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.
Accepted by many to be 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…
How do compression socks work?
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 because 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 calf compression sleeves 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 uncomfortable rubbing.
Calf compression sleeves 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 and triathletes
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 some other compression socks, these did not fall down thanks to the silicone dots places inside the socks, which provide a secure grip on the shin. Overall, these socks felt supportive and good quality, the graduated compression seeming to do a good job at reducing post-run inflammation.
NV Compression Sports Socks
Designed for those who need extra calf support during exercise or suffer from circulatory issues, these calf socks from NV Compression aim to offer graduated compression to speed up oxygen flow to the muscles in order to boost performance and combat fatigue.
They’re made with an ‘ultra padded footbed’ that’s designed to improve running and cycling comfort, while the toe and heel also has extra cushioning and support built-in. These socks are available in four unisex sizes, so there should be a size available for everyone.
Bionix Sports CSX 2.0 Hybrid Compression Socks
Made for sports and to support in style, these Bionix compression socks are certainly some of the most colourful compression wear we’ve seen. They aim to compress the calves and feet, increasing bloodflow to the muscles and speeding up the distribution of waste fluids.
The socks have eight different zones of compression, each of which aim to ‘act as an extra layer of muscle’ to increase bloodflow. The graduated compression works from the bottom up towards the heart. Meanwhile, the 3D Grid Lock Ankle supports aims to add extra cushioning to help avoid blisters or painful rubbing.
Dovava Compression Socks (5 pack)
Why have one pair when you can have five? This pack of Dovava compression socks are designed with a circular textile structure and an advanced ventilated knit to help compress the muscles while remaining breathable.
Graduated compression aims to reduce painful swelling and keep you feeling supported while running or walking. Compression socks can also be great recovery aids to pop on post-session to help speed up muscle recovery and ward off DOMS.
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.
Swimrunners Compression Sock
Complete with padding 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 both 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 prone to damage.
Top image credit: Getty Images