Should Runners Wear Compression Socks?

Serious athletes, including runners, are always interested in ways to hone their skills and improve performance. Something relatively new to the runners’ scene is the use of compression socks. Compression hosiery has long had benefits in the treatment and prevention of vein disease and other circulatory system conditions. Now, there may be some evidence to suggest that knee-length compression socks can help runners both during and after running.

Running Socks Ames WalkerThere’s been a lot of research on the subject, studying the effects of compression socks on performance and recovery. Results are mixed, due in part to the variations in studies–some taking place in the lab, some on the track–and the variations in the type of socks used. Results literally vary from study to study, with some finding improved performance and some seeing no difference at all.

But some runners swear by them, including Chris Solinksky, an American 10,000 meter former record holder and other top runners like Paula Radcliffe, the current women’s world record holder in the marathon; Jo Pavey, a 4-time Olympian; and Benitta Johnson, an Australian long-distance runner. The theory behind the performance benefits is that graduated compression increases oxygen delivery to the muscles, improves blood circulation to the heart and speeds the removal of lactic acid. According to The Science of Running, another theory is that compression socks may decrease muscle vibration caused by impact. It’s possible this decreased vibration can lessen the soreness most runners experience as well as improve leg power.

When it comes to performance, various studies contradict each other, with some saying there’s measurable performance benefits and others saying there’s no difference between wearing compression socks and not wearing them.

However, there’s much more agreement about the recovery benefits. No one is exactly sure why, but compression seems to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue and produce faster lactate recovery. Some athletes use compression socks for workouts before a race as well as to speed recovery afterwards. Chris Solisky was quoted on Competitor, an online running site, as saying, ”I found I was able to come off the workouts much, much quicker.” He wears the socks during rigorous workouts and while racing.

OK, so do compression socks work or don’t they? The studies lean toward a positive effect on reducing muscle soreness and recovery time. One thing they do agree on is that for compression to have any benefit at all, it must be graduated, with pressure greatest at the ankle and gradually decreasing.

While they may or may not improve performance, many athletes swear by compression socks, claiming all those recovery benefits and a reduction in soreness and calf strain. And knowing that elite runners use them increases their popularity within the sport. The bottom line is, there have been absolutely no adverse effects reported, so there’s no reason not to see if they give you the edge.

There’s an in-depth examination of compression garments and sports from the Phase IV Health & Performance Center. If you’d like to try compression socks for yourself, Ames Walker has an extensive collection of compression socks and other products that may enhance athletic performance.

The Benefits of Compression Hose During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, while your body is going through so many changes, the last thing you want to deal with is the sudden onset of varicose veins. And accompanying that may be aching, heavy, tired legs. Even if you’ve never experienced this before, it’s fairly common in pregnancy: varicose veins occur in about 30% of first time pregnancies and 55% of subsequent pregnancies.

What causes this?

There are several reasons for the onset of varicose veins during pregnancy. As the uterus enlarges, it adds pressure to the veins in your legs. Also, the blood volume in your body increases and that can cause veins in the lower extremities to work less effectively sending blood back to your heart. As if that weren’t enough, the hormonal changes during pregnancy can also increase clotting or cause the walls of blood vessels to relax, reducing circulation.

For many women, varicose veins are bothersome without being painful and tend to ease after pregnancy. But there are a few serious, although rare, complications. One is DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein. This clot can break loose and move into your lungs, which blocks blood flow, leading to a pulmonary embolism. Again, this is rare, affecting only about 1 in 1,000 women.Varicose Veins Ames Walker

 

Varicose veins and complications such as DVT are more common when some of these conditions apply:

  • Obesity
  • A family history of DVT or pulmonary embolism
  • Repeated miscarriages
  • Carrying twins or multiples
  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Preeclampsia

What Can I do?

Luckily, there are several ways to ease the discomfort of varicose veins and reduce the risk of DVT.

Daily exercise, even a good walk, can improve circulation.

Maternity Panty Hose Ames Walker

According to a study in Swiss Medical Weekly, while compression stockings may not be able to prevent the onset of varicose veins during pregnancy, they can significantly reduce symptoms and help prevent more serious complications.

What Should I Wear & How?

