Compression Apparel - A Buyer's Guide
In sport, compression apparel is clothing designed to stabilize muscles for more effective performance, and to delay the build up of lactic acid in the muscles to aid in recovery. While originally designed to treat those with vascular problems (mainly in those who are bedridden or otherwise immobile) and disorders that involve swelling, healthy athletes also use compression gear because the specific, powerful fabrics are said to aid in recovery or performance.
The purported benefits and common uses of compression apparel include:
- Improved Recovery: Manufacturers tout the ability of compression apparel to increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles, in turn decreasing recovery time. The removal of metabolic waste is expedited because of this improved blood flow. These benefits can be seen both when wearing the gear during activity and when wearing it after activity.
- Improved Performance: Metabolic waste like lactic acid is quickly flushed out of the muscles, in turn enabling those muscles to stay “fresh” and allowing them to continue functioning at a high intensity.
- Reduced Soreness: When running, vibrations from each foot strike cause the muscles to shake. Compression apparel secures the muscles and prevents these vibrations from causing damage, in turn decreasing muscle fatigue and post-exercise soreness.
When it comes to compression apparel, compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). For example, most compression socks designed for sport feature 18-25mmHg compression. This means that the compression is 18 mmHg at the calf and 25 mmHg at the ankle. Because of this, you’ll mainly be looking at the circumference of the calf when determining sizing, as opposed to shoe size. Compression apparel is also designated as “graduated”, meaning the level of compression decreases from bottom to top. This helps promote blood flow back to the heart.
- Full Socks begin just below the knee and cover the entire foot, including arch compression to increase blood flow to the feet, and are specifically designated as “right” and “left”
- Calf Sleeves cover the ankle to top of the calf, allowing athletes to wear preferred socks but still compress the calves
- Arm Sleeves cover the forearm and biceps
- Quad Sleeves cover the quads only
- Shorts cover the hips and quads