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Compression Clothing

Mirandah Hanson investigates if compression clothing helps athletes run faster.

Compression gear is the latest running hit. Everything from socks to tights is now produced in a way that it grips tightly around the runner’s body. There is scientific evidence that such gear can help athletes perform better, but the runners themselves are the ones who give the final ruling. So, is compression clothing helping to assist athletes in running faster, and in which ways?

A slight speed boost

Apart from health benefits and injury prevention, compression gear can help you be faster. Scientific research brought to light two main benefits runners gets from compression gear. Firstly, the aerobic threshold is slightly increased. This means that lactic acid will accumulate and reach the point some 5% slower than it usually would. The result is a slight increase in endurance.

The second benefit of compression gear is the enhancement of VO2max. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is also connected with the lactate threshold. It regulates the oxygen uptake to your lungs after the threshold has been reached. All in all, the boost you get from compression gear is relatively slight, but in professional running, increased endurance by 1% can result in 2 seconds shorter final run time, which is not a small thing.

Preventing injuries altogether

To avoid the dubious placebo effect, it would be best that runners did not get injured in the first place. There are ways to prevent running injuries, and compression gear is one of them. Apart from changing your training routine, compression gear like socks or sleeves can help fix the muscles into position.

As a result, they are less likely to become dislocated, which significantly decreases the chances of injury while running. The next time you twist your ankle, compression socks might be that one factor that will prevent serious injury. This is one of the many benefits of compression clothing.

The placebo effect

Runners who have had an injury or are recovering from an exhausting race prefer to wear compression gear, especially socks and leggings. They do this although science had reputedly failed to provide enough evidence to confirm that compression gear has any physiological effect in recovery. However, not a single measure of the placebo effect that compression gear has. Mental recovery is just as important as the physical one. Wearing compression socks or pants gives the athlete a sense of control over their recovery, which in the end still has a positive effect on the recovery process.

The right pieces of clothing

We have already mentioned that nearly every piece of clothing runners wear can be compression gear. Amateur runners are often faced with the dilemma of which pieces of clothing to buy. The part of your body that suffers the most will benefit the most from wearing compression gear. In most cases, this is the leg area, so compression tights are ideal for glutes, calf, and quads.

Male runners like to wear compression pants to prevent hip injury and ladies prefer to wear compression tights that cover a larger body area. When it comes to leg and foot comfort, then compressions socks are the perfect solution. They help the feet feel more comfortable by providing more space within the shoe, alleviating any soreness and swelling.

No magic solution

In short, compression gear does help runners. Athletes who wear compression pants or sleeves will benefit from a slight increase in speed, injury prevention, and more effective post-race recovery. However, none of these benefits can be considered as a permanent solution to any running problem. It would help if you still had a physio in case of an injury and you need to train harder to achieve better results. Compression gear is just an aid and not a magic pill that will make you injury-resistant or super-fast.

If you ever get a chance to purchase good-quality compression gear, take it. It will not produce instant magical results, but it will tune your body to make you a better runner, and more importantly, you will experience fewer injuries.


Page Reference

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  • HANSON, M. (2019) Compression Clothing [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article510.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Mirandah Hanson is a freelance journalist.