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What’s the point of compression sleeves?

Tue, Aug 30, 2011


For those of you who may not know, this is a compression sleeve:

(Im lobbying for a TATTOO-pattern Misfit Sleeve!)

I already knew I loved me some Zensah compression apparel.

I love my Zensah compression skirt & sports bra:

I adore my PINK Zensah compression tank-top:

I’m painfully aware (literally & metaphorically) I’m not a hardcore runner—-yet I’d become uber-curious about the compression sleeves.


Are the sleeves even intended for the soft-of-core lollopers like I am?  Does one run IN them? Don them AFTER the run? Whats the difference between the sleeves and the socks?

And, as with all my questions these days, I clicked over to Facebook and asked my Peeps.

I was confident everyone out there would have the knowledge & insights I lacked.

To my surprise and delight I wasn’t alone in my perplexednessment.

To my surprise and delight** Zensah offered to answer all of my (& your) questions.

I am a misfit. I adore the mere look of the sleeves & am SMITTEN by the color selection.  That said, bottom line it for us: WHATS THE POINT?

The point of compression socks is to improve blood circulation and overall leg health.   By wearing graduated compression socks for sport, you attain these 2 benefits in addition to maximizing your recovery time.   Compression helps reduce muscle vibrations which can cause micro-tears and inflammation in the muscles.  It can also help prevent shin splints.

To my chagrin, Im just starting back AND a short distancer right now.  Besides the fashion statement I adore—is there a need for the sleeves for me?

I don’t think someone can be too much a novice to use compression.  It’s a matter of trying them out and seeing when they feel best for you. You can wear compression before, during, and after runs. If you are looking for muscle stabilization or prevention of any muscle pains, compression can help during a run.  If you are looking solely for a recovery tool, then it is best to wear after a run.

Distance is not a factor. For example, when you are transitioning into minimalist running, although you may start with 1,2,3 milers your calves are still going to be sore because different muscles are being used. The compression socks/sleeves will help alleviate and recover from soreness much faster.  In this situation you should wear them even at short distances.

We make great colors so people like to show off their colorful legs at all levels of running :)

Ok, even if I covet a pair for the wrong reasons—they could work for me.  I like that.  Now, how do I know if I want the sleeves or the socks?

There are differing benefits to socks and sleeves.

Compression socks provide support starting at the toes.  Zensah Compression socks offer arch support and padding in the heal and toes which makes them very comfortable, too.  

The compression sleeves are a bit more  versatile. You can wear them with running socks that you are already comfortable with, you don’t have to wash them as often, you can wear them with open toed shoes for recovery. 

The Zensah Compression Sleeves are unique in that they have a physiological design imprinted onto the sleeve that imitates the taping that a physical trainer would do on your shins to prevent shin splints. They offer all the benefits of compression in addition to help preventing shin splints.

I know.

It’s a whole lot of information & an email I read & reread multiple times before I even attempted to blog about it.

Now I look to you—-and not the company who sells the compression—what are YOUR experiences with compression sleeves or socks?

When do you don the brightly colored items I adore?

Who do you believe they work best for?

Please to hit us all up in the comments below.




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68 Responses to “What’s the point of compression sleeves?”

  1. Yolunda says:

    I love my compression sleeves.
    Different brand :)

  2. Nettie says:

    I remember that FB thread and I’ve been curious ever since.

    My shins and calves Kill ME! after long runs.

  3. Nettie says:

    Just reread this and thank you for clarifying about the sleeves versus socks. I think I want sleeves!!

  4. DEBRA says:

    I love love love my Zensah compression sleeves and am even going back for a second pair today. I wear them when I run. I’m up to a 7 mile run/walk and find that when I don’t wear them my shins hurt really bad. I also have some issue with slight left leg edema and the compression sleeves really help with that. I image I will eventually wear nothing but compression sleeves and socks. I just can’t replace my whole sock wardrobe at once.

    • Miz says:

      So you mean nothing but those all the time? all day every day?

