Do Compression Socks Really Work?

Compression socks are no longer just for the elderly. Tons of pro athletes are now wearing them to improve performance and aid in recovery. But do they work? Get-Fit Guy looks at the evidence.

Ben Greenfield
1-minute read

You know those slightly dorky-looking knee high socks that you used to only see old men and Las Vegas waitresses wearing to improve blood flow and avoid varicose veins?

It seems that Olympic athletes and exercise enthusiasts around the globe are now sporting compression socks, and I have to admit that I not only use them when I race triathlons and travel, but I even wear them around the house during the day.

But do they really work?

A study this week entitled “Effect of Compression Stockings on Physiological Responses and Running Performance in Division III Collegiate Cross-Country Runners During a Maximal Treadmill Test” looked into that very question. Using a maximal treadmill test one week with the socks on and the next week with the socks off, the researchers investigated both performance and build-up of lactic acid in participants.

They found no effect on performance, but a decrease in the build-up of lactic acid. Technically, since lactic acid ultimately results in production of the tiny hydrogen ions that make your muscles burn and that can increase the time it takes you to recover, this means that you may not be any faster or work out any harder when you’re wearing compression socks, but you may actually recover faster!

Plus, they just make you look serious about your fitness.

Do you have questions or thoughts about compression socks? Leave your comments over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy.

Runner in compression socks image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.