Can compression stockings help you recover faster?

Can compression stockings help you recover faster?

How compression socks work

Compression socks are thought to work in three ways:

it improves your blood circulation

As you know, your heart is the main pump that keeps your blood circulating in your body. It pumps fresh, oxygenated blood into your arteries, circulating all the way to the tips of your fingers and toes.

Due to the powerful action of the heart, blood reaches the extremities relatively easily, where muscles and cells utilize the oxygen and nutrients in the blood. But getting the blood back to the heart is much more difficult -- especially when it has to flow up your legs against gravity. The further the blood is from the heart, the weaker the pump will be.

This is why blood flows back to the heart through veins, which have a one-way valve that prevents blood from flowing back (kind of like a system of locked canals). Your muscles (especially your calf muscles) can also act as pumps when they contract during exercise, helping to pump blood back to your heart.

Have you ever noticed that your ankles get swollen if you sit on a bus or plane for a long time? That's because a lack of exercise (muscle twitching) can cause your blood and fluids to build up in your ankles and feet.

Studies have shown that graduated compression stockings (tighter at the bottom and looser at the top) can increase your venous blood flow and stop blood from building up in your extremities. For athletes, this could mean they can recover faster because they can get rid of exercise-generated waste faster, their muscles get more oxygen, and their muscles swell less (exercise always Will cause some swelling due to microtrauma).

Improve lymphatic drainage

Compression garments can also improve lymphatic drainage. Your lymph vessels carry waste away from your cells and dump it back into your bloodstream so it can be excreted in your urine. If you can improve lymphatic drainage, you can usually improve recovery and healing as well.

it protects your muscles

It has also been suggested that compression garments may help protect muscles during exercise by reducing the impact on them, which in turn helps reduce exercise-induced inflammation, swelling, and muscle damage.

So in theory, compression socks seem to have many benefits for athletes, but what does the research show? Do they provide any clear performance and recovery benefits when tested on athletes?

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Can compression socks improve your performance?

Research on whether compression garments can improve performance is less clear. It seems that different athletes may benefit from compression socks in different ways. Here are some findings:

Slower athletes may benefit more from cycling effects

Who can benefit from wearing compression socks?

In their study looking at blood flow, compression socks were shown to improve blood flow in the lower legs, but only when the participants were exercising at very low levels, such as walking at a speed of less than 6 km/h or riding at less than 120 watts. Row. When they exercised at a higher intensity, their circulatory system didn't seem to gain any benefit from wearing compression socks.

Remember the calf muscle I mentioned above that acts as a pump to pump blood back to the heart when it contracts? The researchers believe that this calf pumping effect becomes so effective when you exercise at a higher intensity that compression socks don't really provide any additional benefit to the circulatory system.


A team of researchers recently collected all the studies done on runners to see if wearing compression stockings while running would do them any good. They found that it did not appear to affect running performance (time for half marathons, 15k trails, 5k and 10k runs, and 400m sprints), oxygen uptake, blood lactate levels, or heart function.

However, they did find some positive effects. Runners who wore compression socks had improved fatigue time (the rate at which a runner tires) and running economy, while their blood measures also showed they had less muscle damage and inflammation after exercise.

soccer player

Full-length compression tights (compared to shorts or socks) were found to be the most effective at reducing muscle damage and inflammation experienced by players during the game. So if your goal is to reduce muscle damage during exercise, you may want to consider wearing a more comprehensive compression garment, not just socks.

When I searched on Amazon, the compression tights below looked like good value for money. But I must admit, I prefer to wear only compression calf sleeves in summer.

Can compression stockings help you recover faster?

Yes, this study sheds more light on the recovery benefits of compression garments.


Several studies have shown that compression stockings can reduce post-exercise pain (DOMS). This is likely because it allows you to get rid of waste faster. There is strong evidence that compression stockings can improve your muscle circulation if you wear them after exercise or at rest.


Athletes using compression garments consistently reported feeling less tired during recovery.

strength, strength, endurance

A common way to test how long an athlete needs to recover is to see how long it takes them to get back to their full strength, power, and endurance before training or competition. Athletes who wore tights recovered faster in strength and explosiveness and more slowly in stamina than those who didn't.

sport type

It seems that the more disruptive a workout is, the greater the recovery benefits of wearing compression socks or tights. For example, the recovery effect after strength training is much greater than when running or cycling.

Do compression stockings prevent injuries?

We don't know yet. I could only find one study that tried to investigate this, but unfortunately it wasn't a very good study.

The researchers sent a questionnaire to 203 trail runners asking them about their training, whether they used compression socks while training and how many injuries they had accumulated during the season. They found that trail runners who wore compression socks while training reported significantly fewer injuries. The problem with this study is that we can't really tell if the difference is entirely down to compression garments, as it could easily boil down to training, fitness, or experience.

Some important things to consider

More is not always better. Compression stockings that are too tight can actually cut off your circulation and have the opposite effect.

Researchers have found that even if you choose compression socks according to the manufacturer's guidelines, they don't always produce the amount of compression they claim to provide. Differences from target pressure have been reported to be between 3% and 20%.

I suggest you don't worry too much about it. Choose your size according to the manufacturer's guidelines and make sure they feel secure but not uncomfortable when worn. If they cause your muscles to cramp or hurt, they're too tight.

If you spend a lot of time standing during the day, you may benefit more from compression socks than other athletes. Gravity makes it harder for your blood to flow back to your heart, and compression can help you overcome this and recover better.

Varicose veins affect your circulation and tend to allow your blood to build up more in your extremities. This means that athletes with varicose veins may benefit more from compression socks than other athletes.

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