Shoes & Gear

Comparing Compression Socks

Comparing Compression Socks

There is some recent debate as to what amount of compression is good for your legs and what too much compression is. While not everyone is a firm believer that any compression is necessary to staying healthy I have found that compression gear has been one of the biggest keys to me being able to run close to 8000 miles with over 700,000 feet of elevation gain since I started my running streak 778 days ago. I have long been a firm believer that the key to recovery is not only changing up the muscles you use daily but mixing in a form of recovery such as wearing compression socks or shorts during or after a run. I personally wear them every day when I run but now that summer in Arizona is right around the corner I am a little concerned about the impact of the heat wearing full compression socks during a run. I have been going back and forth between the CEP compression socks, Zensah, and the CW-X socks for the last few weeks and I have learned quite a bit about each brand but most of all I learned what is actually important in a compression sock.

When selecting a compression sock it is important to get the correct calf measurements in order to provide the best fit and most compression. In order to get the most accurate size you want to measure the circumference around the widest point of your calves. So naturally the first question is why would one wear a compression sock and what are the benefits of paying $35-$60 for a pair of socks? Some of the biggest benefits of wearing compression socks are:

  1. Increased blood circulation
  2. Moisture Management
  3. More oxygen and energy
  4. Improved metabolism of lactic acid
  5. Quicker recovery
  6. Greater precision of movement
  7. Reduced Blisters

CW-X Compression Socks

  • Gradual Compression which aid in circulation and recovery, 9-14 mmHg
  • Patented Kinesio support web which helps support the calf muscles, ankles, joints and arches
  • Socks provide increased stability and balance with a greater efficiency of movement
  • 60% polyester, 11% cotton, 10% acrylic, 10% nylon, 9% polyurethane 4-way stretch fabric
  • Non restricting Toe Box allows for increased functionality and movement
  • Increases circulation in the feet and lower legs which helps reduce lactic acid buildup
  • Mesh ventilation allows for extra cooling, thinnest of all the compression socks
  • $35-$49 Retail Cost per pair

CEP Compression Socks

  • CEP Sock Pressure flow is between 18-23 mmHG
  • Moisture management and microfiber sock built in to reduce blisters and increase comfort
  • Built in Cell Tex which is a fiber that reduces blisters and regulates microclimate, ensures skin comfort
  • Allows for better endurance with less fatigue
  • Gradual Compression allows for improved metabolism of Lactic Acids
  • Flat seams particularly in the toes prevents blisters and hot spots
  • $59 Retail Cost per pair

Zensah Compression Socks

  • Incorporates Prograde compression
  • no mmHg listed
  • uses gradual compression throughout sock
  • Only compression sock with built in arch support
  • Greatest amount of compression is at the bottom of the sock and compression reduces up the calf (gradual compression helps prevent blood from pooling in your feet
  • $40-$50 Retail Cost per pair

So the real question is what sock would I choose as my favorite?

First let’s start with the CW-X sock. My initial thoughts when I was putting this sock on was that it seemed very thin and didn’t provide enough compression for my calves for the amount of climbing I do in a day. I was completely wrong in my analysis because the light, airy feel of the sock actually provides the perfect amount of compression without my leg ever feeling restricted. My toes felt free to move around in the sock and they really repelled moisture when going through washes and I never experienced any issues with blisters. While this is a very thin sock, it is also a very rugged sock that held up to a few good falls in the rocks without ripping open and one of the most important things is I found a compression sock that I can wear when it is 110 degrees without feeling hot. I would recommend this sock for anyone who wants greater efficiency of movement during a run and you’re looking for better endurance without becoming fatigued.

The CEP compression sock has long been my favorite sock but that is because I have been wearing it from the very beginning and I happen to own the most pairs of those. This sock feels like it has the most compression but at times late in a race there seems to be too much compression in the calves. The socks do a great job wicking moisture and the flat toe box really helps prevent getting blisters between your toes but prolonged wetness can cause some blistering or hot spots on your feet. I have not noticed this much in the dry Arizona desert but in races where my feet were wet for longer periods of time I have developed hot spots on the bottoms of my feet. This sock is a extremely comfortable sock that stays around the calf with ease and has definitely helped aid in my recovery time from day to day runs. I highly recommend this sock for anyone looking to aid in their performance and to increase blood circulation.

Finally the Zensah which I find to be my least favorite of the compression socks doesn’t offer the stability and compression of the other two. This is a sock with gradual compression but even with switching sizes and making sure of correct calf measurements I have difficulty keeping the socks from falling down while running. This sock has a very tight feel on the calves but unfortunately it seems to not provide a lot of comfort in the toe box. I am not completely down on the Zensah as a sock because it does provide great arch support and I would wear it over a regular moisture wicking sock any day but it is not my favorite of the ones I tried out.

All three socks have excellent qualities but without question I will always find myself bouncing between the CW-X and CEP socks over the Zensah. As I said I am a huge proponent of using compression socks each and every time I run because recovery time is so important when you’re putting in the kind of miles most marathon and ultra runners put in. I need to know that when I go out and run a 40-50 mile training run that I can get up in the morning and follow it up with either another long training run or a short run to shake out the lactic acid in my legs.

When buying compression socks it really is an investment in your future. At first glance they are some of the most expensive socks one has ever seen but if you take into account just how quick the recovery time is you can see why they are a worthwhile investment. There are several other brands out on the market but these are some of the most popular. Remember just because it may not be the best fit for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t the right sock for you. If you’re going to spend the money on a good pair of socks make sure you measure accurately!

What is your favorite brand of compression socks or do you prefer sleeves?



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This post was written by:

- who has written 7 posts on Trail Running Club.

Started running for the first time in my life three year's ago after losing my Dad to a pulmonary embolism at the age of 58 and since running I have lost almost 100 pounds and started a streak which on February 22, 2012 sits at 709 Consecutive days with at least 4 miles while compiling over 7,100 miles with 620,000+ feet of elevation gain and completed 14 Ultra's during this time period. Jay holds a Bachelor's Degree from Michigan State University in Crop and Soil Sciences.

Jay's recent trail ultra running results:

• 10 Top Ten Ultra Finishes in 14 races
• 4th overall at Lean Horse 100 in 19:01:12
• 9th overall at Javelina Jundred in 2011 in 18:28:26
• 100K Javelina Night Run Champion in 2011
• Cave Creek Thriller 50K Champion in 2010
• Runner up in 2011 DRT Ultra Series

2012 Race Schedule includes:
• Bandera 100K
• Nueces 50M
• Zane Grey 50M
• San Diego 100M
• Speedgoat 50K
• Pine to Palm 100M
* CIM Marathon

Jay Danek is sponsored by iRun Honey Stinger

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