So, Does Compression Gear Really Work?

Compression gear promises runners and other endurance athletes improved performance just by what you’re wearing; pull on those tight knee-high socks or running capris and you’ll improve blood and oxygen flow to your muscles| which supposedly will improve your performance and help you nab that personal record. But with some compression gear costing $100 or more| is it worth the investment?

A new study followed a small group of athletes during two workouts| one where they wore calf compression sleeves and one without. In both| oxygen intake and running gait were measured; overall| there was no difference between the two workouts. This finding adds to the debate regarding compression gear and performance; while there have been a few studies that showed a benefit| others have found that compression gear doesn’t make runners any faster or found any difference in V02max or lactic-acid clearance. But an interesting note in the latest study points to a possible placebo effect: of the 16 runners tested| the two who told researchers that they believed compression gear helped their workouts actually did perform better when they wore the calf sleeves.

So| should you shell out the money for gear that may or may not work? If you believe in compression gear| there seems to be no harm in it| and you may just get a small performance boost from the placebo effect or actual physical benefit. Or you can use your compression gear in a way that has been proven to work in studies: as a recovery tool. One study| for example| found that those who wore compression socks 48 hours after an intense workout performed better at treadmill workouts two weeks later than those who didn’t| while another found that 13 of 14 runners who completed a 10K race without wearing compression socks experienced lower leg DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) a day after the run| whereas only two of 14 runners who wore compression socks experienced lower-leg soreness. Bottom line: if it makes you feel better or boosts your confidence about your workout| that’s reason enough to sport your favorite compression gear with pride.

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