The Case for Compression

Squeeze more out of your race day and recovery!

By Michael Zabrodski

Are you half or full marathon training? How are those legs treating you these days? Sore, tight legs are a common byproduct of training for races of any distance. We hear it at Philadelphia Runner all of the time, “I’m always so sore after my long runs, is there anything I can do?” Why yes my dear running friend, there is. Compression.


I remember my first half marathon. I was just beginning my foray into distance running, and I was definitely a novice when it came to being prepared with the right apparel. It was a September race, perfect weather, no chance that people were dressing for warmth. Yet I distinctly remember seeing a large number of people wearing socks or sleeves all the way up to their knees. I asked my vastly more experienced race partner what everyone was wearing and he dove into an explanation about compression. He loved it, told me how much he thought they helped him and the differences between socks and sleeves. Naturally I asked him why he wasn’t wearing them for the race - he forgot to wash them.

Can compression help you? The long and short answer is - Yes!

Compression socks and sleeves have been used medical professionals for years, and have been consistently proven to prevent blood clots and improve circulation. So, how can that benefit you as an athlete? It’s simple; improving circulation as well as blood flow and oxygen flow help us recover after hard workouts, or long runs.

Really hard speed workout? Slide on some compression.

Hill repeats? Compress those calves.

Twenty miler? You bet...compression socks!

Just slip them on and go about your day. As you move, the graduated compression helps blood flow much more effectively from the feet and calves, where swelling can be the worst and soreness can be the most intense. Without breaking into a deep Anatomy and Physiology lesson, the more we increase blood flow and oxygenation levels, the faster our sore muscles can heal, the more prepared we can be for our next workout. Or the faster you’ll be walking normally again after you cross the finish line.

Now, can compression really help you increase your performance on race day? The jury is still out. It’s hard to do accurate studies on the benefits of compression during performance, but plenty of runners swear by them. The science is still the same. As we race, the compression helps blood flow and circulation, you avoid swelling as much, and your legs stay fresh further and further into the race. For many runners, including me that have dealt with lower leg cramping, the increased circulation benefit of compression technology has been a saving grace. Although I may not have run faster or more efficiently, I definitely didn’t deal with the struggles of calf cramps after the twenty mile mark. I’ll never run a marathon without them!


If you’ve been in to any Philadelphia Runner location in the past year, you’ve probably noticed a selection of brightly colored Zensah products. They offer a wide variety of compression socks and sleeves, in plenty of sizes, to make sure you get the best compression fit for you. They’re constructed with fully graduated compression, which means they have a greater amount of compression around the ankle and gradually get looser towards the top of the calf. It is this type of compression that helps “pump the junk” out of the veins in your tired legs.

There are some big differences between the socks and sleeves. So if your considering adding compression to your apparel arsenal, swing by any Philadelphia Runner location for an explanation of the differences and a more in depth explanation of how they can help you!