The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Does Wearing Compression Socks Really Help Foot Pain?

Posted by on Friday, October 21st, 2016

Compression socks have been all over the news in recent years, but is it all hype, or do they really help with running performance, foot pain, and injury recovery? As NYC podiatrists and sports medicine doctors, we do recommend a lot of compression socks. Many elite athletes and celebrity runners swear by them, too.

Compression socks aren't just for diabetics anymore!
Compression socks aren’t just for diabetics anymore! Image Source: Flickr user triitalian.

Top 10 Reasons To Wear Compression Socks

  • To reduce inflammation
  • To ease muscle soreness
  • To combat work-related fatigue
  • To improve circulation and expedite healing
  • To reduce calf cramping
  • To reduce the likelihood of losing toenails on long runs
  • To keep muscles warmed up on cold days
  • To provide added ankle stability on trail runs
  • To wick sweat away, preventing odor buildup, chafing, and blisters
  • To reduce plantar fasciitis arch pain

One runner describes the experience of wearing compression socks as follows: “I wore my compression socks for several hours each day after a hard workout, an easy run, a long run, and a rest day. In my experience (from admittedly a small sample size), my legs felt better than they normally would after each activity. I felt less sore and more ‘recovered.’ It was as if 1,000 little fingers were giving me a calf massage.”

Research Behind Compression Socks

Interest in the effectiveness of compression socks has skyrocketed in recent years. There are many studies, but here are a few key findings:

  • Runners who wore below-knee compression socks for 2 days after running a marathon recovered faster. Runners in the compression sock group were able to run 2.6% longer before becoming exhausted.
  • Compression garments reduced delayed onset muscle soreness after tough workouts, according to a review of 12 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.The researchers concluded, “These results indicate that compression garments are effective in enhancing recovery from muscle damage.”
  • Compression socks measurably increase blood flow and reduce heart rates, according to University of Newcastle researchers. Wearing the socks around the time of a surgery could cut the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis in half.
  • Compression stockings at least improve the perception of diminished muscle soreness. While researchers writing in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found no significant improvement in blood markers of exercise-induced damage or improved muscular strength, they found runners simply felt better when treated by compression socks in the 72 hours after marathon running.

Brands of Compression Socks

There are so, so many compression socks on the market. They all claim to have high-tech features to help you run better and recover faster. If you’re looking for the best compression socks, you might try one of these fast-growing brands:

  • BeVisible Sports compressions socks were among the top-selling items on this year’s Amazon Prime Day, enjoying a 1,700% increase in sales for the promotion.
  • Base Socks were another brand that flew off the virtual shelves.
  • Our patients like the design selection of the 2XU brand.
  • Feetures! compression socks has seen over 30% growth in the past five years as the company moves from a family-owned North Carolina business to a globally recognized brand.
  • Zamst is a high-tech brand we recommend to a lot of people who suffer from plantar fasciitis.
  • The 110% Play Harder brand from Montreal, Quebec has a neat line of compression socks that include high visibility night running varieties, as well as socks with a built-in slot for icing.

Podiatrist Tips For Compression Sock Use

  • Use cold water and a bit of special compression garment cleaning solution to hand wash your socks daily.
  • Put your compression socks on first thing in the morning when your feet are less swollen.
  • Take measurements to ensure you are wearing the proper size. Wearing the wrong size will not give you the benefits you want.
  • Replace your socks every 3-6 months, as the material will inevitably degrade and lose elasticity over time.
  • Don’t wear compression socks at night, as your legs will already be in a neutral position.
  • Wear toe-less compression socks during the warmer summer months. This will allow your feet to breathe.
  • Use compression sleeves during your runs and compression socks for your next-day recovery.

If you’re in the New York City area, stop by and speak with one of our board-certified podiatrists about compression socks and other treatments for foot pain. We offer high-tech therapies, non-invasive healing methods like platelet rich plasma, and surgical interventions when necessary.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.