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Quick Guide: Cycling compression socks

by | Feb 11, 2020 | Blog

Cycling compression socks are occasionally seen and worn by racing cyclists, be it on the circuit or a TT. Compression socks are used across many different sports and have become a mainstream consumer product for amateur athletes. But are they worth it?

The tight compression of the socks gently squeeze the leg to help blood vessels work better which in turn for athletes can help reduce the fatigue of legs. It is also used to aid recovery post strenuous activity, reducing soreness and swelling. 

In this quick guide, we’ll summarise some benefits and arguments against cycling compression socks. This isn’t medical advice so please consult a GP if needs be.

Performance benefits of cycling compression socks

The big question on people’s minds is whether cycling compression socks actually work. It’s not a typical item you see for sale in cycling retailers, nor something you typically see on your average Sunday club run. But can they help you smash your Strava KOM?

You may read experts claim that it can help aerodynamics when cycling but we’d hazard a guess this is so marginal that even Christ Boardman would shake his head.  And speaking of marginal, an Australian Institute of Sport research study (no longer available to access) found that it’s below 1% beneficial when it comes to oxygenating your muscles. 

Whilst not a performance benefit, studies do find compression clothing and cycling compression socks reduce the lactate quicker than not wearing them at all. Yet other studies suggest cold water or ice baths are typically better are reducing lactate and swelling too. 

Arguments against wearing compression socks

Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Cycling compression socks aren’t the best looking thing out there, and if you’re buying high end bikes, Rapha gear and Kask helmets, you’re probably someone with a degree of vanity. But kudos to you if you shrug at all of this…

There are several studies that suggest compression socks aren’t beneficial for cyclists in terms of performance. A study by Engel and Sperlich conclude that compression garments in sport “has no significant impact on performance”. 

Should you buy them?

It’s hard to say whether or not cycling compression socks make any difference to the everyday athlete. And whether they would make any difference to you. Marginal gains are often reserved for top-end athletes to get the slight edge over competition and needn’t be something to worry about if you don’t meet that bracket.

However, what’s there to lose? Compression clothing is relatively inexpensive and you can find compression socks at Amazon or Evans Cycles. The best way to see if they will work for you is giving them a go for 15 minutes during your recovery after a ride, and see how you feel. 

Let us know how you get on with them, we’re keen to hear your thoughts!

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