I have to admit, I've heard the buzz on knee-high compression socks boosting running performance and improving recovery for quite some time, and have even done a little research on the subject to determine if I should be the next convert that says goodbye to ankle-high socks and hello to awkward tan lines. "Increase oxygen delivery." "Decrease lactic acid." "Prevent cramps." "Minimize muscle fatigue." In theory, that sounds great. But then you get to the part where researcher after researcher explain that little to no evidence exists supporting the claim that these garments actually do improve performance during exercise. But then something pretty spectacular happened last month. Meb Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years — and he did it wearing knee-high compression socks.
That got me thinking about my own marathon. In November, I'll run my third marathon, but my first in nearly a decade and I recognize it will be a great challenge, but it's one I'm excited to embrace as this will be my last race as a 30-something. When I last ran the marathon, I was a 20-something. The harsh reality is I am now older, fatter and slower. Yep, I've hit the depressing trifecta for a runner. I can't control the first but I can control the last two. Needing any performance advantage I can get at this point in my life, I decided to turn to CEP compression socks for help, and to see if these socks could work their magic with me.
Over the weekend, I took my new socks out for a spin, running a 10K route that I had last run one month prior. Despite stretching, it typically takes me a good mile to get my legs warmed up and shake off the cobwebs. I noticed right away that I felt more bounce in my step early on. I continued into a fairly tough wind (not uncommon for where I live) and at the two-mile mark, I was already a good 30 seconds per mile ahead of the pace from that previous run. Nervous that my wife would be finding me on the side of the road by mile three, I opted to pull back a bit thinking there was no way I could sustain that pace given what I had done previously. I was wrong.
Over those next four miles, I actually got faster each mile, feeling surprisingly fresh the entire run. There were no aches and pains. I felt like I actually had a lot of life in my legs throughout. At no point did I feel like I was pushing myself; it was all running in a comfortable rhythm. No labored breathing. No getting passed by guys running in basketball shorts. When I finally reached my house, I had done it running 44 seconds per mile faster than I had one month previously, and it had been fairly effortless. Enhanced performance, check. What about the improved recovery? The following morning, I was back at it, feeling fully refreshed and once again, running one of my normal loops faster than I had run it in years.
Whether or not these socks are truly behind my improved workouts is up for debate of course. An argument can, and has, been made that their impact during an actual run or race is more psychological than physical. But as I work to regain something I thought I had lost a long time ago — my passion for running — I can promise you I will be doing it with my CEP compression socks every step of the way.