Compression socks can have numerous benefits and are worn by a wide range of people – from frequent air travellers, to nurses, to women in pregnancy. They’re also commonly used in sports and exercise by those hoping to boost immediate performance and aid in their recovery.
In this article we’ll take a look at the top 3 compression socks on the market in 2018, and examine their use in sport and exercise. We’ll compare each with the others, and analyze their respective pros and cons, so that you can make the best purchasing choice for your situation.
But first, let’s take a closer look at what compression socks are, and what the science says about them.
|Best 3 compression socks at a glance|
|Acel Designer Compression Socks||2XU Recovery Compression Socks||Mojo Coolmax Compression Socks|
|Read review||Read review||Read review|
What are compression socks?
Although compression socks can vary significantly in style, your basic sock should cover the lower leg and provide graduated compression from ankle to knee. That is, they should be tightest around your ankle, gradually applying less and less compression as they move up your leg.
Both professional and amateur athletes use compression socks, primarily for improving performance in events and training, and aiding muscle recovery post-event / training.
The idea behind all compression garments (upper and lower body coverings) is that compressing the muscles has numerous benefits, including:
- Promoting the return of blood to the heart
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving the amount of oxygen that gets to your muscles
- Aiding the removal of waste products; and
- Reducing heart rate
Sellers of compression socks will claim that their products work extremely well for both improving performance and aiding recovery. The promise of better athletic performance with little to no effort has made compression garments of all types extremely popular among consumers, and lucrative for retailers.
Indeed, the benefits attributed to compression socks are both numerous and impressive. Let’s take a look at whether scientific research supports these claims.
Do they work?
Due to the rising popularity of compression clothing, there have been a number of scientific studies conducted into their effectiveness. A majority of that research has used compression socks as the focus of investigation.
Here’s what has been found:
As far as improving performance goes, there is very minor support for this claim. A 2016 systematic review of the literature found that wearing compression socks did not result in increased running performance (in either sprinting, medium- or long-distance running), or any associated physiological parameters (e.g., oxygen uptake, body temperature, performance of the heart, etc.).
They did, however, find that various psychological parameters associated with running performance did improve, such as time to exhaustion and perceived exertion, suggesting that compression socks may help runners perform better through making them think they’re performing better.
While the above systematic review looked specifically at studies that assessed compression socks’ effects on runners, other studies have confirmed their findings in other sports. For example, this study looked at the performance of NCAA pitchers and golfers while wearing compression garments, and found little or no beneficial effects.
So, the science is relatively clear as far as compression socks and immediate performance is concerned: they probably aren’t going to make you an immediately better athlete.
However, that doesn’t mean they have no value. As recovery aids, the science generally shows that compression garments, and compression socks in particular, are effective.
Various pieces of research have looked at the effect of wearing compression socks after completing different forms of exercise. On balance, these studies support the use of compression socks to help speed up and increase the effectiveness of recovery from athletic performance, especially high intensity, explosive and strength-based activities.
A 2013 meta-analysis examined 12 studies that evaluated the effectiveness of compression garments (primarily compression socks) in helping athletic recovery. Their results suggested that compression clothing helps to significantly reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS; that muscle soreness you get after doing a lot of exercise, or exercising for the first time after an extended period), as well as reduce waste build up in the muscles, and improve power and strength during subsequent athletic performance.
The positive effect of compression socks on recovery from athletic performance has been found across numerous sports. A study on time-trial cyclists found that wearing compression socks between races helped to improve their trial times compared to cyclists who didn’t wear compression socks, while another study on marathon runners found that those who wore compression socks for 48 hours after a race were able to run faster and longer in the next race 2 weeks later.
