Compression Clothing and Recovery from Running

This article asks the question: Can compression clothing assist in muscle recovery?

Salomon S-Lab Exo CalfThese days, an increasing number of manufacturers are offering socks, shorts, tights (short and long), and leg sleeves (think tight leg warmers) marketed as assisting in recovery. The theory behind these products is that the compression they provide increases circulation, which, in turn, enhances recovery. Skins, one company that makes recovery clothing, writes that its BioAcceleration Technology™:

Speeds recovery through direct compression and improved muscle oxygenation. Wearing Skins™ after exercise has been shown to virtually eliminate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and MRI-based studies have shown real improvements in muscle recovery.

If such products work as described, they should at least pique the interest of those competing in multiday stage races and especially in mountainous stage races, such as TRR, where the cumulative descent will certainly lead to delayed onset muscle soreness.

Companies also advertise enhanced performance when wearing the recovery products (or very similar products from the same manufacturers) during competition. They described the performance enhancement as being based on increased circulation, reductions in unnecessary muscle movement and vibration, and cooling through wicking.

Skins soxWhile compression products may very well aid performance when worn while racing, this post is about what happens after the racing is done. This begs the question, how should these products be worn to promote recovery? In their FAQ, Skins suggests:

As a recovery aid post exercise – use after any activity and wear for at least 3 hours. Skins™ are comfortable to wear under clothing and can be worn when asleep. When worn while sleeping, Skins™ increase bioactivity and speed up your body’s normal recovery process. Many people report having ‘fresh legs’ the following morning.

Skins further suggests that in the case of injury, that their products be worn for as long as possible. Based on this information, I intend to wear a compression product during a significant of my non-running hours during TRR. That may mean while I sleep, during my waking hours, or both. Unless I’m convinced otherwise, I pretty much intend to wear the products as much as possible when I’m not racing, but will forgo them if I’m too hot or uncomfortable.

Zensah recovery leg sleevesHave any of you tried a compression product as a recovery aid? Which product(s) were they? Under what circumstances and in what manner did you use them? Do you think they helped?

As a reference, below is a list of some compression-based recovery garments as well as manufacturers of such products:

Insider Knowledge:

Personally, I really like [Salomon Exo Calf] for both muscle support and recovery. I’ve been using the Exo Calves in most of my long runs this year and feel ‘naked’ without them – We’re not talking about a huge jump in performance here, but the difference is enough to dull the impact of running and feel the support they offer. Whether it psychological of not, the biggest benefits for me are associated to injury maintenance/prevention. I’ve been battling numerous little ‘nagging’ injuries since the spring, and wearing the calf socks has allowed me to maintain my training volume without aggravating the injuries…The other benefit is that ‘morning after’ feeling you get of fresh legs after having slept with the socks – big difference there!

Salomon is doing a lot of testing in the compression world with 3/4 Exo tights already on the market (although mostly for cool mornings, these are great, too!). Eventually, they will come out with short Exo tights, and tops…not sure if the North American market will be ready for these!

– Phil Villeneuve, Salomon runner

There are 16 comments

  1. Holly

    HA – progressive nation! I wish I could help you get a pair, but I haven't seen any for sale up here yet. What I CAN do is get some of those tights that women are supposed to use to prevent varicose veins, spruce them up with a Bedazzler, and charge you an exorbitant amount of money. Will that work?

  2. Trail Goat

    Holly,Please, please, please make me some bedazzled compression socks. I think you should also consider adding puff paint, which could be used to add an interlocking web of awesomeness! Glow in the dark or sparkly paint only, of course. These need to be hi-tech. You might be on to something with the compression stockings. Check this out:… . In the US, compression stocking that make certain disease related claims are even regulated by our food and drug administration. (See 21 CFR sec. 880.5780)Maybe Sunshine Girl can note where she's encountered the super sexy Salomon S-Lab Sox, or Exo Calf as the case may be. I've yet to find a country in which they are currently available. In fact the only original references I seen to the Exo Calf are a 2007 blog review and a no longer functioning page on a French Salomon website. Me thinks they are not generally available at the moment. I know they won't be out in the US until at least after next season.