      • DEBRA says:

        Yeah. I think so. I work in medical so I’m standing on a concrete floor for 8+ hours 5 days and week and it’s killing my legs. I don’t like wearing pantyhose and most medical compression socks don’t fit my gigantical calves. The idea of padded socks with arch support and good graduated compression for my legs just makes my heart turn flips. I can’t imagine what it would be like to get off work at night and not have achy tired legs. But I want to find out.

  5. Helen says:

    WOOT for Zensah sleeves. I have the blue and have worn them to death.
    I run in them!

  6. Talie says:

    Heck yes on the tattooed sleeves :)

    are you going to buy a pair now Miz?

  7. Renee says:

    I had thought you didn’t need socks or sleeves if you were not running long distances.

    I can’t remember where I read that.
    I’ll look.

  8. bodynsoil says:

    I have always wondered about them and didn’t know what all the hub bub was about.. Well now I know, thanks for a great post.

  9. Evie says:

    What Renee asked: are you SOLD on a pair Mizzy?

  10. Healthy Mama says:

    I love the skirt!!

    Is that Zensah brand too?

  11. Cort The Sport says:

    I have to say I think they have crossed over from therapeutic tool to fashion accessory that says “I am a runner” or “I am a triathlete” and they are worn whether they are needed or not. I was in Burlington VT at USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals and it seemed like everyone was walking around in those things. I’ll admit I wore them for the flight up but then took them off because I don’t like to conform ;-) . It was really bordering on ridiculous, like really ALL of you have calf issues?! I don’t run in them but do like them on occasion post-run. I think the full socks work better for me but they definitely look dorkier…hello kneesocks kind of thing!

  12. Ollie says:

    I saw your FB thread and had thought I was the only runner who didn’t know what on earth these were for.

  13. Runner Girl says:

    I love my compresson socks, but would trade them glady for Mizzy tattooed sleeves!


  14. Shelley B says:

    I bought a pair just before my first half - they did make my calves feel instantly better after several of my longer runs. I haven’t (obviously) had to wear them lately, but with the way my legs were feeling last night after a kick-ass yoga session, I probably should have put them on. As for judging whether or not anyone “needs” to wear them, as some of the commenters have done - it’s an individual thing. We all have different levels of soreness/achiness - who’s to say what someone else should be doing?

  15. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    Carla, thx for this post & others comments. I run quite a bit but I am not super long distance but I do enough that these could probably help me & especially with age, I feel things more.

    How do they help the calves too - not just shins? Did you notice that at all cause I really feel the calves no matter how much I stretch - damn age! ;-)

  16. Coco says:

    I wear mine during long runs, races and long flights. They seem to help prevent my calves from seizing up at the end of a race, and I’m hoping they help me avoid getting a DVT ever again. I have Zensah sleeves in chic black. :-)

  17. Wanda says:

    I love my sleeves and I don’t even run!!

    I stole them from a friend LOL and use after heavy lifting sessions.

  18. Wanda says:

    Are you getting a pair?!

  19. Morgan @ Life After Bagels says:

    reduce inflammation?!?!? umm why have I not heard of these sooner

    also - what about cycling? it’s certainly not the same impact but I get sore after a bike ride too, will they help?

  20. Miz says:

    peeeeking in from the zaniness of the kinder mornings :)
    I do have a review coming FRIDAY and, since I had to spread the love of the compression, Im buying ONE OF YOU A PAIR TOO.

    Alas they cant be tattoo print since those dont exist and all.

    YET :)

  21. Miz says:

    We must have crossed in the air morgan :) id say YES theyd work for that too especially given the keniso tape idea in them! Ill see if i can get a Zensah peep to answer for sure!

  22. Patti says:

    I’m super curious now!

    Can’t wait to see what you think!

  23. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    I’m not a runner (unless we’re counting occasional from-here-to-the-next-light-pole jogs), but I’m curious about the post-lifting benefits Wanda questioned.

  24. Marcia says:

    OMG tat compression sleeves would be the BOMB!!!
    I mostly wear mine after loong runs, after an ice bath. They came in very handy last year in Boston when I had to fly out immediately after finishing the marathon. Felt SO good on the plane!

