What Do Compression Socks Do?

You often see them worn by runners. And these come in different colors – black, white, and sometimes in fun, neon colors and bright patterns. Some athletes wouldn’t imagine playing sport without them. But what do compression socks do? What can they offer besides a fashion statement? Behind these pair of elastics is a medical aid for the lower legs that helps prevent complications of poor blood circulation and improve conditions associated with blood vessel problems. Compression socks also help athletes ultimately improve their performance not only by promoting circulation but also by reducing recovery time and regulating temperature.

What are Compression Socks and How Do They Work?

People are able to maintain and enhance their lifestyle in the midst of active living, thanks to the compression technology that provides them with necessary support through compression garments. Before it became popular among runners, compression socks were initially worn by people who had blood vessel problems in the legs and had forced inactivity. Eventually these became a prescription for people who had to sit for a long periods of time, such as those who are traveling on long periods


Compression socks are tight, especially at the bottom part. These are usually made of a strong elastic and spandex. The strength of the elastic gets weaker as it goes up the leg. They are designed to put extra pressure on the feet, ankles, and calves.

More than Just Style

So why do athletes, people with blood vessel problems, and inactive people wear compression socks? People wear them mainly because of one thing – blood circulation. Generally, compression socks prevent and address problems associated with poor circulation in the legs. The compression helps fight the effects of gravity and assist the body in venous return, in which deoxygenated blood flows back up to your heart. This means preventing the blood from pooling in the lower legs that can cause varicose veins and leg swelling.

What are the Benefits of Compression Socks?

Aside from making you look more stylish, compression socks can provide benefits including the following:

  • Improves circulation in lower legs
  • Speeds up muscle recovery
  • Regulates temperature

For Circulation in Lower Legs

The main function of compression socks is to improve blood flow in your legs. They gently squeeze your legs so that the blood will move up, helping to prevent leg swelling and to a lesser extent, blood clots. Aside from athletes, other people who can benefit from compression socks are:
  • People with varicose veins
  • People with spider veins
  • People with deep vein thrombosis
  • Patients who just had surgery
  • Inactive people, particularly those who spend hours just sitting or standing

Deep Vein Thrombosis and Compression Socks

Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in the body, which can cause pain and swelling. According to Mayo Clinic, compression socks help prevent swelling associated with deep vein thrombosis. The pressure helps reduce the likelihood that your blood will pool and clot.

Compression Socks for Hospitalised Patients and Sitting or Standing Workers

Post-operative and inactive hospitalised patients were seen to benefit from wearing compression socks, according to a 2010 study. Another study even recommends high-risk surgical patients to wear them. If you have a job where you sit and stand throughout your work hours, compression socks are for you. A 2004 study recommends these socks for people with profession that involves long periods of sitting or standing.

For Faster Muscle Recovery

If you’re a runner, there’s another reason for you to wear compression socks. Your aching legs and feet will thank you for it. Your muscles get to recover faster. Because compression socks promote blood circulation, it also promotes better circulation of oxygen which helps reduce lactic acid build up. Research has shown that compression garments may promote blood lactate removal and therefore enhance recovery during periods after strenuous exercise.

Reduced Blood Lactate and Increased Performance

The benefits of compression socks in terms of muscle recovery were shown in studies involving cyclists. A 1987 study showed a significant decrease of blood lactate in cyclists wearing compression socks and a 2004 study showed better performance after more than an hour of rest. But it doesn’t stop there. Those cyclists from 2004 study were elderly cyclists!

For Temperature Control

Another great benefit of compression socks is that they help regulate temperature. These socks keep you warm in a cold environment and cool in a hot environment. Furthermore, temperature does have an effect with sports performance.

The Effect of Temperature in Athletic Performance

Our body has core temperature and skin temperature. Core temperature is the internal or deep body temperature while the skin temperature is basically the temperature of, you guessed it right – skin. When the thermal gradient between the core and the skin is reduced, it can lead to a reduced performance quality and increased risk of injury. This is supported by a 2015 study. It says that graduated compression stockings produce greater increase of temperature not only in the body regions in contact but also in the body regions that were not in contact with the garment. The results were observed among runners who performed two running tests lasting 30 minutes.

Take Care of Your Legs with a Pair of Compression Socks

To sum it up, compression socks go beyond being a flashy attire. More than just making you look cool during sports events, these socks offer you benefits that have been supported by several studies, which include improved lower leg circulation, quicker muscle recovery and temperature control. So whether you’re an athlete or simply a person who is at risk of “heavy” legs, you may want to consider getting a pair of compression socks. It is after all, a cost-effective way to care for your feet and legs.

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