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Is There Evidence That Runners Can Benefit From Wearing Compression Clothing?

  • 08



    Researchers from Sweden and Germany have published an article regarding the use of compression garments among runners and whether or not there is evidence to support their utility.



    Engel FAHolmberg HC and Sperlich B have published their article in Sports Medicine, volume 46 (issue 12), pages 1939-1952.

    The authors state that "runners at various levels of performance and specializing in different events (from 800 m to marathons) wear compression socks, sleeves, shorts, and/or tights in attempt to improve their performance and facilitate recovery". They set out to determine what the literature supports and whether or not there is physiologic merits to wear such compression garments. 



    A computerized research of the electronic databases PubMed, MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science was performed in September of 2015, and the relevant articles published in peer-reviewed journals were thus identified rated using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) Scale. Studies examining effects on physiological, psychological, and/or biomechanical parameters during or after running were included, and means and measures of variability for the outcome employed to calculate Hedges'g effect size and associated 95 % confidence intervals for comparison of experimental (compression) and control (non-compression) trials.




    The researchers found that :

    1. Compression garments exerted no statistically significant mean effects on running performance (times for a (half) marathon, 15-km trail running, 5 and 10 km runs, and 400-m sprint.


    2. NOT EFFECTED were maximal and submaximal oxygen uptake, blood lactate concentrations, blood gas kinetics, cardiac parameters (including heart rate, cardiac output, cardiac index, and stroke volume), body and perceived temperature, or the performance of strength-related tasks after running. 


    3. A small positive effect was found for the time to exhaustion (in incremental or step tests), running economy (including biomechanical variables), clearance of blood lactate, perceived exertion, maximal voluntary isometric contraction and peak leg muscle power immediately after running, and markers of muscle damage and inflammation.


    4. The body core temperature was moderately affected by compression.


    5. Post-exercise leg soreness and the delay in onset of muscle fatigue indicated large positive effects.



    The authors concluded that "wearing compression clothing, runners may improve variables related to endurance performance (i.e., time to exhaustion) slightly, due to improvements in running economy, biomechanical variables, perception, and muscle temperature. They should also benefit from reduced muscle pain, damage, and inflammation".



    Dr Karamanoukian's coments: This is an important study because a lot of runners spend hundreds of dollars to purchase compression socks, sleeves, shorts, and/or tights to improve performance. This study breaks down the science and has determined that they do not improve performance; however, they reduce post-exercise leg soreness and delay the onset of muscle fatigue.