Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CW-X compression socks: a review and an attempt to explain compression clothing.

I recently purchased some CW-X compression socks. I like them. You should buy them. they work well, they feel nice, they have not ripped yet.

After that terrible review (seriously, great socks, work as told), I'm going to dive into compression clothing as a training modality.
Looking at a study by Kemmler, compression stockings (think socks), actually affect running anaerobic, aerobic, lactate threshold, BUT not VO2 max. Essentially, the let you suffer for a little bit longer on the run. They don't really help you raise your horse power, but they give you a little more gas. With a sprinting test on moderately in shape runners, athletes were able to pump for an extra 1.41 seconds. Doesn't sound like a lot, but that really adds up in the long term.

So how do they work?
By applying "graduated pressure", the theory is that you are returning blood from your legs to you heart, faster than you would normally. You have to remember that you body delivers the byproducts of exercise to spleen, liver, kidney through this method. These byproducts are part of the reason your legs are dead after running. Think lactate also. Most runners know that lactate is a big buzzword with running/exercise in general. By getting this acid byproduct out of your legs faster, you should be able to return to play faster.

Example, the CW-X compression socks have prominent banding along the Great Saphenous Vein. You should be able to return blood very fast by keeping pressure (moderate only) on this vein. Similarly, there's a band on the lateral (outside) of the leg that partially follows the Small Saphenous vein. This is my one caveat with the CW-X design. It is in my opinion that CW-X should have used a side dependendt system for these socks. Example, right foot only fits into right sock. The small saphenous vein only lies on the outside of your calf for about 10 cm, and then drops quickly behind the knee. I believe that by making a right and a left, CW-X could have properly followed the small saphenous vein. You would probably wear the socks out faster if you had side-dependent design, but you're paying for compression, do it right. That being said, I still love them.

Why is compression important to getting the blood back to the heart... get ready for some physiology!
Your blood is pumped out of the heart and into a system of pipes (arteries) that have their own pump stations inside the piping (muscles w/in the artery walls). This keeps pressure fairly consistent through the entire system. After blood is circulated, used in the body, and needs to be returned to get more oxygen in the heart, it's sent back to the heart via the veins. These veins don't have arteries within their walls, and rely on your bodies other muscles (like the calves) to send the blood back to the heart. For reasons far too deep to explain here, this is actually a good thing. So by applying compression socks, you keep the muscles in the calves tight and good to pump blood home to the heart.

So that's why people wear compression socks. Just to cap it off and give a few more reasons to buy...
Ali et al. recently did a study that showed that Delayed Onset Muscle soreness in athletes can be decreased massively by compression socks. That's the thing that makes you hurt like crazy a 24-48 hours after a hard workout.
Finally, I'm a very particular shopper, don't trust new exercise theories until they have legit studies, and injury ridden (so I'm very very careful about what I use). Oh... yah I'm wearing them as I'm writing right now. My legs don't even feel like I did the 4 mile hard night run from last evening. They feel great.

Great gear!

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