If you’re a runner, especially a competitive one, your goal is to run faster or longer. Hopefully, you do it without becoming injured too. There are lots of drills you can do to improve running speed and increase stamina and endurance, but here’s a tip you might not have considered – the stockings you wear.
According to research, putting on a pair of compression stockings when you run could give you an advantage during your training sessions. You might think compression stockings are stockings that people wear when they have varicose veins or other vein problems. Yes, compression stockings help people with varicosities in their legs, and reduce leg discomfort and fatigue, but they may help you run faster too.
What a Study Showed about Compression Stocking and Running Speed
It’s reassuring when running advice is backed by science. To determine the effects of compression stockings on running performance, researchers asked 21 male runners to run on a treadmill. Half of the men wore compression stockings that stopped just below their knees. The other half wore no stockings. The results? The guys who wore the compression stockings ran faster than those with bare calves and they reached a greater maximal speed.
Another study found that runners who wore compression stockings improved their running economy and efficiency and had an increased time to exhaustion. Some studies also show that runners who wear compression stockings experience less muscle soreness and inflammation after a running workout. However, research is conflicting, and not all studies demonstrated this benefit. Some show wearing compression stockings has no effect on markers of muscle inflammation and soreness and even question whether wearing them improves running performance. Still, there’s enough anecdotal evidence, combined with research, that they may be worth wearing. One theory as to how they reduce soreness is they support the lower leg so there’s less vibration in the muscle when the leg strikes the ground.
How Compression Stockings Work
Compression stockings apply light pressure to your calves and give them added support. The extra compression these stockings offer supports the veins in your calves and helps return blood back to the heart. That’s how they help people with varicose veins. The added support and pressure the stockings provide keeps blood from pooling in the calves and placing added stress on the veins.
Compression stockings may improve performance for runners too; however, the stockings for runners are constructed in a different way. Since there are two types of compression stockings, be sure you’re choosing ones designed for runners. Stockings for supporting varicose veins apply varying amounts of compression to the calf muscles, while compression stockings for runners apply constant pressure to the calves. The pressure from the stocking gives the calf muscles more support, thereby increasing the efficiency of running. It’s the constant pressure that makes a difference for runners.
Should You Wear Them?
Compression stockings come in a variety of colors and designs, but should you wear them? There are a variety of upsides to wearing compression stockings when you run. They may improve your performance and give you a performance advantage and also help you recover faster after a workout. In the winter, they provide an extra layer of protection against the elements.
The key is to choose compression stockings that apply constant and graduated pressure to the lower legs. An effective compression stocking will apply the most pressure to the base of the leg, at the ankle, and decrease pressure as the stocking moves up the calf. You’ll need to buy them from a store that specializes in running gear or a retailer that deals in running equipment online. You might discover that you like the extra support they give your lower legs too.
Are they worth the investment, despite the conflicting studies? Some of the fastest, competitive runners wear them and swear by their benefits. That’s not exactly scientific evidence, but it doesn’t hurt to get advice from people who run competitively and who have mastered the art and science of running. Give them a try and see if they improve your running performance.