  3. Holly

    Hi Goat,I have seen the Salomon socks in action as well. I ran this race with the Sunshine Girl and she mentioned that Phil is sponsored by Salomon, which is why he would have the goods. I think he has a blog?? Holly

  4. Jim A

    Count me as a believer in all of this, started using the Skins stuff a couple months ago and have been very impressed.I use them post-workout, more for tough ones and when I have the 4+ hours they recommend for it to be effectiveness…any rumors I've been known to sleep in them are purely fictional as is the bedazzled version

  5. angie's pink fu

    I was given a pair of recovery socks, and use them after long runs. Sometimes they seem to cause lingering pain in my calves (if I don't wear them after runs, my calves don't hurt as much), but they seem to keep soreness in other areas of my body at bay. Very strange. I like them, though, even if only for a placebo effect :)

  6. Meredith

    I just got some Zensah sleeves and shorts. I did my first run in them today. So far so good. I will give a full tryout this weekend on my long run. A lot of runners who wear them while running says it staves off fatigue. We shall see. I got the hot pink ones, so that made me happy. I cannot promise i will wear the shorts this weekend, but definitely the socks. :)

  7. Trail Goat

    Jim,I'm glad to hear the skins are working out for ya. I'm still trying to get my legs in a pair of the Salomon Exo Calves, but will give the Skins a try if I come across them first. Actually, I hope to be able to try the Skins and other similar products at the Outdoor Retailer Show next month.Angie,Coming from the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement field, I know that one should never discount the placebo effect. Believe!Meredith,Please stop back in and let us know how the Zensah's work out. BTW, what's the point of the sleeves in running? I can see their purpose in a ball based sport or canoeing or something where the arms re key, but there's not a lot of wasted muscle wobble in the arms during running, is there? Well, at least I don't think there is in my "guns."Holly and Ian,Thanks for the info on Phil. I'll try and get in touch with him to see if he can add his thoughts re the exo calves.

  8. Sam Blackmar

    I recently picked up the CEP compression socks. I have been wearing them on some of my 10mi+ runs, and I have noticed a serious improvement in my calf muscle endurance on tempo runs. I picked up a pair of CW-X socks as well, which are less expensive, but strike me as being slightly less functional. I would really recommend the CEP compression socks to runners looking to push the pace in training without burning out their legs.

  9. Traci Davis

    We are are team of moms that do as many fitness events as we can! We want to be great role models for our daughters and communities. We have done several races/bike events, Marathon, half and adventure races and are planning a Triathlon soon! Each of the events we do are for great charities and causes. There is 4 to 8 of us that do the races at least once a month! We love to do product reviews for our team! We would love to review your product and tell others about it for you! If you are interested please let me know and we can arrange for you to send the product. We would love to for a sponsorship with you on some level! We have some great opps right now for logos on our team bags, coats and shirts!

    Currently we are doing the bags it is $150 to have logo on them — these will be used at each event and you will get a blog post and pictures with us with the bags (we put these pictures all over — and link back to all the sponsors — plus you will be cross posted by all the other sponsors – including new life style diet, emergen-c, Hotel, tri crowd and more. (these are going to printer on tuesday)

    We also have a race June 4th — this will be a fun 10k race in the dark so all the logos will go onto our shirts in glow in the dark! To be on the shirts is $120 and you will be seen a ton and get a blog post with link back and pictures too!

    Check out our website and all it offers at . This is a great opportunity to get your site and products out to more. We can post pictures of us using your products on Facebook, twitter and Myspace were we all have many followers and fans.

    Our blog subscribers/viewers are men and women 18-65 year old in the U.S. (many also in Canada and UK) They are from many walks of life including: sports fan, fitness fanatic, athlete, career woman, college student, moms, dads, horse and cattle men and women and so many more. Our site gets 1000 hits a day, and we have over 10,000 followers in all out social media. . Thanks in advance!! Traci –hope we talk soon feel free to call me 254-433-0806

  10. Ashi

    I know this is a little out dated, but thought I'd offer my input.

    I bought skins on the recommendation of my physiotherapist – I was having knee problems, and when I mentioned I was also flying long distance and had previously had trouble with leg swelling, she made the suggestion. I have the full length A400s.

    I don't run often, and was a bit of a skeptic about the benefit of using skins. I'd agree with the description above – they provide good support, and I found the compression was sufficient to prevent knee pain and swelling even after running on pavement.

    For flying, they prevented leg swelling – so I'm a satisfied shopper.

    What I have also discovered is how beneficial they are in recovery. I'm usually a dancer, but have lost most of my dance fitness in the last year or so, and am currently working on getting it back. If I've done a particularly intensive class (not so different from running for 40 minutes or an hour – but more diverse muscle use), I can have severe muscle pain for 3-4 days afterwards. However, if I sleep in my Skins the night after said intensive class, the pain is significantly lower – almost nonexistent. As someone who lives in a 3 storey house, leg pain is very noticeable on the stairs. If this is a placebo effect – I'm all for it. I don't care whether its science, or my imagination, it works for me!

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