Top athletes are sporting them: more and more sportsmen and women can be seen wearing knee-high compression socks. That goes for the Olympic games, many running events and several other types of sport; running – triathlon – athletics – ball sports – speed ice-skating – skiing.
Socks with a defined compression have a positive effect on performance and regeneration before, during and after sporting activities. If you pay attention you will notice that today more and more athletes are wearing socks with compression when they run through the winning posts.
However, not every compression sock offers the same level of effective support.. Only some of the manufacturers have the benefit of years of experience in medical compression therapy and have optimized their products for the special needs of competitive sportsmen and women.
Compression sports socks should have the following advantages:
– stimulate the blood circulation
– can increase performance through a better oxygen supply
– aid in regeneration
– help to stabilize the muscles
– reduce muscle vibration
– improve proprioception
– can help prevent injury
In order to achieve these aims two of the properties of the sports compression socks are of prime importance:
The aim of compression socks is to improve the supply of oxygen-enriched blood to the muscles. How is this achieved? In order to understand this one must know the effect of medical compression on the body and the blood circulatory system.
The Compression Gradient
As well as the strength of compression pressure, the correct pressure gradient is essential. The blood needs to be transported out of the calf back to the heart – against the pressure of gravity.
Therefore, the pressure needs to be strongest at the ankle (the furthest point of the calf from the heart) and to drop off gradually as it goes upwards.
What does partial compression mean?
As to my knowledge “partial compression” is related to the marketing terminology of just one compression sport sock producer. The desired effect of compression for sportsmen and women (leaving aside the stabilising effect) is to achieve a better supply of oxygen to the muscles through the blood circulation. This involves a faster transport of ‘used’ blood from one’s legs, which can then be enriched with oxygen and transported back to one’s muscles.
In order to achieve this, as well as a sufficient strength of compression, the compression must be at a falling GRADIENT (or anatomically / medically graded). This means that at the lowest point (here one’s ankle) the compression is strongest and falls off as it goes up the calf. In this way the blood is transported back to the heart faster. If the pressure were stronger at the top than at the bottom, this would obstruct the backflow of blood to the heart. The socks would then cut into one’s skin and the effect would be counterproductive.
For this reason, there is never “partial” versus “full” compression. There is only effective compression.
Some so-called compression socks have the same amount of pressure throughout the sock. This does not help to speed up the desired backflow of the blood supply, but at least it isn’t harmful. However, if the backflow is stopped or disrupted (partial compression), it is hard to imagine a positive effect on the oxygen supply.
– Before training or competitions to avoid heavy legs, on long journeys and to activate the muscles
– During training or competitions for better blood circulation, more energy and as an injury prophylaxis
– After training or competitions for a speedy regeneration (for faster lactate decomposition through better blood circulation)
In comparison to “normal” sport socks the compression socks are not really cheap.
Depending on the brand and type you choose you will face costs from on $40 upwards per pair. However you need to consider, that if the socks are well made, they will last much longer and of course you will take profit from the above mentioned advantages. Enjoy running!
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