When You Should Wear Compression Socks

If you are training and recovering effectively, some would argue that you don’t need to use compression aids. I am largely in that camp, but I do use them occasionally when I feel I will benefit from them.

If you feel you need to use compression aids for anything, then use them for recovery. After a training session (when you have done your stretches), you can wear your compression socks to aid recovery, along with an appropriate post training snack or meal.

Rehabilitation is another time to pull those sleeves on (I personally find sleeves much easier than socks). Following a treatment or a specific series of exercises you have been prescribed, or even after a foam roller session, you can use the compression to help your muscles recover.

In fact, this guidance works for most aids, such as insoles, stability/corrective shoes, really thick soles, a high heel to toe drop, and anything else that doesn’t allow the body to move properly through the correct range of movements.

Exceptions include injury, rehabilitation or biomechanical dysfunctions where these aids are used temporarily or under proper supervision and/or regular consultation.

I would, therefore, personally not recommend that compression socks/sleeves/guards are used during regular training. My reason for this is simple: To let your muscles respond to training and adaptation as naturally as possible and be aware of any niggles that could otherwise result in an injury.

Ideally compression aids would not be used for races either, but I do see how this can be beneficial under controlled circumstances rather than to simply help the muscles do something that they are not in the right form to do.

However, as runners we are not patient and little niggles do appear just at the wrong time, i.e. just before a race you have been training for.

I have had many people come to me before a big race with a niggle. Some have even approached me in the middle of longer/lapped events, such as Endure24, asking me to ‘tape them up’ so they can continue running.

They knew that not racing/continuing was the most sensible option, but we also both knew they were going to run regardless, so the most responsible thing for me to do was to enable them to do this in the best way possible for them on the day.

Whilst I reiterate that I never recommend anyone trains, let alone races through pain, I do appreciate the desire to put all your hard training into practice.

So, if you find yourself with a niggle the week before a race and you have made the decision to run anyway, I would suggest you follow these steps:

  1. Don’t do your planned training that week as you won’t gain anywhere near as much as you risk;
  2. Get a Sports Massage for tailored advice, support and treatment;
  3. Do relevant foam roller exercises;
  4. Do relevant stretching exercises;
  5. Rest and recover properly afterwards.

Come race day, you need to apply common sense vs your desire to race and consider the implications if you made your niggle worse. If all feels good and you choose to race (and here is where I go against my usual advice), then you may want to wear your compression aids.

If you’re adamant you’re going to run then at least do it with as much support as you can. Good luck! I really hope you enjoy it and it goes well. And remember, it is more than OK to not finish the race if things don’t go to plan; revisit your common sense vs desire to race mental assessment and make the best choice for you on the day.

Afterwards, you should rest and let your niggle recover properly before going straight back into training again. By all means cross train and continue with your strength training, but get it checked out and, most importantly, follow any advice you’re given.

The Conclusion

Be patient! You shouldn’t need compression aids if you are training sensibly and effectively for your own fitness levels.

You may experience to the odd aching if you are new or returning to running, but nothing should be painful when you run, and you shouldn’t feel sore the day afterwards.

Be smart to achieve your own goals, not someone else’s. By all means run with other people, but choose the sessions, efforts, distances, etc that suit you on that day and that support what you want to achieve.

Everyone’s training plan should be different to factor in different goals and experience with running, but ultimately, everyone who is training and racing consistently will go through a similar process.

Have a chat with a runner you admire, ask what their training entails and how long it took for them to be running the way they are – you’ll be surprised!

Happy running!

Next steps

If you get stuck or are confused by what you should be doing, book a Planning & Mentoring Session with me to discuss your running. 

We can discuss your goals, what is realistic, what you are feeling when you are running, as well as reviewing your runs to date and analysing the data to ensure you are choosing the right sessions for you.

If you are experiencing any pain when running, the advice is to get it checked out by a sports therapy professional who has a good understanding of running injuries, postural alignment and muscle activation.

If you are local to Fareham, Hampshire then you can book a Sports Massage with me where I can assess what is going on and provide an appropriate treatment and rehabilitation plan to get you back running again.