Know Your Tech: Compression Apparel for Runners

compression-apparel You might have seen the bright colored socks, tights, or sleeves either on a recent run or race. That’s compression apparel and it’s not necessarily about fashion but rather function.


If you’ve found yourself wondering if compression apparel is right for your running, then this post will help answer:

  • How does compression apparel work for a running performance?
  • How can it reduce soreness?
  • How can it improve recovery?
  • Who makes compression apparel?

What is Compression Technology?

Let’s level set first. Compression technology has been shown to improve an athlete’s performance before, during and after workouts. How that’s done is through improved blood circulation to the heart and lymph nodes. This kind of circulation prevents blood clots and swelling in parts of the body like the ankles.  The trend of compression gear is still popular as others swear by it, but some experts aren’t so sure the technology delivers the benefits promised – more on this later.

Compression Apparel and Its Impact on Running

Runners use what’s called graduated compression apparel because of the positive pressure it supplies back to the heart. The other impact is that blood vessels are squeezed bringing more blood and oxygen to the muscle that’s under compression.  [source] The intended effect of this pressure is to run faster and improve performance. If you’re wearing compression socks, you’re anticipating increase blood flow between the ankle and knee. The idea is that compression reduces muscle fatigue allowing for better performance.

Reduced Soreness

With improved performance due to better blood circulation, what happens after you’re done running? A benefit is reduced soreness. When you run, your foot strikes the ground creating vibrations through your muscles that are working. This vibration damages the muscle creating post-run soreness. Compression apparel secures the muscles used and prevents soreness from happening.

Improved Recovery

There’s a lot of debate here. Compression apparel for recovery aims to create extra blood flow and removing metabolic waste. The impact is that you’re supposed to feel refreshed and ready for the next workout…faster. Recently, ultra runner Dean Karnazes made the case that whole recovery period might be over-hyped. The need for compression apparel might not deliver what’s promised. Now Dean is accomplished runner – he’s done 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. If anyone knows about recovery, it’s Dean. There’s still plenty of debate to be had as even Dean backtracks at the end of his post. He doesn’t necessarily discourage anyone from using compression or other methods. He’s just not sold on the idea.

Who Makes Compression Apparel?

There’s a pretty healthy market for compression apparel. Here are some of the names to look for if you’re considering a purchase:

Final Thoughts

While the benefits of compression apparel look promising, there are the naysayers out there. Compression is one of the technologies that can really only be validated by you. For every study out there supports compression, there are just as many that will go against it. Brands will certainly make a strong case for their product, but does it deliver?

From a performance standpoint, I believe there are some advantages. Improved blood circulation and muscle stability are key benefits that make compression gear attractive to runners.

When it comes to recovery, I’m not completely convinced that compression technology lives up to its promises. I think Dean Karnazes makes a few interesting points that are hard to ignore.

Your turn. What are your experiences with compression apparel? Leave comment and thanks for reading! 

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