For starters, you’ll want real compression tights or stockings, not just regular hosiery branded as ‘support hose.’ The best type of compression hose uses graduated compression, which has stronger compression at the ankle then gradually decreases as it moves up the leg. This has the effect of helping blood move more efficiently back to the heart.

Compression hose comes in various degrees of compression, measured from lower to higher with a measurement called mmhg. The lowest degree is 15-20, ranging to the strongest of 30-40 mmhg. If you don’t already have varicose veins, try starting with the lowest level of support. You don’t necessarily need full-length tights, although they are probably the most useful. Other styles include knee-highs and thigh-highs.

To keep blood from pooling, it’s best to put on compression hose before you get out of bed in the morning. They’re not as easy to put on as regular tights, so you might want to follow some tips from the National Institutes of Health. If they’re easy to put on, they’re either the wrong size or have worn out. Don’t wear your compression hose to bed at night, but do keep them close at hand for the morning.

Let’s talk about aesthetics for a minute. Although pregnancy is supposed to make us ‘glow,’ you may be feeling a little unwieldy and grumbly about your appearance. Compression tights are not a fashion statement. For the most part, they’re more opaque than regular pantyhose and they may feel hot in warm weather. Wear them anyway. Varicose veins and the more serious complications are a lot worse than being slightly less than fashionable and a little uncomfortable. And your legs will thank you.

Ames Walker has a good selection of maternity compression hose from light to firm compression. Some are relatively sheer and are offered in several skin tone colors as well as black.

Diabetes and Foot Health

As anyone with diabetes knows, managing the illness involves a lot more than diet. Among the many related issues caused by high blood sugar is the real possibility of damage to nerve fibers, especially in the extremities. This nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy. According to WebMD, if you have diabetes, you have a 60% chance of developing neuropathy and even people with pre-diabetic conditions can develop pain, tingling, numbness and nerve damage in legs and feet. Because less oxygen reaches the feet, there’s also an increased risk of infection and skin ulcers. So it’s important to be proactive, take good care of your feet and be alert for any changes.

What Can I Do?

Start by getting into the habit of good foot care. Don’t wait until something hurts or worse, until you can’t feel pain, hot or cold in your feet. The National Institutes of Health offers some good guidelines, including these:

  1. Wash your feet daily with warm water and dry them carefully.
  2. Check your feet every day for any swelling, cuts, redness, hot spots, bumps, etc. Don’t just rely on what you can feel, since neuropathy can cause numbness.
  3. Keep feet and toenails groomed, cutting toenails and filing corns and callouses.
  4. Be careful about exercise, since some activities may be harmful. Consult with your diabetes specialist to make a good exercise plan.
  5. Wear shoes or slippers to protect your feet from injury and wear soft seamless socks to prevent irritation.

 

Diabetic Crew Socks Ames WalkerSpeaking of Socks, What Are Diabetic Socks?

Because diabetics are at a higher risk of skin ulcers and infection, it’s a good idea to wear socks specifically constructed to aid in protecting your feet. Diabetic socks are typically densely padded to protect against injury. They’re also seamless or have flat seams to prevent bunching and to increase comfort. Diabetic socks should be non-binding and are often designed with non-elasticized cuffs.

Moisture increases the risk of infection, so a good diabetic sock is breathable, allowing air to circulate and keeping feet warm in winter and cool in summer. According to DiabetesJournals.org, there’s no consensus on fabrics. What’s important is moisture control and there are benefits to both acrylics and natural fabrics like cotton and wool. Many diabetic socks are white or light-colored; the theory being that a light color makes it easier to spot any draining wound. What everyone does agree on, however, is that the socks be comfortable. So, when selecting diabetic socks, look for padding, smooth or minimal seams, non-binding cuffs, moisture control and breathability.

After that, it’s just a matter of preference. Anklets are great for casual wear and sporting activity. Classic crew socks are always appropriate for both men and women. Knee-length socks may have the added benefit of graduated compression, which improves blood circulation.

Ulcer Care Stockings Ames Walker

There are even specialty socks constructed specifically for ulcer care. These consist of liners and knee-high outer stockings to help manage edema.

We know that managing diabetes requires a holistic approach to diet, exercise, lifestyle choices and more. But don’t let leg and foot health get lost in all of that. The real risk of neuropathy and infection can be lessened by practicing good foot care and by checking regularly for injuries or changes. Diabetic socks are a great aid in your foot health plan.