A Cyclist’s Thoughts on Compression Socks

Racing in Worcester

By Jon O. (a BrightLife Customer)

I recently tried out a few different brands of compression socks and sleeves and wanted to share my thoughts with the world.

I cycle competitively as a CAT 4 cyclist (amateur racer).  I race most weekends and train intensively for 8-12 hours per week.  Recovery is a key aspect to improving. Unfortunately, just recovering well is more involved than I would have imagined before I got into the sport a few years back.  Stretching, foam rolling, elevating, and –when I’m really cooked–icing are all things needed to ease the legs back to life after long hard rides.  I know the price of not doing these things:  two years ago I over trained and was off the bike for 8 months with hamstring tendonitis.

Needless to say it’s tough to be diligent with these routines especially as a full time teacher who takes grad school classes.  Often when getting back from a ride I have to get back on my feet and get to work.   Compression tights have been a way to give my legs a little extra TLC without sacrificing additional time.  There is reasonable research and anecdotal evidence to justify their use.  I also have a varicose vein on my right leg that is the size of a python, so even if I didn’t bike, I know I should be wearing compression socks.

In the past, I have used full leg medical thigh highs. They were expensive and not very comfortable.  I opted for the black versions which were slightly less creepy than the “skin” color pair, but still make me feel like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror when I put them on.  These have a tendency to slip down when I walk in them – when I cover them with pants, they’re not easily adjusted and become uncomfortable quickly. I could have opted for full bottomed tights instead of legs, but after 4 hours in bike shorts the last thing I want to do is smother my undercarriage. Needless to say, I don’t wear these as often as I should.

So, it was nice to get two pairs of knee high style compression socks recently – CEP Progressive+ Socks and Allegro Rumba Calf Sleeves.  I’ve heard that one doesn’t really need full length compressors anyway:  just to the knee is where it matters for athletic recovery.

The CEP product is a very cool looking sock with an aggressive design.  Call me insecure but looks do matter here:  I want to feel like an athlete when I hit the supermarket: not a dude in pantyhose. They came well packaged in a stylish neon box with instructions about how to roll them on properly. These are the first socks I’ve had that are foot specific. I think there is a reason for this:  It seems they’ve varied the density of the knit to help fit securely, breathe well and be reinforced for regular wear. Time will tell how tough these guys are; I think they are my new go-to sock.  I’ll probably buy a couple pairs so that I can wear them regularly.

The Rumba calf compressors are nylon bands which stretch from the ankle to the knee leaving the foot exposed. Once again, we’re back to the pantyhose look: just nylon with no cool logo. But, these can easily be worn under pants because they’re thin. They are also very small, so they are easy to put in a pocket on the way to a race, and I can wear them on the way home. Only challenge: because they are small and black they are just the type of thing to disappear in the laundry. Or get confused with my wife’s stockings and wind up in her dresser.

Both the Rumba and the CEP are snug, but not super tight.  They’re comfortable enough that I don’t notice either after a few hours of wear and they do help with muscle recovery.

Overall – I’m excited to have more options for recovery after my races. If you’re looking for something manly enough to wear to the supermarket with shorts, I recommend CEP.