks, these did not fall down thanks to the silicone dots places inside the sock which provide a secure grip on the shin. Overall, these socks felt supportive and good quality, the gradiated compression seeming to do a good job at reducing post-run inflammation.
Swimrunners Compression Sock
Complete with pading around the sole and top of the foot, these Swimrunners compression socks are made with comfort in mind. Arch support is provided by slight compression starting at the midfoot, which increases up the calf sleeve, being tightest around the main calf muscles.
These socks felt comfortable when on and helped to avoid blisters when on the trails, and when used in a swimrun training session. Our calves felt secure and the compression helped reduce swelling during hard sessions, the light fabric also felt fairly breathable without feeling too thin or breakable.
These socks are a good option for those who prefer socks over calf guards for compression, and are after a pair that can perform in a downpour or after a swim, as well as being a useful option for post-session recovery.
2XU Vectr Cushion Full Length Sock
Designed not only to compress for recovery, these also come with X-LOCK technology for plantar fascia and shin protection during your run. Zonal mesh and cushioning securely hold the foot in place.
CEP Run Compression Socks 3.0
Primed to stimulate active recovery during or after running, these long compression socks from CEP have a structured geometry to optimise blood supply and comfort.
Riixo Calf Cuff
The innovative Riixo cuffs work to compress your calves while further reducing inflammation and tightness. No need to plug into an energy source, the cuffs function by either heating or freezing before use.
Top image by Getty Images