Friday, 11 February 2011

Compression socks versus ski socks

My training has been going well over the past two weeks. After my 33 mile trig point loop, I took it pretty easy for the rest of the week. I did a couple of 6 mile lunchtime runs on Kinnoul Hill in Perth and some 30 secs quick, 30 secs slow type intervals (as much fun as intervals get - I think it used to be called "zapping"), to give a weekly total of about 50 miles. This week I've done some intervals (hilly fartlek), a couple of long runs on consecutive days, and a nice figure of eight route on Sauchie Craigs with lots of sharp little climbs. For my two long runs I ended up doing the same route twice, leaving the house at 5am (part of the fun of trying to fit in long runs without upsetting the other 4 members of the family) for a 12 mile route round North Third Reservoir and Sauchie Craigs. On Thursday morning I did the route and it was the first time I had run in the North Third woods with a headtorch on - a bit of an enlightening experience as I was much more focused on my immediate surroundings rather than jogging along gazing at the view. I'm a bit of a nature geek, and was more chuffed than I perhaps should have been to be following badger tracks in the snow for part of the route. I saw two owls (a barn owl and a tawny owl) really close up, and put up a flock of 50 geese as I rounded a bend on the lochside path. Everyone gets their kicks from running in different ways - I get mine by watching for wildlife and looking at trees.

North Third Reservoir and Sauchie Craigs

So I've run about 55 miles this week, and it's all felt quite comfortable and has been very enjoyable. And I now have a new favourite piece of running kit, which gets me on to the subject of this post. Just over two years I was working three days a week in London, and spent most evenings running about exploring the city. All the miles on tarmac played havoc with my lower legs, and I ended up with very sore calves. That Christmas I got some Skins compression stockings, which undoubtedly helped alleviate the tightness. Since then I've made more of an effort to run off road as much as possible, and in the last year I haven't worn the Skins very often. Over the last few weeks I've done more mileage than usual, and my calves started to hurt again. I bought a pair of ski socks in Decathlon recently for 1p (who wouldn't) and decided to try running in them and now I am a convert. So here is my not very objective comparison of compression socks and ski socks:

Performance benefits - studies seem to indicate that compression socks delay the onset of muscle soreness and reduce the amount of muscle damage done by running, although there are mixed findings on whether or not wearing compression socks at the time actually improves performance. I wouldn't be suprised if many of the claims made by brands such as Skins are not entirely supported by independent, robust, scientific studies, but there is undoubtedly some benefit to wearing compression socks when running long distances. The scientific community is largely silent on the benefits of wearing ski socks while running. Anecdotal evidence (i.e. me) suggests that wearing ski socks keeps your feet and calves nice and warm thereby improvin blood flow in the area and keeping things from getting to sore. Compression socks 6, ski socks 3.

Value for money - my Skins compression stockings cost just over 20 quid, and they don't even cover my toes. I've never spent more than £3 on a pair of ski socks and they do cover my toes. Compression socks 4, ski socks 9.

Ease of use - Skins compression socks have to be hand washed and they fall down a lot and give me blisters. Ski socks can be bunged in your mixed load and tend not to fall down. Compression socks 5, ski socks 7.

Other benefits - Skins compression socks look pretty much as cool as knee length socks can and make you look a bit serious, whereas ski socks pulled right up will always look nerdy. But, ski socks keep your feet nice and warm even when you are running through ankle deep, cold, wet mud. Compression socks 6, ski socks 4.

So in total compression socks score 21, and ski socks score 23. I think compression socks probably do have a physiological effect, but I'm not convinced that you can't get the same effect from wearing a pair of much cheaper ski socks - certainly when it comes to post-run recovery. If you get sore calves or achilles when running, I think it would be worth trying a pair of ski socks, if not for running in then for wearing after your run (you can get away with it provided you're not wearing shorts).

Next week, its Ibuprofen versus Emu Oil.


  1. on the section Ease of use, i would suggest the calf tights rather than the socks, they don't fall down and they wash fine in with the rest of your washing, this would possibly even the score at 23-23 the choice is yours?.

  2. I suppose to be fair I'd ignored the hand wash only guidance and kept them clean by wearing them in the shower. Plus, I was a stone heavier when I got them so they are possibly the wrong size now. Both might explain why mine fall down alot.

  3. do you have to yodel to yourself as you tootle along though?

  4. Good post.
    I'm toying with the idea of getting some compression socks myself - they will amuse the family if nothing else!

  5. Tube roll bandages out of boots. Doubled over and cut to fit right from my ankle to up past my knee then turned down. I swear by them i wear them before, during and after every run and believe its one of the reasons i have stayed fairly injury free over the last 5 months and if you knew my past history you would know how unusual that it lol :0)