Compression socks can boost performance, aid recovery and help treat injuries – these are the best to buy
from CEPIf you’re looking to build your endurance and stamina, then the last thing you want is for an injury to occur because you lacked the proper equipment. Used in conjunction with a good pair of running shoes and a decent sports bra, compression socks can potentially make everything from a gentle jog to an endurance run feel a little more comfortable.
In addition to modest performance gains, multiple studies have shown that using compression socks can help speed up recovery by decreasing muscle soreness and fatigue. They achieve this by lowering venous pressure – blood pressure near the right atrium of the heart – which allows the heart to pump more blood around the body instead of it pooling in the legs. They’re not just for athletes, however; they can also be useful for pregnant women and help prevent blood clots during long haul flights.
There are potential performance benefits associated with compression clothing, with one study even showing that vertical jump height and repetitive jump power was enhanced through wearing them. While they’re not going to transform you from a couch potato to an Olympic athlete, the science suggests that compression socks can aid recovery after intense training or injury, and those made from breathable materials could also prevent unpleasant ailments such as blisters and chafing.
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Best compression socks: At a glance
How to choose the best running compression socks for you
Why do I need to wear compression socks?
Compression socks are most popular with runners and athletes looking to improve performance and speed up recovery, but they’re not just for sport.
Studies have shown that they can help manage discomfort caused by deep vein thrombosis or minimise leg swelling during pregnancy, and workers who are on their feet or sitting at a desk for long periods also rate compression socks for maintaining healthy blood flow in their legs and feet.
What is graduated compression?
One of the first bits of jargon you will encounter when shopping around for compression socks is ‘graduated compression’. This type of compression sock is tightest in the foot area and applies progressively less compression towards the calf in order to encourage blood flow.
What other features do I need?
As with most sports socks, it is useful to look for padding in key areas such as the toes and heel, whether to reduce the pain of existing problems or as a preventative measure against further discomfort. Breathable material also helps with this, especially if you plan to wear the socks on a daily basis or for longer periods.
One area where you might get caught out is with socks designed specifically for men or for women. A huge number of brands sell both kinds for the same product, ensuring those subtle differences are accounted for in the design and construction process. Make sure you find out which it is before you buy so that you can choose the pair that is right for you. Many brands offer a unisex fit, but not all.
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The best running compression socks you can buy in 2023
1. 2XU Vectr Merino: Best all-round compression socks
Price: £30 | Buy now from 2XU
Whether you want compression socks to use during exercise, or afterwards for recovery, or for long trips, the 2XU Vectr Merino will work for you. The socks offer graduated compression that decreases in intensity as you move up the leg, which improves blood flow to the muscles, and they have 2XU’s X-Lock system on the foot which provides extra support for your arches while also holding the material in place to reduce rubbing and the risk of blisters.
One of the key features of the socks is that they are made with merino wool, which offers natural temperature regulation and odour resistance. The socks wick sweat away from your skin, dry quickly and won’t start to smell after one use, so you can wear them several times or on especially long flights without any fears that you’ll find them uncomfortable.
Material: Merino wool; Sizes: S, M1, M2, L1, L2, XL
2. Aptonia Recovery Compression Socks: Best budget compression socks
Price: £16 | Buy now from Decathlon
These lightweight compression socks are designed to be used to help you recover from tough exercise sessions, but are also a great option for long trips and offer good value for the quality you’re getting.
The socks are well cushioned around the toes and heel and have an arch band to keep the material in the right place. They offer a fairly light level of compression up the calf, so are comfortable to wear for extended periods, or even overnight.
Material: Polyamide, Cotton, Elastane; Sizes: S, M, L plus calf size
3. CAMBIVO Compression Socks: Best for travelling
Price: £17| Buy now from Amazon
Cambivo’s socks are a snip at under £20 for two pairs, and while they don’t offer the same quality of technical materials as sports compression socks, they are still comfortable and supportive to wear for long periods when travelling or if you’re on your feet all day at work.
There’s an anti-slip cuff on the top of the socks to ensure they stay up, and the thin and stretchy material is breathable and dries quickly if you do get the socks sweaty. The compression is graduated to be strongest at the ankle, and it isn’t so aggressive that you will want to whip the socks off an hour or two into your flight.
Material: Polyamide, elastane; Sizes: II, III, IV, V
4. CEP Run Socks 3.0: Best for athletes
CEP more or less nailed it with the first edition of its compression sock, so you can be sure that the third really does offer everything athletes need. The sock offers precisely targeted compression where you need it most, providing the support your muscles need without becoming uncomfortably tight over the course of long activities.
The material offers excellent temperature regulation as well, helping your feet and calves to stay cool on hot days and warm on cold ones. The socks will also help prevent rubbing and blisters from occurring, and are impressively durable – CEP could well be on the 10th edition of the socks by the time you have to replace them.
Material: Nylon, elastic, spandex; Sizes: S/M, L/XL, XXL
5. 2XU VECTR Ultralight ¼ Crew Sock: Best for plantar fasciitis
Price: £16 | Buy now from 2XU
While the typical compression sock goes up to the knee in order to help circulation in the calf, the 2XU crew socks focus solely on the foot. This is to help with heel and arch pain, which is often caused by the dreaded plantar fasciitis and is very common in runners.
The fabric used for the socks is lightweight and durable so they’re a great choice to wear in warmer months. If you suffer from foot pain and soreness but don’t feel the need to buy a pair of full knee-high compression socks, these might be for you.
Material: Olefin, Nylon; Sizes: S, M, L, XL
6. 1000 Mile Compression Sock: Best for comfort
Price: £12 | Buy now from Go Outdoors Like all good compression socks, the 1000 Mile Compression Socks work to improve blood circulation by reducing the buildup of lactic acid, minimising muscle fatigue and soreness, and enabling faster recovery after strenuous exercise or a particular injury. The socks use graduated compression to promote improved blood flow.
Where the socks really excel, however, is with features added to provide optimal comfort. The arch and ankle bracing offer additional support for the foot, and padding is included in the heel, ball and toe areas. Finally, the fitted heel and ultra flat toe seam are great bonuses.
Material: Nylon, Tactel; Sizes: S, M, L, XL; Cushioning: Heel, forefoot, toes
7. Compressport Full Compression Socks V2.1: Best for staying in place
Price: £29 | Buy now from Amazon
One of the most frequently heard complaints about compression socks is that they roll down the leg as soon as you start to move. Compressport’s 3D Dot technology solves this problem by being tighter in the Achilles tendon area to prevent the socks from slipping in this way.
It does this with an elastic-free and seamless single upper layer so there’s no undue pressure on your leg, and some customers reported that the ergonomic toe area fits the foot better than other socks and so avoiding that ‘trapped’ feeling that can sometimes come with wearing compression socks.
Material: Polyester; Sizes: S, M, L, XL