In a Bind: The 6 Best Compression Socks for Runners

Compression socks used to be the kiss of death for a runner. They practically qualified as hosiery, not something any serious athlete or man would wear. But the times they are a-changin’ and where once you were met with disdain, now slapping on a pair of these socks shows you’ve got moxy and the skills to know a good thing when you see it.

Originally they were¬†were used primarily by diabetics to improve blood flow to their lower extremities which would prevent dangerous health issues. Then doctors, scientists, and people looking to make a buck started to realize that improving blood flow worked for athletes and runners too. The socks decreased recovery time, could increase endurance, reduce cramping on race day, and offered numerous other benefits. If you’ve been thinking about taking the leap and trying out these marvels of modern roadsters, it’s time to take a look at our 6 best compression socks for runners.

Swiftwick Performance Zero

Swiftwick Performance Zero

What’s to Love: Very comfortable on the arches
What’s to Hate: Lack of size

Shorties: Short compression socks don’t move blood nearly as effectively – or as far – as their longer associates, but for those who prefer them, Zeros are the way to go. They have a narrow footbed cushion that contains the majority of the compression and arch support that will help runners and cyclists alike improve overall blood flow. They aren’t intended for recovery though they are comfortable enough that it isn’t out of the question. These shine in using the nylon body for moisture wicking but need to be coupled with a full-sized recovery sock to see true results. [Purchase: $10]

Zensah Compression Socks

Zensah Compression Socks

What’s to Love: Very tight.
What’s to Hate: Lacks a true sense of graduated compression.

High Performance: These hit all your selling points for pure support which makes them good not just for runners but also cyclists or any athlete that is looking for better recovery, blood flow, and oxygenation for the most strenuous activities. The Polyamide and Elastane mix hits your calves, your shins, and your arches. Sadly this also makes them hard to put on, so expect some awkward hopping and yanking.

While these cover all of the major areas, you’re not going to feel a lot of graduation in how they compress. They fit tight all over rather than giving you a better sense that they’re tighter around the ankle and then moving blood up toward the knee. The padding on the bottom certainly isn’t cushion-y soft so you may want to switch to something a little less binding and a little more comfortable for recovery periods. [Purchase: $24+]

Vitalsox Graduated Performance

Vitalsox Graduated Performance

What’s to Love: Moisture control.
What’s to Hate: Limited compression.

Endurance: Sometimes your feet feel less than fresh and that can not only cause problems with odor, warts, fungus, and blisters, but also shuts down your run earlier. In a way this is not the “runners race sock” so much as it is for anyone who wants a drier foot. You don’t get quite as many benefits from the actual compression because they use a nylon, Lycra, spandex, and silver drystat mixture to make up the fabric.

It doesn’t give you the same powerful grip that you can get elsewhere, rather they keep you from the heartbreak of funk-foot and prevent sweat and moisture from ruining a good run, or a good shoe. They will still help with recovery somewhat, but don’t expect drastic results since you won’t get much more in the way of accelerated blood flow to stop lactic acid buildup or blood pooling. The good news is they are easy to get on and off. Sized on the short side. [Purchase: $19+]

Eurosocks Graduated Recovery

Eurosocks Graduated Recovery

What’s to Love: Comfortable
What’s to Hate: Do not work well for during workouts

Recover Faster: These use the same materials that Vitalsox do, but they use it to greater effect for recovery. They have nearly the same moisture-wicking technology, though in this case it won’t greatly improve your endurance or odor issues. The graduated design is apparent but doesn’t feel binding. These are much better for throwing into your gym bag for after the workout, not something that is going to give you quite the same aid during strenuous activity. A tighter compression sock would probably aid you more in the heat of battle.

Since these are recovery socks, part of their allure is they are comfortable and look good so that you can wear them all day. For best results, wear them during the night too. They’ll help in preventing swelling in the feet or venous stasis – blood pooling – in the legs without digging into your flesh. Mostly they feel like a very high quality, comfortable sock since they’re meant for casual, not intensive wear. [Purchase: $23+]

2XU Race Sock

2XU Race Sock

What’s to Love: Improves posture.
What’s to Hate: Binds during recovery.

On Race Day: These are the armor you wear in on race day. They’re less effective as a recovery compression sock because they are uncomfortable and feel awkward just wearing around your house. They have a Lycra body that is lightweight and bears a high-denier ratio that supports your shin and calf giving you better posture and running pose as you move for greater speed and agility. The material wicks moisture away well.

This is probably considered the true “hard-core runner’s sock” of all the compression sock options out there. Casual runners are unlikely to get the same benefits since these really do bind in several areas which will make a casual jog a somewhat uncomfortable experience. You can put these on the easiest of any compression sock. The price is a little excessive. [Purchase: $16+]

CEP Mens Progressive Plus 2 0

CEP Men’s Progressive+ 2.0

What’s to Love: Even compression zones.
What’s to Hate: No specialized wear.

Best All-Around: The highest selling and highest recommended compression sock in the world for a reason. Runners love it because it offers improved protection for the Achille’s to help prevent wear on the heel of the foot. Cyclists enjoy that it also has arch support. Any athlete enjoys that they have cut down on the toe seem to pressure points to begin working against you. The body is made of filament fiber, which is an unusual choice but meant to add to the lifespan of the socks.

These can be used both while you are exercising and will give you equally good help with recovery, though they can be a little tight when walking around the home or office. The compression zones are even giving the socks a much more “barely-there” feel. They even help people who stand for a living by increasing comfort during long periods of just standing. [Purchase: $39+]

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