Compression stockings… whoever puts their best foot forward or walks regularly cannot ignore them. Compression stockings have crept into the sports world in a tight trot and have become commonplace. Compression stockings do not improve performance, but do promote recovery.
Types of compression stockings
With foot and without foot
For the lower leg there are compression stockings that surround the foot and leave the foot free (tubes). There are two mechanisms behind this that would explain the effect. After all, the compression stockings with stockings around the foot create pressure in the lower legs, which improves the venous return, the pumping of the blood back towards the heart. The better blood flow would then have a positive effect on recovery after exercise. The compression stockings without a foot, on the other hand, hug the lower leg, creating a kind of bracing effect. As a result, the calf would move less, resulting in lower tensile forces of the tendons on the periosteum. These effects would then improve the walking economy.
Compression stockings usually have a graduated pressure that decreases upwards, but the pressure can also be even or local to the muscle belly of the calf. However, the pressure distribution profile makes no difference. The muscle fatigue with wearing the compression socks is lower immediately after the effort than without stockings or those with low pressure.
Recovery improves – Better blood flow
Compression stockings ensure a better recovery. Immediately after the exercise, the blood flow in the muscles appeared to be better in the runners wearing compression stockings . The theory that the pressure better pumps the blood back to the heart (venous return) is thus confirmed. The muscle pump of the calf muscles is automatically active during walking, but as soon as one rests or recovers it stops. Compression stockings therefore keep the muscle pump working.
During or after a run?
The question can then be asked whether one should walk with compression stockings or whether wearing it alone during the recovery period is sufficient? Trained runners who wore compression stockings for the first 48 hours after their marathon showed better recovery two weeks later. In a maximum test to exhaustion, they could do this 1 “longer than before their marathon. In the group that did not wear compression stockings, this was just 1 “shorter. This means a difference of 2 “between the two groups, which underlines the beneficial effect of the stockings as a recovery tool. These compression stockings with feet were of a high pressure class.
Performance does not improve while using compression stockings
The studies on the performance-enhancing effect of compression stockings are ambiguous. In one of the first studies, running performance at the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds was better when the runners were wearing compression stockings. So they were able to walk longer before reaching total exhaustion . Nevertheless, these favorable results were never confirmed afterwards. After running 15km at race pace, trained runners, for example, did not run faster with compression stockings, but neither did they run slower . The favorable results were also not established for moderately trained runners. After a maximum exercise test on the treadmill, the runners with or without the compression stockings lasted the same amount of time.