Study looks at performance boosting ability of compression gear
You’ve seen the late-night informercials: Compression gear promising endurance athletes improved performance by what they’re wearing. The pitch: Pull on those tight knee-high socks or running capris and you’ll improve blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, which will boost your performance and help you snag your personal best.
But are the claims true, especially given that some compression gear can run you $100 or more?
A new study followed a small group of athletes during two workouts, one where they wore calf compression sleeves and one where they didn’t. In both workouts, oxygen intake and running gait were measured; overall, there was no difference between the two workouts. This study’s finding just adds to the confusion surrounding compression gear and performance. A few studies have shown a benefit, while others have found that compression gear doesn’t make runners any faster.
But the latest study had one surprising note. Two of the 16 runners tested told researchers that they believed compression gear helped their workouts, and they actually did perform better when they wore the calf sleeves. Researchers chalked this up to the placebo effect.
So does that mean you should plunk down cold hard cash for gear that may or may not work? It depends. If you believe in compression gear, there’s no harm to using it, and you may just get a small performance boost from the placebo effect.
Or you can use your compression gear in a way that has been proved to work—as a recovery tool. One study found that those who wore compression socks 48 hours after an intense workout performed better at treadmill workouts two weeks later than those who didn’t. Another found that runners who completed a 10K race without wearing compression socks had lower leg muscle soreness the next day, while runners who wore compression socks experienced less lower-leg soreness.
Our take: If wearing compression gear makes you feel better or boosts your confidence about your workout (and the cost is within your budget), go for it!