Calf compression sleeves can be seen in every race these days.. but is there any research to back up their claims of faster running… is it worth squeezing these tight garments on for a run or better yet, under work clothes? (been there done that)Seriously, can someone make a argyle pair that I can wear to work already?
I always try to have a “useful until proven wasteful” mentality for anything in life… but I have to admit that when seeing calf sleeves at races I usually roll my eyes and mumur something under my breath. The industry has grown immensely over the past year and it’s doubtful you won’t see them at your next race, whether it be 5k or IRONMAN, pre or post race. So do these things work, if so.. are they suited for recovery only or are there benefits that make the awful tan lines worthy?
A term used through the literature is running economy or the energy required for a given submaximal running speed. All the research seems to indicate there are no beneficial effects to running economy, or simply put.. wearing calf sleeves for all submaximal running does NOT save you energy.
Who cares about energy anyway, right? Does it make you faster.. that’s what we/you care about. A study conducted at a German University found 1.5-2.2% performance improvement as expressed in speed for runners using CONSTANT compression sleeves (more to come). Whoop-de-doo (sp?).. 2.2%? Well lets put that in terms you can understand…
If you run a race at 8.0mph (7:30 / mile).. a 2.2% improvement would bump you up to 8.1 mph… a 6 second per mile improvement… now that’s something those tan lines would be worth! Literally 2 1/2 minutes over the course of a marathon by just donning a pair of calf sleeves? Sweet! (Not to mention 7:24 sounds much better that 7:30.. as 7:24 is usually rounded down to 7:20 anyway 🙂 )
What’s the catch you ask? Well this research was slightly flawed.. the study participants ran their comparison run (with the sleeves) second. Who wouldn’t be motivated to beat their first time trial? The study did cite other research indicating similar improvements when donning these tight and goofy sleeves, so it does shed some light that their might be a benefit. **Note that the study was done with “Constant Pressure” sleeves.. meaning that it wasn’t a “more pressure to less pressure” sock as it climbed from foot to knee.. look at your labels before purchasing!
It was well noted throughout the research that runners who utilize calf sleeves reported less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in their calfs following hard runs. The research was divided in when to utilize the sleeves.. but one thing is for sure, if they (the sleeves) aren’t worn during the run, they should be donned right afterwards. In fact, one article published from a French University found increased tissue oxygen saturation (more O2 in the blood = faster recovery) when wearing compression sleeves before and after exercise!
So I guess I should stop “sheesh”-ing runners who don their calf sleeves for a run… they might help improve speed up to a reported 6 seconds per mile and have repeatedly been proven to decrease lower leg muscle soreness after hard efforts of running. Who would of thunk?
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