Compression socks are purported to enhance recovery when worn post-exercise. The nature of compression socks makes it difficult to perform blinded trials, and as such there may be a placebo effect, making it challenging to elucidate possible physiological and psychological benefits.
PURPOSE: To determine the effect of wearing knee-length compression socks between repeated running bouts on perceptual, physiological and performance-based parameters.
METHODS: Twelve well-trained male runners recorded their perceived benefit of wearing compression socks for recovery prior to completion of two experimental trials. Each trial consisted of two 5 km time trials (TT) on a treadmill, with a one hour period between each run. Perceived muscle soreness and fatigue were recorded before and after each TT. Each TT was preceded by a standardized warm-up, which included assessment of oxygen consumption, heart rate, blood lactate and perceived exertion. One trial required participants to wear compression socks for the one hour recovery period (REC), while no compression garments were worn during recovery in the other trial (CON).
RESULTS: There was no significant decrement in running performance between the two TTs in REC (p=0.20), while for CON, performance decreased significantly in the second TT (p<0.01). This resulted in a REC-CON difference of 10.59 ± 14.48s (mean ± 95% confidence limits, p=0.07, effect size (ES)=0.62). No significant differences were apparent between conditions for oxygen consumption, heart rate or perceived exertion at submaximal running speeds (p=0.24-0.41). Participants with stronger prior beliefs on the efficacy of compression socks (n=7) appeared to run slightly faster in the 2nd TT for the REC trial (−3.6 ± 17.8s, p=0.32, ES=0.05) in contrast to those with neutral or negative perceptions whose 2nd TT was substantially slower (n=5, 17.9 ± 21.2s, p=0.04, ES=0.19). At the end of the recovery period, muscle soreness (p=0.03) and fatigue (p=0.04) were significantly lower in REC than CON. Prior belief on compression socks did not affect perceived muscle soreness or fatigue.
CONCLUSION: Compression socks worn during a recovery period between running bouts maintains subsequent performance and reduces self-reported muscle soreness and fatigue. Belief in the efficacy of compression socks appears to further enhance performance benefits.