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Compression Socks

Do they help to reduce muscle soreness or improve return blood flow after running?

Compression stockings are a popular clothing item for endurance athletics including running, cycling and triathlon athletes. Runners often wear them on the legs during running training and competition or after a race. The belief with the use of the stockings is that they help to reduce muscle soreness and increase the return of venous blood flow in the legs. Manufacturers claim that the garments improve running performance by increasing this venous blood flow return. They also claim: to give athletes “more strength and endurance on your runs, to improve your recover times in between runs, and to keep your muscles better protected against injury”.

Recent research however does not support these claims. A recent study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy compared 34 experienced runners, one group(17 people) wore conventional socks and the other wore foot-to-knee graduated compression stockings(17people). They tested the runners before and after a marathon for blood work to test the amounts of muscle fiber damage, leg muscle power and jump height. The total race time was similar for both groups of runners. The researchers found no difference between the groups for any of these measures. They determined that the use of compression stockings did not improve running pace and did not prevent exercise induced muscle damage.[1] They did state that the use of these stockings may provide the subjective improvement of feelings of pain and increased muscle strength.

Another study by Bovenschen et al[2] “found that wearing compression stockings during a 10K running race prevented an increase in lower-leg volume just after the exercise, but this effect disappeared only 5 minutes after the end of running.”

The use of compression stockings for runners does not demonstrate harmful effects and may provide the runner feelings of improved performance or reduced pain. However, the research does not support these feelings. The use of compression stockings for running is a personal preference and may provide psychological benefits. The stockings are significantly more expensive than traditional socks (approximately $50 a pair) and runners should be aware of the limited benefit of this trend in running garments.


[1] Areces F,Salinero J,Abian-Vicen J,et al. The use of compression stockings during a marathon competition to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage: are they really useful? Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2015;45:6:462-470.

[2] Bovenschen HJ, Booij MT, van der Vleuten CJ. Graduated compression stockings for runners: friend, foe or fake? J Athl Train. 2013;48:226-232.