Similarly, research on lower body compression clothing found an improvement in sprint and endurance performance in a cohort of Rugby players, and minor increases in muscular strength following a strenuous workout in weight lifters
Finally, a 2017 meta-analysis examined 23 peer-reviewed studies on healthy wearers of compression garments (primarily compression socks), and found significant positive effects on recovery across sports and exercise-types, with the most beneficial results found for strength-recovery. That is, while compression clothing should aid in all types of recovery, it seems to be most effective at helping to recover muscular strength and power following resistance exercise, such as using free weights.
So, now that we’ve established the scientific basis for wearing compression socks, let’s take a look at the three most effective products currently on the market.
The 3 best compression socks in 2018
The compression socks below were chosen based on comfort and effectiveness as recovery socks. We do not recommend any compression socks marketed as “performance enhancing” as the scientific literature simply does not support this claim. Considering the general scientific consensus on compression clothing in general, we’re very skeptical of products that claim to be designed to improve immediate performance, and we think you should be too.
Also, in case you’re wondering (and good job if you are), all three compression socks below have a compression rating of 20 – 30 mmHg. This means that the compression does not produce pressure below 20 mmHg (millimetres of Mercury) or above 30 mmHg. This compression range is Medical Grade Class 1, which has been found to be most suitable for healthy individuals wishing to manage their recovery following sport or exercise.
These graduated compression socks from Acel are the perfect combination of style and comfort. Made from a blend of polyamide (75%), Lycra (13%) and Spandex (12%) they’re wonderfully soft and feel terrific on sore and tired legs. On top of this, they come in a huge range of funky colors, patterns and styles, meaning they not only feel great but also look great.
The 20-30 mmHg graduated compression effectively facilitates post-exercise recovery so that you feel better, quicker. On that note, if you have larger than average calves, you may find that the top band of the sock is a bit tight on the first couple of wears, and can feel a bit restrictive and sore after 8 or more continuous hours. However, after a few wears and washes they should loosen up, and stay nice and comfortable for an extended period.
Acel’s Designer Compression Socks are well worth the few extra bucks you’ll pay for them.
2XU have a solid reputation for making good quality compression clothes, especially where aiding recovery is concerned, and these compression socks are no exception.
The Australian Institute of Sport’s research team used 2XU products in a recent study on the effectiveness of compression clothing in reducing muscle swelling and soreness in Australian cyclists, and found that athletes did report less soreness, and had less swelling in their legs after wearing recovery compression socks and tights. In short, their products have been tested rigorously against their intended purpose, and passed with flying colors.
These compression socks are extremely comfortable and well-made, despite the fact that it takes a bit of practice to get them oriented correctly when putting them on, and they’re “designed with anatomically correct left and right foot beds” – so they feel weird unless you’ve got them on the correct foot.
Their nylon yarn makes them heavy duty and adds to their durability – they should last many wears, and as many washes. In fact, 2XU claim that as long as you follow their care and washing instructions, all of their garments should last 7 years.
The Men’s and Women’s variants only differ in size and length – both are excellent in quality and effectiveness. While the 2XU range tends to be more expensive than most others, they’re worth every penny.
Mojo is a Brooklyn-based company that makes some pretty great compression socks, and we think these Coolmax socks are up there with the very best. Made with nylon (70%), Spandex (20%) and Coolmax nylon (10%), these socks are easy to get on and very comfortable.
The compression is solid and will aid in the recovery of your sore, tired legs and ankles, helping you to get back to your athletic best sooner. The blended material will stay up all day, and maintain that nice, tight fit.
In buying these Mojos, you’ll feel confident that you’re getting a very solid pair of recovery compression socks.
Well, there you have it; the 3 best compression socks currently on the market, and a good run down of the science behind them. You’ve got all the information you need to make a well-informed purchasing decision.
A good pair of compression socks worn after exercise will help to reduce the swelling and pain in your legs, improve venous blood return to your heart, and facilitate the removal of waste products from your muscle tissue. Any of the above 3 compression socks are a solid choice as far as recovery aids are concerned.
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As always, best of luck with your home workouts. Remember: We can make the effort or make excuses, but we can’t make both.
THFF (The Home Fit Freak)