Compression socks have been around for a very long time, but they were usually reserved for elderly people trying to fight off varicose veins, and diabetics who wanted to prevent deep vein thrombosis. So why has there been a huge upsurge in their popularity with runners? In this article we will investigate what compression socks are, whether they work or not, and we will identify five of the best compression socks that are currently on the market.
Five of the Best Compression Socks
What are Compression Socks?
Also known as compression stockings, compression socks have been used in the medical field since the 1930s with the practice becoming common in the 1940s . But the use of compression as a treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) dates back to at least the middle ages, and perhaps as far back as the Ancient Greeks .
They work by compressing the legs and preventing distended veins from expanding. This increases blood flow through the veins and can help maintain the health of your veins. The socks can be used to treat a number of different medical issues such as DVT, Varicose veins, Edemas, and Phlebitis, plus a whole host of lesser issues. They are also often recommended to pregnant women to prevent swollen ankles and leg pain.
One of the first increases in compression sock popularity among the general public came about when the fear of contracting DVT while flying reached its peak. Before the 90s nobody knew what DVT was, now everyone was wearing compression socks and demanding to be allowed to walk up and down the aisles on long-haul flights.
Why do Runners wear them?
Running is one of the most popular sports/pastimes there is, and it continues to increase in popularity. As its numbers swell there has been more focus on ways to improve the performance and the comfort levels of long distance runners (both amateur and professional). Recently there have been a lot of studies looking at compression socks as a way to improve long distance running performance, and recovery.
Studies have shown that wearing compression socks can improve running performance at different metabolic thresholds (intensities) . Studies also found that runners’ comfort levels improved while wearing them , and that runners were able to maintain leg power for longer when wearing the socks . Other studies have looked at the ability of compression socks to improve muscle recovery  and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness .
Bottom Line: While there is a lot of debate about whether compression socks will actually help you run faster, there seems to be sufficient evidence that compression socks improve comfort while running and recovery from long distance running. They can also be used to combat deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins.
Should I buy compression socks?
This depends on your level of running, if you have gone running less than ten times in a year then no compression socks are not worth it. They probably won’t be too much use for short distance runners or walkers either. Almost all of the studies that have found them to be effective have been performed on distance runners competing in 10km races, up to marathons.
If you do run long distances, and particularly if you are training for a race (where lots of practice runs are required) then compression socks are the perfect accessory. As an amateur runner you will need a lot of recovery, particularly during the initial stages and wearing compression socks the day after a race will really help you to feel better.
While you are running, wearing compression socks will help you feel more comfortable, more secure, and there may even be an improvement in your performance. Just the simple act of wearing a well fitted piece of clothing can improve your confidence, and being comfortable is a great way to start increasing your intensity.
What to look for when purchasing compression socks
The main thing that you should be looking for in a compression sock is the level of tightness, you see different compression levels have different purposes. You’ve got mild compression which is a tightness of 8-15mmHg (mmHg stands for millimetre of mercury which is the standard measurement of pressure) this is good for recovery from exercise, wearing on planes, and reduction in aches and pains.
Then there is moderate compression (15-20mmHg) which can be used while running to improve comfort and perhaps performance. After that there is firm compression (20-30mmHg) which is the compression level often used by long distance runners and people suffering from medical conditions (varicose veins etc). The final level is extra firm compression (30-40mmHg) which is used for more severe medical conditions, if you need these then it is best to have them custom fitted by a professional.
Other things to look out for are how comfortable they are, how they look (they’re still clothes after all) and their durability. Our reviews will focus on all three of these areas son that you don’t have to!
The Best Compression Socks
Why there are several products in the market, here are the best compression socks for triathlon!
Go2 compression socks are perfect for long distance running, they have a tightness of 20-30mmHg which is classified as firm. They have underfoot cushioning which is a really nice addition to the socks, and will help you to feel even more comfortable while running. The socks have a number of different colour styles, ranging from plain blue to polka dot, and bright striped patterns too (for all you exhibitionists out there).
The socks are of a high quality and can even be tumble dried – something that many compression socks cannot. Just make sure that it is on a low temperature! The socks use blended fabrics which is essential for reducing bacteria growth and helps keep them smelling fresh. Go2 offer a 100% guarantee that you will be satisfied with your purchase and that the socks will last you for a long time, or your money back.
The next socks on our list are slightly different, they have a lower compression rating which means they are better suited for recovery and reduction of aches and pains. They can still be effective while running though, but aren’t quite as tight only managing 15-20mmHg. These are the perfect introductory socks for people who are a little nervous of trying them.
The socks are a lot more businesslike in design with only a few colour options to choose from. They are great value though and come in packs of seven. If you like your socks to be simple black, blue, white, or brown designs, then these socks are going to suit you well. They are made from 40-80% nylon and are incredibly flexible, making them perfect for wearing in a gym.
The socks are also very breathable, and allow a lot of air in and out, which will really help keep your feet cool. BlueTree also offer a guarantee that if you are not 100% satisfied you can ask for an exchange or refund, no questions asked.
SB Sox are the next company whose socks we like, these are a firm fit (20-30mmHg) just like the Go2 compression socks that we looked at earlier. This means that they are perfect for wearing during long runs, and will also help you when you want to recover the next day. The socks use graduated compression which is where they are tighter towards the bottom of the sock and become less tight the higher up they are.
The socks benefit from reinforced (and well cushioned) heels and toes. They use material that is anti-odour and anti-static which means that they can be worn without shoes on carpets without giving you electric shocks all day. They also use moisture wicking technology which draws the sweat out of your feet and prevents odour. The design is very nice, a two colour combination where the heels, toe, and upper part of the sock are a lighter colour to the dark toned rest of the sock.
The fourth compression socks on our list are probably the most fun looking of all the socks. While A-Swift have made some of their socks one-colour and boring, they also have lots of beautifully patterned and vibrant socks. The socks are not just a pretty design though, they come with 20-30mmHg pressure and are graduated (just like the previous pair by SB Sox) so that they are tighter round the ankle and less tight round the calf.
The socks also come with a free eBook titled “Let’s play tennis” … which may be of use to a very small percentage of sock buyers but is still a nice (if slightly eccentric) touch. Like the other socks on this list they are anti-odor and anti-fungal in design, but unlike the others they have been designed to regulate temperature – cold in hot weather and warm in cold weather. They do this through the use of silver yarn anti-bacterial fabric.
The final socks on our list are from Physix Gear Sport. They are very similar in design to the SB Sox compression socks but with a few more colour combinations to choose from. They are amazingly comfortable to wear, perhaps the best of all five choices in that regard. They use graduated compression like some of the other socks on this list, and are very durable in design.
The socks also use moisture wicking technology to keep your feet dry, this can really help you on long runs because sweaty feet can slip around inside your shoes which can cause blisters, discomfort, and reduce your effectiveness. Lycra has been woven into the sock to increase flexibility and durability, and it also makes the socks easier to put on. The socks are firm and are 20-30mmHg in pressure.
It’s difficult to pick a winner out of these five products, partly because they are all excellent, but also because they will appeal to different people for different reasons. The BlueTree compression socks are the least firm in pressure making them a great introductory choice, they are also very breathable and would be perfect for moving about in.
The Physix Gear Sport compression socks may be the best socks in terms of quality, but it isn’t by very much. While the A-Swift compression socks are the most fun looking and aesthetically pleasing socks on this list. Whichever sock you choose, you’re going to enjoy a lot and hopefully you’ll be able to run faster, recover better, and look even more fashionable than you already do!