Compression garments for running: Are they worth it?

Posted on Monday, July 20

Compression garments for running: Are they worth it?

A column by Daphné Bilodeau, PT, Nxt Generation PHYSIO.

There are several types of compression garments available, ranging from socks and shirts to shorts. But are these garments as effective as they are expensive? Compression clothing is primarily known for optimizing performance and promoting recovery.

Myths or realities?

According to the literature, there would be no negative influence on performance by wearing compression garments. But is the investment still worthwhile? Here’s what the studies say:

Running Performance

There may be a slight positive effect on overall running performance. Positive influences have been observed in terms of energy economy based on biomechanical parameters. It improves ground contact time, stride frequency, and stride length.

You can learn more about optimizing your running performance here.

More generally, wearing compression garments has no effect on oxygen consumption during submaximal endurance exercise. However, there may be a significant positive effect during maximal effort among high-level athletes. Oxygen consumption directly reflects the capacity for intensity in cardiovascular endurance activities, indicating the maximum intensity one can sustain over a given period.

However, there is no effect on heart rate during activity.

Subjectively, there has been a positive influence on perceived body temperature and a mild to moderate psychological effect.

Recovery after Activity

The perception of muscle fatigue immediately after a running session is reduced when wearing compression garments during the run. Performance in muscular strength tests is better after running with compression garments compared to without them. In other words, there is less accumulation of blood lactate immediately after running with compression garments. Blood lactate levels are indirectly related to muscle fatigue: the higher the lactate, the more fatigued the muscles.

A significant positive effect has been observed in terms of subjective perception of muscle soreness.

Therefore, we can conclude that the significant positive effects are real in terms of users’ perception. Additionally, no negative effects have been reported: the results are either neutral or slightly positive. However minor they may be, these positive effects seem to be subjectively perceived as significant.

From a physiotherapist’s perspective, the cost of these garments is affordable enough considering the benefits they provide. Therefore, it’s worth giving them a try.

In terms of injury prevention, compression socks could help improve proprioception, which is very interesting. Proprioception is the perception of body position in space, such as better foot positioning on the ground during running. However, one must know the correct way to perform the movement. Good perception of movement is important, but it’s crucial to recognize the correct pattern; otherwise, the risk of overuse injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendinopathy, patellofemoral syndrome, or iliotibial band syndrome may increase. This is where the physiotherapist comes into play.

Moreover, if compression garments can improve recovery from post-training muscle soreness, why not use them for recovery from an injury?

They come in all colors! How can you resist?

Daphné Bilodeau Physiotherapist Nxt Generation PHYSIO


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