Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Compression: More Than a Fancy Tube Sock.

You are out on your favorite trail run, climbing hard up hill and flying fast down the other side. You can feel your heart pumping, lungs working and legs burning and you are loving every minute of it. This burn is caused by the lactic acid building up and the your muscles fibers tearing while you are breaking your systems down. Strengthening and improvement only starts once damage is rebuilt and the mess has been cleared.

In order for your system to get stronger it must first be broken down. This provides muscle the opportunity to rebuild, and rebuild stronger than before the damage. So only after you rebuild and recover are you able to run farther and faster, but first your muscles pay the price.

Vibrations are carried from the impact of the pavement through your body with each foot strike which causes tearing in your muscles. Muscles pull at connective tissue attachments to forcibly pull bones around pivot-point joints like your ankles, knees, hips and back. All this force, torque and impact damages your muscles, bones and connective tissue, BUT this damage heals stronger than before the break down and you grow stronger and your endurance improves over time.

By challenging the current capacity of your body and breaking it down by working at your current limit you provide your body the opportunity to recover to a point beyond its current capacity, and therefore improve.

In an ideal world you go into each workout fully rested, free of muscles tears and stocked with blood full of oxygen so you can really push yourself. However, as you work and break down your system your muscles become excessively inflamed from the many small tears. This causes fluids to pool in your limbs which prevents lactic acid from clearing and blood from flowing back to the heart for oxygen.

This is why compression is so wonderful! Not only does it minimize damage but it also speeds recovery; the benefits are double fold! Stabilizing your muscles decreases vibrations, tearing, soreness and fatigue; so less pain and more gain.

Working muscles squeeze vessels and forces blood upwards against gravity through channels to the heart. Compression provides the same pumping action as working muscles and assists in moving blood back to the heart and lungs to load up on oxygen. This is helpful not only for recovery after workouts, but also during a workout!

This same squeeze from compression also moves lactic acid up against gravity to be filtered and removed from the system; further minimizing the effects of delayed onset muscle fatigue.

The variety and diversity of the benefits of compression is almost as great as the products on the market that fall into that category. Fleet Feet Bend offers several compression specific products that I have covered in detail below to make them easier to compare. Please drop by the shop to test any of the listed products out or if you have questions that have not been answered. I am certain that we can find the right compression for your activity and recovery.

Zoot Compression
Zoot Compression Website

Products Reviewed:
CompressRx Ultra Active Calf Sleeve ($60.00)
CompressRx Ultra Active Sock ($60.00)

Benefits Claimed:
- Stabilize muscles.
- Accelerate removal of lactic acid.
- Improve circulation back to the heart to oxygenate blood more quickly.
- Reduced muscle fatigue and post exercise soreness when used during exercise.

Listed Features
- ZoneRx: muscle specific zones of compression with differing amounts on compression on muscle belly of calf compared to front of shin.
- CRx: Graduated compression from more compression low at ankle to less compression at top of calf to aid in pushing against gravity and moving lactic acid and blood through the legs back towards the heart.
-SynchroRx: Functional moisture management, temperature regulation & odor protection because no one wants a soggy, stinky sock.
- Circumference Sizing: Products are sized according to the circumference of your muscle and your body for the best fit rather than group sizes according to shoe size like other companies.
- Knit not Sewn: Zoot products are knitted as one unit rather than cut out into smaller pieces and then sewn back together. This means there are no weak spots or chance for irratation from seams.
- Compression above 40 mmHg: Compression is measured in millimeters of mercury and Zoot offers the greatest amount of compression available without a prescription.

If you are looking for some serious compression then this is the product for you. Although many customers are very comfortable working out and doing intense exercise,
even competing while wearing Zoot products I personally found them to be a little too intense of compression for use while being active. I may just be sensitive to compression but that degree of pressure on my calf muscles and arches while working hard periodically left me with the sensation that I might crap or my toes my curl under. However for recovery, travel and casual wear around these socks can't be beat. They really get the job done and left me feeling much more prepared for my next workout and I didn't feel overwhelmed by the level of compression what so ever in a less demanding environment.

RecoFit Compression
RecoFit Compression Website

Product Reviewed:
RecoFit Calf Sleeve ($45.00)

Benefits Claimed:
- Accounts for both of the body's circulatory systems; lymphatic or immune system and the circulatory system of the heart pumping blood.
- Aids squeeze of muscles to reduce pooling and accelerate blood's movement back to the heart and lungs.
- Improve circulation to decrease inflammation and the effects of Delayed Onset Muscle Fatigue

Listed Features
-GreatFiT (Gradient Recovery Exercise & Activity Technology): Differing amounts of compression which corresponds to the needs of specific areas of the leg. This results in more compression on the shins and less compression on the muscle belly of the calf.
-Resistex (Negative-ion circulation assistance): Carbon yarns have been added to the technical fabric for a ribbed fit which increases breathability, adds compression and provides massage effects. In addition to moisture management. Again, no body likes soggy, stinky apparel.
-Flatlock seams, fine fabrics & cross grain cuts: for added compression and comfort.
-Circumference based sizing: Sizing is determined by measuring the calf rather than group sizing according to foot size for an ideal fit.

The Recofit Calf Sleeves are great because they give you the compression you desire to support your shins and calves but still allow you to wear your favorite Balega or Drymax technical socks on your feet. The Recofit are a happy medium between the intense, medical grade compression of Zoot Ultra-Actice Sock and the familiar, cotton-like feel of the Balega Performance Enhancing Compression Sock. Recofit products are cut and sewn together and don't offer quite as much compression as Zoot products. Recofit still sports quite enough compression to make it a great product for recovery and travel, as well as high-intensity work-outs. I find that is the niche that the Recofit sleeves fit for me. They are enough compression to really minimize shin-soreness if I wear them for speed work on the roads without the threat of being so tight I feel like my calves are having to work to push and shove against them. I can then leave them on for recovery while I stretch out and make dinner after my workout at home. However, they certainly can't compare to the Zoots for pure recovery and the Balegas for pure comfort.

Balega Compression
Balega Running Socks Website

Product Reviewed:
Balega Performance Enhancing Compression ($40.00)

Benefits Claimed & Listed Features:
- Quicken the reabsorb lactic acid.
- Reduce muscle strain.
- Improve circulation.
- Keep muscles compact to reduce fatigue and shorten recovery time.
- Sizing is based on foot size

Not nearly as technical as Zoot or Recofit, also not as expensive. The Balega Performance Enhancing Compression socks do offer more compression than it appears. When you first put them on and take a look in the mirror you feel that you are in a knee-high, tube sock and should be headed out to shoot some hoops instead of headed to hit the trails. However, you do feel the compression from the socks and I even found this level of compression much more comfortable than the Zoot or Recofit on longer runs. I like the familar, soft feel of Balega socks on my feet and toes while I am running. The Balega compression also has more warmth to offer than Recofit or Zoot which was nice keeping my muscles warm during excercise throughout the winter. Although the Balega compression is far from medical grade it is very well suited to long runs where a little extra compression and warmth is appreciated and the familar feel of high quality Balega socks is also desired. If you are looking for comfortable compression for the long run Balega is a great product. If you looking for a more intense compression Zoot or Recofit may be a better fit.


kids footwear said...

Today I pulled out a toe up sock to just before the heel gusset. I love the look of this gusset so will give it a go. Many thanks

Davidrosetta said...

Properly fitting compression stockings and arm sleeves should feel snug at first. It will take a few days to adjust to the pressure.

Compression Stockings Edema