Why all runners should use compression
Having a pair of compression socks or tights can come in handy in activating your blood flow
In sports, athletes are always looking to wear the lightest and most comfortable gear to gain a competitive advantage. Compression has been used since the 1950s, but now, modern garments are used for performance benefits and to accelerate recovery.
Born in Australia in 2005, 2XU (Two Times You) was driven by an obsession with performance fabrics. Focused on engineering the most advanced compression gear on the market, 2XU carefully design every garment to improve preparation, performance, and recovery.
What is compression?
Compression is a tight elastic garment that fits snugly on your body to provide wrapping pressure and increase blood flow during exercise. The benefits of compression socks and tights are derived from their use, which enhances performance and recovery.
Top-of-the-line compression tights like the well-known 2XU brand, produce tights that offer graduated compression, which applies tighter pressure near your ankle and less compression as the sock moves up the leg. This way, the socks naturally help to push blood back up the leg from the ankle to the thigh and the rest of the body as a way of counteracting blood pooling, clots and leg swelling.
Why do you need it?
Compression assists blood circulation by helping push fluids out of your legs. When wearing, it creates a ‘pressure gradient’ by fitting snugly around your foot, ankle and calf, preventing swelling and increased fatigue after a long day’s work or activity.
Compression is essential for post-exercise recovery and reduces soreness by applying pressure directly to the muscle, which stimulates blood flow and allows blood to return to the heart faster. Studies have demonstrated that wearing compression socks during exercise and recovery can reduce muscle soreness in your legs.
In a study done by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), performance compression brands offer gains of several seconds over a 5K race, which can help reduce your heart rate and increase your blood flow by approximately 18 per cent.
The science behind compression
Your veins that pump blood to your muscles during exercise have a system of valves that allow your blood to flow back and forth to your heart. Compression puts pressure on these muscles to help these valves work more efficiently, while also preventing blood from pooling.
The use of compression can affect the body’s entire cycle of blood flow, which has been proven to show an increase in blood flow of up to 40 per cent during a 30-minute activity. Increased performance isn’t the only benefit of compression, as it increases recovery by up to 30 per cent after exercise, which means nutrients and oxygen are sent out quickly to your muscles again, since blood is returning to your heart faster.
When should you wear compression?
Compression is widely popular in endurance sports and for distance runners but has also been used by athletes in the NBA, MLB and AFL. The benefits of compression socks during sporting activities are substantial: improving oxygen delivery, increasing blood flow and decreasing soreness. Socks also reduce the amount of stress and strain you are putting on the muscles while road running.
Distance runners will wear a compression sock during longer runs to prevent soft tissue damage, like shin splints. Shin splits start as dull muscle aches in the shins and then slowly progress into mild “shooting pains” and swelling. Often, they can become so uncomfortable that it’s hard to even stand or walk without experiencing throbbing pain. The best way to combat shin splints is to rest, but wrapping your shins with a compression sock or tights can improve your blood flow and reduce muscular stress on impact.
The use of compression can speed up recovery time and reduce soreness after a strenuous workout or sport, aiding in reducing swelling and improving circulation in your feet and legs. The idea behind using it for recovery is to help you bounce back faster, so you can focus on your goals or performance.
Intense periods of training and competition can cause wear and tear to your muscles, which can lead to a condition known as DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Compression is leading the way in enhancing recovery and combating DOMS to help your body perform at its highest level.
Compression helps reduce blood circulation problems like vasodilation when on an airplane. Vasodilation is common for air travellers, as the relaxing of the muscles from cabin pressure causes the blood capillaries near the skin to expand. Putting on compression before travelling will boost blood flow in your legs and calves, therefore your legs aren’t as tight when you arrive at your destination.
While sitting/standing for long hours
If you sit or stand for long periods during the day, compression socks or tights can activate blood flow back toward the heart. Sitting or standing for a long time can cause fluid retention in the legs and ankles, which may cause muscle inactivity or swelling of the legs.