If you’ve done any serious running, you’ve probably noticed people rocking brightly colored, tight-looking socks as part of their race or even post-race recovery outfits. Those are compression socks, and they’re gaining popularity outside of the running community as athletes of all stripes are recognizing the potential benefits from the extra-snug stockings.
Although compression wear has its roots in surgical recovery, the principle of increasing bloodflow has trickled into workout wear. In fact, you can compile an entire compression outfit from shorts to socks.
Here’s the basic theory: The tight fabric squeezes and supports your veins and helps your blood make the journey back to your heart, thus improving oxygen flow and speeding recovery. Not every scientific study shows measurable results, but many athletes, from weekend to warrior, report good results.
Compression strength is indicated in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury. Higher numbers mean more compression. (If you’re curious, the measurement derives from the amount of atmospheric pressure required to support a millimeter of mercury.) Many models are graduated, with more compression toward the bottom of the sock. Most socks for athletic use, like those below, are 15-22 mmHG or 20-30mmHG.
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