Do you wear compression apparel during or after a run? Are you considering making a purchase? If so, a new study may make you reconsider why or what type of compression you need.
Recently, a study in the 2016 Journal of Sports Medicine found that compression wear had no statistical effect on running performance, as measured by race times in the half marathon, 15K trail run, 5K and 1oK runs, and 400-meter sprint. The report concluded that wearing lower leg compression does not significantly change running mechanics or oxygen consumption while running at a speed less than a full-on sprint. These findings were based on the compilation of research and studies that found a lack of significant differences in VO2 and running mechanics at any speed between the control and experimental groups.
However the study did find some value in compression wear. Because individual metabolic and gait response to wearing lower leg compression varies greatly, runners may see improvements in endurance performance, measured by “time to exhaustion, better running economy, biomechanics, perceived performance, and muscle temperature.” Further, the report found that runners may benefit from reduced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation. They even found that compression exerted a large positive effect on post-exercise leg soreness and delay in the onset of muscle fatigue.
To complicate these findings further, there are differences based on the type of lower leg compression garment runners choose: socks, sleeves, shorts or full-length tights. Moreover, there are differences between brands and the strength of the compression pressure their garments provide, not to mention where on the lower leg they place that pressure—although the Journal of Sports Medicine report did not name specific brands.
So should you still purchase compression gear? According to the studies, compression may not offer much benefit during runs, but it could for some athletes with the right variables. However, wearing it after your run should help with muscle recovery. If you think you fall into the category of runners who benefit from compression, check to see whether and where it compresses. Not all compression is created equal and may have the opposite effect of providing compression that could hinder circulation.