  25. Yoga Mamma says:

    I’ve never heard of these!

  26. Dina says:

    This is really helpful! I have not used sleeves before but was interested (mainly because they are super cute.) A lot of the information available seems contradictory (as far as compression gear in general.) Cuteness factor alone, I would like to give them a try.

  27. addy says:

    ummm so maybe I should try these?

  28. Meredith says:

    I have always wondered about these, too.

    Did the compression sports bra compress the girls?!

  29. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    I knew nothing about them before this post. But I do love my biking compression shorts! Not sure they improve performance but it’s a lot like wearing spanx - sucks in all the jiggly bits:)

  30. Miz says:

    totally loved how they held me too ;)

  31. Erica says:

    I don’t have them but should get a pair! I get shin splints on occasion and would love the relief

  32. Colleenzo says:

    Not sure if these are the same kind of compression sleeves, but I was given a pair after my back surgery to prevent blood clots in my legs. I kept them, because they’re perfect to wear during colder weather with my Vibram 5-Fingers! Leaves the toes open, protects the rest of the foot/leg! Mine WERE boring white, but after an accidental washing machine run-in with a red towel, they now look pretty much like yours.

  33. dragonmamma says:

    When I broke my ankle last year and had to wear a compression boot that went from mid-food to right below the knee, I had to take it off every few hours because it would swell up right above where the compression ended and it drove me nuts. Don’t know if the effect would be the same on an uninjured limb, but seems to me like a snug pair of pants would work better with the fuller coverage.

  34. Janis says:

    Honestly, I think compression sleeves are for older women who run but who don’t want the batwing thing going on. Iv’e always been pretty thin and even I’m seeing some batwing action; if I were a runner/jogger, I’d use them just for that.

  35. Christina says:

    I have no flipping clue if those compression socks work but I wear them when I know my calves/shins are going to be mega sore. Do they work? Who knows,I can’t tell. I don’t really get how they’re supposed to help with circulation when those bad boys are super tight lol.

    • DEBRA says:

      They help with circulation because they are tight! They really shouldn’t be too tight though… snug is better.
      I’m not great with words but someone wrote a great bit on Wiki about how they work “Compression stockings are tightest at the ankles, gradually become less constrictive towards the knees and thighs. By compressing the surface veins, arteries and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased which causes more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet.”

  36. Rita says:

    Love the skirt. I’d want in the pink!

  37. Whitney says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been debating compression socks/sleeves recently since I’ve picked up my running. I’ve seen them mentioned in the blogworld & other runners and thought they might be good for my super tight calves and not a bad idea as a Diabetic. Your questions are exactly what I was wondering.

  38. Quix says:

    These (or socks) are on my Christmas list as I plan on ramping up my mileage this winter! I have no idea if they’ll work but an extra layer under the pants on cold days can’t hurt if nothing else. I wore soccer socks last year and they worked ok, but I’m sure real ones would be better, especially after.

  39. LindseyAnn says:

    I faithfully use my compression socks after a long run. Stretch, shower, socks. I just wear them as I go about my business for the rest of the day.
    I also like to use mine when I’m traveling long distances, or if I know I’m going to be on my feet for an extended period of time (ie, 8 hours or more). They are amazing little guys, and have served me well.

  40. Lori says:

    I use compression shorts for running because after losing 100 pounds, I have loose skin and you can feel it running. Compression shorts hold that in and make my run comfortable. Anything else they might do is bonus LOL.

  41. JavaChick says:

    They had me at arch support. Now I want to try.

  42. MizFit says:

    LOVE that as a tip Lori. Thanks for sharing that…

  43. MizFit says:

    I KNOW JavaChick I was bummed they wouldnt do a giveaway but Im greedy like that :)

  44. Izzy says:

    I have black and would love the tattooed :)

  45. J.C. says:

    Thanks so much for blogging this.

    I had the same confusion and questions.

  46. mousearoo says:

    LOVE compression gear.

