3 Studies Which Show Compression Clothing Doesn't Improve Performance for Athletes

 Last week, in Part 2 of our series investigating compression wear, we looked at a study which showed performance benefits for athletes wearing compression gear. This week in Part 3, we find three studies which contradict the Effect of Compression Stockings on Running Performance in Men Runners. Published Journal of Strength & Conditioning study and they conclude that there was no significant benefit for athletes wearing compression garments.



1) The use of compression stockings during a marathon competition to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage: are they really useful?


34 experienced runners were paired off matching age, body composition, body type and Personal Best marathon times. They were randomly assigned into one of two groups, those wearing Compression Socks and those wearing conventional socks (Control Group.)

Blood chemistry was taken, jump height and leg muscle power were measured before and after the race.

Race finish times were similar between the control group and the group wearing compression socks. The study also showed that reduction in muscle power and jump heights were similar and there was no noticeable difference in blood chemistry between the groups.

The study concludes that wearing compression socks does not improve running pace and did not prevent exercise-induced muscle damage during the marathon and was a poor strategy to increase performance.


2) Long-term effects of graduated compression stockings on cardiorespiratory performance.


This study looked at cardiorespiratory response and if there were any performance enhancements achieved while wearing compression socks.

Twenty recreational runners performed three tests on different days inside of a laboratory. Before each test, participants were randomly issued compression socks or placebos to train with for three weeks.

Day 1: Five minute maximum effort run to determine the runner’s maximum aerobic speed.

Day 2: A fatigue running test at 80% of maximum effort for 30 minutes. Runners were assigned a Compression Sock or a Placebo.

Day 3: A fatigue running test at 80% of maximum effort for 30 minutes. This time the runner switched garments and wore the Compression Sock or Placebo depending on what they wore before.

Cardiorespiratory parameters (minute ventilation, heart rate, relative oxygen consumption, relative carbon dioxide production, ventilatory equivalents for oxygen and carbon dioxide, and oxygen pulse) were measured. No significant differences between the results with compression socks or placebo.

The study concludes that there was no benefit for recreational runners training with compression socks for three weeks.


3) Compression stockings do not improve muscular performance during a half-ironman triathlon race.


This study looked to determine how well compression socks prevented muscle damage and maintained muscle performance during a half-iron man triathlon.

This time 36 experienced triathletes were matched for age, body composition, body type and Personal Best marathon times. They were randomly divided into two groups, those wearing Compression Socks and those wearing conventional socks.

Race finish times were measured with a timing chip, maximum jump height and leg muscle power were measured pre and post race and so was blood chemistry. Athletes were also asked for perceived exertion and muscle soreness too.

The measurements showed no noticeable difference between the groups for all of the data sets and the athletes reported similar levels of exertion and muscle soreness.

The study demonstrated that compression socks did not represent any advantage for maintaining muscle function or reducing blood markers of muscle damage during a triathlon event.




 So what can we take away from this? We now have three studies (albeit with small sample sizes still) which measure both both subjective and objective data from athletes and they all conclude that there is no benefit in speed or endurance. Even when athletes were asked to score how well the garments helped them, they judged them to be the same as a placebo. Is this the final say on the matter? Well... maybe. We'll take a look at the body of inconclusive evidence next week to see if it can help balance out the subject. In the meantime, don't let this be an excuse to stop you from training!


Join us again next Monday at 1230 and we'll look at the evidence which shows no benefits from compression wear. 









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Fierce Edge Health

Tags: FAQ, Guide, Science


Lester Lee

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