Why compression is important for overweight runners

Those funny compression socks you see may actually be helpful for chubby runners.

Have you ever seen someone running with knee-high socks? Or a sleeve on just one arm? No, they are not trying to set the next running fashion trend. The truth of the matter is these arm sleeves and socks serve a more utilitarian function, compression. But is the hype about it just a trend or is it actually useful for overweight runners? We’ll dive into that in this article.

What is compression?  

First, a little biology refresher.

Compression therapy is a way to increase blood flow by gently applying pressure with specifically designed compression clothing, like socks or wraps. Most commonly, compression socks are used to help slowly stretch out vein walls, improve overall circulation, eliminate swelling and reduce injury in other areas.

Science of compression

Blood carries oxygen throughout the body, including the muscles and the heart. The easier it is for blood to pump throughout the body, means less strain on the heart. A stress-free heart is one that will stay healthier longer. When the oxygenated blood flows to the muscles in your body, your muscles begin to recover from the stress of a training run. Nutrients and oxygen in the blood help to energize and repair the muscles so you can continue to train day in and day out.

Compression involves more than tight-fitting training gear around your legs and arms. It gives targeted, mild pressure on specific areas of your body. For example, compression socks apply pressure to the ball of the foot, around the ankle, and on the tendon that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel, the plantar fascia. That extra support to these areas during your training runs ensures that your body stays in alignment.

Do compression socks really work?

Yes. Compression socks help to encourage blood flow to the areas of your legs and feet that need it most while the increased blood flow helps in faster muscle recovery. Your body does most of its recovery while in a rested state, so wearing these socks can help increase blood flow and speed up that process. If you tend to struggle with sore muscles, wearing compression socks while you sleep can be a great help.

Typically, these are made with stretchy elastic material. Sock or stockings work to replicate muscle function by adding pressure to contracting areas of restricted blood circulation in the leg, allowing veins to loosen reducing pain in the lower limbs.

Do you need more intense therapy?

Overweight runners should be mindful of chronic venous diseases. These occur when increased pressure strains the leg veins causing the valves within the veins to fail to work efficiently. This can cause blood flow to back up and eventually pool out in the legs. Those with more chronic venous disease are prime candidates for compression therapy.

What are the best running shoes for compression?

Chronic venous diseases can occur in people who have experienced one or more of the following:

  • Leg surgery or injury
  • Obesity or excessive weight gain
  • Blood clots in the veins

Without intense therapy, these ailments can lead to future issues, like “spider veins” which look like thin blue lines that can branch out depending on the severity of the blood flow restriction. “Spider veins” or dilated veins will drain your limbs and can cause fatigue and even lead to sudden bursts of pain. Compression therapy is a primary source of treatment that can help alleviate aching and loosen constriction between the vein walls.

Consult a physician

If you feel like you may be a candidate for more intense compression therapy, consulting a physician is the best way to determine how to tackle it. Together you can decide the most effective and efficient strategy moving forward.

Go get some socks

Compression socks helps with blood flow into the legs, which can be a challenge for us overweight runners. Increased blood flow helps in recovery so that you can hit the pavement day in and day out without pain, and that can help your long-term marathon training plan. It’s a win-win.

Bottom line on compression

Now that you know a little bit more about compression and how it can be beneficial to your training program, the only thing left to decide is what color compression socks will match your cute little running outfit.