50 Dollar Tube Socks: What's all the Compression Sock Hype About??

There are a few (very few) benefits to growing up in east bumble-you-know-what Vermont. It's nice and insulated. You're pretty much safe from a major swine flu epidemic. Second language music channels permeate the airwaves. And last but not least it's pretty much guaranteed that you're at least 10 years behind the fashion eight ball.

This last phenomena has served me well twice now in my life. First, upon moving to the stuffy city of Seattle in 1990 I was prepped to dress to the nines in grunge-friendly flannel. And more recently, my reluctance to switch out my tube socks to crew socks has finally paid off.

Pretty sure I see more than just basketballs in this pic.
Did you hear the news? Crew socks are OUT. Larry Bird tubulars circa 1983 are back in. Or, I guess Dr. J tubulars, seeing as LB there is sporting a soon to be hip half-slouch. So much for that example...

If you haven't caught up with this trend yet, take a look around at your competition on race day. You'll notice something odd about most of them (no, not their $6k bikes and 22 mph top speed). Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is wearing compression socks.

This just blows my mind. Nothing has changed about compression hosiery in 50 years. They're good for circulation. They make fat people's ankles look good on long plane rides. And if you're an 80 pound middle school boy, they're a great way to prevent fainting every time you get a boner. Old fashioned technology with endless modern application

But, have they gotten any COOLER in the last 50 years? Apparently not until triathlon. And a fantastic job of rebranding by 2XU and the rest of the darning community.

Here's why you might want to try some form of compression stocking. Recovery. Like plunging in for a nice cool ice bath at the end of a long run, compression socks help reduce inflammation and speed muscle repair. The improvement in circulation also helps to flush out nasty lactic acid buildup. For a full rundown of the benefits, check out a this even less cool niche blog than ours.

This might be the most important point though: compression while training. Have you ever seen someone running in slow motion? The impact trauma from every foot strike is just amazing. There's got to be some value to keeping everything nice and tight, which should, in theory, reduce the amount of vibration induced trauma you endure on a 12 mile run.

Now, I've tried a few of the popular options and put together a thorough review for you (see chart below). What I can say is that, YES, compression socks help with my recovery. And pretty much all the socks I've tried do exactly what they promise - compress. So, what's with the HUGE spectrum in price???? There's a great Onion article that addresses this very question. The answer, really, comes back to fashion. Buy what you think is cool, because they all work just fine.

Under Armour Men's Recharge Compression Sock $19.99 Tight
Sugoi Knee High Compression Sock $29.99 Tight
Swiftwick Twelve Olefin Compression Socks$24.99Tight
2XU Unisex Recovery Compression Socks Socks$49.99Tight
2XU Compression Race Socks$55Tight
CEP Running O2 Compression Socks$80Tight

Personal favorite so far though is the Swiftwick. They come in a nice merino wool option and look moderately like dress socks so you can wear them to work. And they're the only ones I've actually bought and tried. Did you seriously think I would buy $80 dollar socks??? Come on. Now you know what the sock industry doesn't want you to know, so don't let the secret out. ALL COMPRESSION SOCKS ARE THE SAME. TIGHT!