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Compression Socks and Functional Recovery Following Marathon Running: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Armstrong, Stuart A.1; Till, Eloise S.2; Maloney, Stephen R.3; Harris, Gregory A.4

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: February 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 2 - p 528–533
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000649
Original Research

Abstract: Armstrong, SA, Till, ES, Maloney, SR, and Harris, GA. Compression socks and functional recovery following marathon running: A randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res 29(2): 528–533, 2015—Compression socks have become a popular recovery aid for distance running athletes. Although some physiological markers have been shown to be influenced by wearing these garments, scant evidence exists on their effects on functional recovery. This research aims to shed light onto whether the wearing of compression socks for 48 hours after marathon running can improve functional recovery, as measured by a timed treadmill test to exhaustion 14 days following marathon running. Athletes (n = 33, age, 38.5 ± 7.2 years) participating in the 2012 Melbourne, 2013 Canberra, or 2013 Gold Coast marathons were recruited and randomized into the compression sock or placebo group. A graded treadmill test to exhaustion was performed 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after each marathon. Time to exhaustion, average and maximum heart rates were recorded. Participants were asked to wear their socks for 48 hours immediately after completion of the marathon. The change in treadmill times (seconds) was recorded for each participant. Thirty-three participants completed the treadmill protocols. In the compression group, average treadmill run to exhaustion time 2 weeks after the marathon increased by 2.6% (52 ± 103 seconds). In the placebo group, run to exhaustion time decreased by 3.4% (−62 ± 130 seconds), P = 0.009. This shows a significant beneficial effect of compression socks on recovery compared with placebo. The wearing of below-knee compression socks for 48 hours after marathon running has been shown to improve functional recovery as measured by a graduated treadmill test to exhaustion 2 weeks after the event.

1Anglesea Sports Medicine, Hamilton, New Zealand;

2Albury Emergency Department, Albury Wodonga Health, Albury, Australia;

3Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; and

4MP Sports Physicians, Melbourne, Australia

Address correspondence to Stuart A. Armstrong, drsarmstrong@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2015 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.