    I have two pairs of socks that I usually wear for recovery but have worn them in a couple half marathons and 30k races.

    I also have leg sleeves. They’re red and they’re awesome.

  47. Sarah says:

    Interesting - have only heard of using these for aeroplane flights and when in hospital to prevent DVT. I have a white pair that I wore in hospital a few years ago and kept just in case - never worn them since.

    When I tried jogging at one point I did get shin splints, so will bear them in mind!

  48. Mere says:

    OH. I’ve always been curious what my neighbor (runner) is wearing!!!
    I might like a pair for after biking.

    Thanks Miz.

  49. cheryl says:

    My grandpa wore compression socks and he walked well into his late 90s every day. Prevent varicose veins and keep blookd flowing up to the heart-like they said. It’s nothing “new” except the price and colors. Many hardcore marathoners (women) used to wear knee socks when racing. I love the sleeves (leg) after an Ironman when swelling usually wants to take place. I don’t think a skirt can be compression tho. If so, tell me how and why! ha!

  50. Kek says:

    I haven’t tried socks or sleeves, but I love my full-length compression tights. I wear them when I’m lifting super-heavy, or if I’m doing an insane workout involving lots of running and plyometrics, I’ll wear them to bed afterwards. They make the difference between being a bit sore the next day and not being able to get out of bed unassisted.

    I had some genetic testing done and I have a negative variation in a gene that controls lactate transport - which explains why I suffer from extreme post-exercise soreness. Compression garments were one of the solutions recommended to me by the scientists and exercise physiologists running the genetic testing program to help combat the ouchies.

    Sleeves or socks might be worth investigating for summer, when it’s too hot for tights. :)

  51. Tara Burner says:

    I haven’t dabbled in compression sleeves or socks yet….
    but now am curious…especially since I just did review on Zensah’s tank top…and they’re local to me as well!
    may just have to go get some seeing how I’m doing a 5K in November and haven’t logged much running time lately, these may just help!

  52. Meg@LivingInLuling says:

    I have a pair of compression leg sleeves. Generally, I wear them after a long run. I never run in them because I heat up quickly while running and try to wear as little as possible, even in the winter. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my sleeves.

    But I have questions on compression for the rest of my body. I really want tights but I don’t know which level to buy.There’s just way too many choices.
    I guess I should email someone @ Zensah.

  53. Nan says:

    Girl, Zensah needs them some tattoo sleeves ;)
    I’d get another pair then….

  54. Emmie says:

    I love my compression socks - my legs always feel great when I use them to wog, and they feel awesome post-wog also.

  55. chris says:

    I am in love with my Zensah sleeves! They have helped me through some odd calf muslcly tear something or other very well!

  56. shannon says:

    I wish i had a nice orange pair instead of black! I use mine after hard runs/rides/races and like what i at least think they’re doing ;)

  57. Deb says:

    OK, so I don’t run. But I am madly intrigued about compression sleeve SLEEVES like the guys wear in the NBA. Would they support and keep my muscles warm while lifting? Could I start a new trend in the gym?

  58. Deanna @ The Unnatural Mother says:

    I’ve always been curious, I think I’ll be making a purchase soon!

  59. Erica says:

    I am so excited to read this post! I just ordered a pair of the Zensah compression socks! I had heard of them, but had never really knew what they were for or if I needed them. I am hoping that they will be perfect as I train for my 3rd marathon..can’t wait to get them in! Thank you!

  60. Misty @ Life Off the D List says:

    these or some compression pants are top’s on my list for christmas…or sooner if I can afford treat myself !!!

  61. Kerri O says:

    I have never tried compression anything. Perhaps I’m missing out?! They make a compression skirt?? I like that.

  62. Erin says:

    Hey! Sleeves!! Love love the idea! I would definately wear them while running! I would show off my pink legs! Pink is my favorite color- my nickname is “Pinky!” I would wear them running, to the grocery store, and even to church! The kids would Love it- I teach 5th and 6th grade Sunday school! I’m ready to run in Zensah!

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