We tried it: Compression socks for running

Courtesy Megan Ann Wilson/David Wilson

What I love most about running is that all you need to get started are your two feet and a heartbeat. It's one of the most travel-friendly sports since there's minimal gear to pack and you can check out the sights and sounds of a new city while getting in your cardio.

But as I've started running more (and as I enter my thirties), I've begun to feel fatigue in my arches, calves and knees during and after my run. I've stretched and massaged but realized it may be time to step up my gear beyond functional and fun sneakers -- it's time to upgrade my socks as well.

Compression gear functions as a base layer that's extra snug in specific areas. It supposedly helps increase blood flow and reduces lactic acid build-up -- which in turn could diminish my fatigue and speed up my post-run recovery. I've worn other compression gear like leggings and shorts in the past, so when PRO Compression, a sock-specific company, sent me a few pairs, I was excited and curious to see if it could be the cure to my runner's fatigue.

The details

The socks I tested out were the PRO Compression Marathon Elite socks, the top-of-the-line model which retails for $55. They offer graduated compression, meaning the compression decreases as you move up the leg and closer to your heart. (The idea is that it helps push blood flow back towards the heart -- resulting in better circulation and an easier recovery from exercise.)

The socks also have calf support and extra padding in the heel and toe for comfort on long runs. They're made of a blend of materials that are meant to wick sweat and smells.

The test

To get the best overall impression of the socks I wore them during runs for a few months throughout the summer -- with shorts, under tights -- and in all kinds of weather. I wore a size small in the Marathon Elite socks and have a 5 ½ shoe size. I also tried them out post-run and on recovery days.

I have rather large calves and often have a problem finding socks that stay up, but these fit snugly -- as compression gear should. The material did seem to wick away sweat and the socks didn't slip down my calves no matter how hot it was or how hard I ran.

I noticed that my arches felt more supported, which meant that I could wear more minimal running sneakers with less pain. It did seem like the tight fit made my calves feel oddly energized, but I'm not sure if some of that was a placebo effect from wearing the socks.

I was most impressed, though, with how the socks felt when worn during recovery. If I wore them post run (and shower), my calves felt hugged -- as though they were being massaged. They felt so good after one run that I wore the socks out to dinner because they felt too comfortable to take off.

Worth it?

At $55, these socks are priced right in the middle for compression running socks. I've worn my pairs multiple times and they've stood up to plenty of wear and washes. If you find yourself getting calf and foot fatigue or soreness from running -- or want to ease your recovery -- the PRO Compression socks are a decent, comfortable investment that I'm happy to recommend.

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