It is always good to get feedback from a whole variety of people when dealing with products that leave people divided.
I therefore ran a poll via Talk Ultra and asked the question:
Do you use compression clothing? If yes do you feel the benefits, if not, why not? Do you feel ‘real’ benefits or are they placebo?
A simple question and here are the responses:
Simon Roberts - I wear compression clothing mostly just to keep warm (this morning it was 0C when I left home), but am happy to believe in it, if that makes me recover better. (Does placebo work if you’re deliberately lying to yourself? :)
Chris Foreman - Tried it didn’t feel/see any difference. I prefer to let muscle be surrounded by blood rather than compress it and reduce the fluid tissue needs to function/recover. As for reducing trauma of running (ever seen how muscle moves in slo-mo) we evolved to handle that and if you need an “aid” to run you are probably over doing it.
David Brunton - Used calf guards on the Lakeland 50 and they helped a lot. The longer the event I think the bigger the benefit.
Caroline Williams - I use tights for recovery and definitely feel that I get less muscle soreness next day if I wear them after a very long run. On a 6 day event they were my pj’s. Diesnt matter if it is “only” placebo. If it works it works!
Linnea Anderson - I wear compression socks during and/or after long runs (and sometimes races). I do think they reduce calf cramping after long runs, but even if they didn’t, I’d still wear them just because I like them!
Mark Brotherton - Snake oil. There are some legit applications, but do not apply to all. Science? Get me the money, and I’ll whip up some science for you, exactly the same way the manufacturers did.
Mick Wren - I have used calf compression socks ever since having a couple of calf muscle tears. Not had problem since (5 years now). Also they protect my legs from the rubbing I used to get from my shoes on long runs.
Mike Raffan - Tried during runs it didnt feel any difference so stopped. Have tried it after runs and it felt comfortable but i dont know if it helped recovery at all.
Tim Lambert - Just started using the socks on longer runs of four hours plus. I was a little sceptical at first but they are really supportive and I felt far less strain and easier recovery. Not sure they would do a huge amount for 25 miles or less though
Carl Zalek - Never used them. I don’t like to be restricted so I’m always in loose fitting clothing.
And I also don’t like to feel I’m on display especially in the winter.
It’s very much a mental thing as opposed to not believing in the recovery benefits, although I’ve never really suffered after long runs.
Roger Lawton-Spence - I used calf guards and shorts at Lakeland 50. Have had no problems with walking or stairs this week. However I am selective when I use them as I think there are sessions when you need to trash yourself so that the muscles have to recover/repair naturally and become stronger. Not very scientific but I don’t want to become dependant on something I may forget to pack.
Sam Robson - The problem is that it is a very difficult thing to test – it’s not an easy thing to blind so you have an inherent bias in the study from the get go. I’ve read through a lot of the scientific literature, and there’s no real consensus. But most of these studies have such small sample sizes that it’s laughable! Also, most studies look at things like shuttle runs, 400m track times, sub-maximal running, and shorter things like that (and actually a lot of the pro-compression wear studies seem to be based on none-running disciplines). If they do anything, it seems that it is likely to be speeding of lactate clearing and potentially reducing muscle soreness, but they are such small effect sizes that the studies are simply not powerful enough to detect them. If these effects are real however, I can see that they would be very useful. It’s just difficult to know if it’s real (I know as many people for whom it doesn’t work as people who swear by it). What we need is a large scale systematic analysis of ultra runners. But until then, as others have said, if it works for you then do it!
Kurt Dusterhoff - My calf guards are at least as much a mental crutch as a real benefit. I know I can run a marathon without them, because I have. But, I also know I hurt a lot less the next day if I’ve been wearing them. They’re also really handy with all the high grass and nettles at this time of year!
Austin Clark Fry - I use socks on long runs (15 miles +) and graduated compression socks post long run. They do “seem” to speed up the recovery of DOMS after bigger mileage. Prevents blood pooling and aids removal of lactate from muscles. I can understand the science behind it so that encourages me to believe it works, even if it doesn’t!
Richard Cockbain - Tried with and without and through that experience I have found that on longer runs (for me 10 miles +) if I wear them during and for a period afterwards then my recovery is much better/faster allowing me to train quicker and harder after long runs.
Don Dawson - I have used compression calf sleeves since last October and I swear by them. Prior to that I was having lots of injury problems, since I haven’t missed a days training due to any sort of injury.
Penny Barker - Started wearing calf guards as scientific theory made enough sense to give them a go. Have poor circulation in lower legs so any support I can give veins to help venous return a bonus and also support to muscles. We have bandaged horses’ legs for years for the same reason. Did 135 very hilly miles in 5 days a couple of years back for charity. Am not an ultra runner and longest run prior was Paris marathon and not nearly enough training. Wore calf guards and slept in Skins tights (in tent, bloody freezing) and had no soreness and still managed a pb on last day and I do believe the compression garments played their part. Sure there is a strong placebo element but even if they just provide warmth and support then fine. I think the science works for lower limb (calf). Not sure about compression benefits for upper legs as muscle groups are huge and can clothing really make an impact? Haven’t tried upper body but again, physiologically the challenge is different due to muscle distribution and less susceptible to gravity. I liked the comment about not depending on something you may forget to pack! I found they helped for longer or harder runs and def helped playing football. I do wonder how many times you can wash them and still maintain their compression though…