Sunday, May 4, 2014

Compression for Runners: Fashion or Function? A Bio Skin Calf Sleeve Review

Disclosure: I was provided Bio Skin calf sleeves at no charge for the purpose of a product review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own, and I am not obligated to give them a positive review. If I hated them, I'd tell you.  

Like many runners, I've been a fan of compression socks for a long time, but are there actual benefits to compression for runners? Some runners wear compression during their runs, some wear after a long run for recovery, and some, like me, do a combination of both.

I think hot pink compression socks during a race look really cute, but is there any real benefit outside of my fashion sense or is it all in my head? I generally prefer compression calf sleeves to socks, only because after wearing them for a long time, I don't like the way the compression feels on my toes.

The benefit of compression socks or sleeves for runners is that they are said to increase circulation and reduce lactic acid build-up. This can help to stimulate blood flow and help your legs recover faster from a hard or long run. But does it really work?

compression for runners: Fashion or function?

Bio Skin asked me if I would be interested in reviewing their compression calf sleeves and becoming an affiliate (which I accepted, so any link within this article is an affiliate link, which means if you decide to buy I get a small percentage, which supports running this blog). I did a little Internet research about their company and products and I was pretty impressed initially. This is what they had to say on their site about the benefits of compression.
"When running, your calf muscles help raise the heel and propel you forward, while your shins provide stability and support. Not surprisingly, the two most common running injuries are shinsplints and calf strains. High-level compression allows athletes to prevent injuries, train longer and recover faster. Compression sleeves are commonly used during a run, but are also effective directly afterwards. Along with stretching, use Bio Skin as part of your post-run routine to help your legs recuperate."
I've been struggling lately with shin splints, so when I had the opportunity to review the Bio Skin compression calf sleeves, I jumped on board. Maybe they could help with my problem and if any of you were struggling with the same thing, they could help you too.

In my initial conversations with Bio Skin I had to tell them what size I needed for my sample. I went to their site, looked at the sizing chart, measured my calf muscle and was shocked that I needed a size large. I have never purchased a large in compression before, always a medium. I emailed them and asked if this was correct. They explained that Bio Skin is a tri-laminate material that yields more compression than a standard knitted sleeve and warned that most people take a couple days to adapt to the compression.

When the sleeves arrived, I found out that they weren't kidding. I'm glad I listened to the advice and got the large, because the medium probably wouldn't have fit over my calf.

When they said high level compression, they meant it. They were much tighter than any of the compression sleeves that I have ever tried (and I've used most of the common brands that you probably know). I liked the super tight feeling and didn't feel any discomfort, but they did warn it might take a few days for some people to get used to it. My only complaint is that they are pretty difficult to get on and off, pulling over my foot was the hardest part. But once they were on, they felt pretty good! I really like that tight feeling on my legs.

As I said, I have been struggling with shin splits. This was my first week of wearing the sleeves and I did notice a considerable drop in pain, although it did not completely go away. I ran three times this week on the treadmill. I wore the Bio Skin compression calf sleeves during my runs, then I left them on for the rest of the day under my pants.

Because of my (newly developed, annoying) shin splints, I usually run on the treadmill until my shins are on fire, then finish my workout on the elliptical. By the last day, I could still feel a little pain, but it was not so bad that I had to switch to the elliptical. I was happy to do my whole workout on the treadmill. I am not an advocate of running through pain. If you feel actual physical pain, it is your body trying to tell you something, and you should stop what you are doing. But the pain was minimal enough (and drastically decreased from the usual) that I could work through it.

I also should mention that I have been doing shin exercises and stretches, that are probably contributing to my decrease in shin pain. I think a combination of the compression sleeves and shin strengthening exercises are effective for reducing shin pain while running.

Ollie approved!
Over all, I really liked the Bio Skin calf sleeves. They seemed more like medical calf sleeves and less like fashion compression for runners. I noticed a definite decrease in shin pain when running after a week of wearing the calf sleeves and doing shin strengthening exercises. WIN!

Click here if you want to learn more about Bio Skin or purchase compression calf sleeves

Do you ever wear compression? Do you wear them for fashion or function? Do you notice a difference in your recovery time? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. ok I am not really a runner but I AM AN OLLIE LOVER ;-)

  2. I do wear compression sleeves and socks to run sometimes, and also when I am going to be walking a lot or on my feet all day. I swear by them and don't really think of them as a fashion statement. How does Ollie like them?

    1. now THAT'S an idea! compression for doggie legs. lol.

  3. I'm a fan of compression sleeves (and sometimes socks), but I've been wanting to try compression for my hips/glutes! They've been screaming lately :(

  4. I wear them for both. Almost all of mine are bright colors so that you can see me, and I've been known to wear them after a run (long or short, sometimes it just depends on the run itself) for a day or so.

    I may have to check these out, mostly because you said they're VERY tight, which I like.

    1. yeah, they are the tightest ones I have ever tried.

  5. I don't know what to think either! I mean I have shin issues too and compression socks have worked for me....or was it more of a placebo affect? who knows - but if it makes you feel better does it matter? I love getting bright colored socks too :)

  6. I love wearing compression on long runs and during half or full marathons. Also, they are great for recovery IMO. I haven't tried BioSkin though, they sound a bit different, will have to look them up!

  7. I wondered how you felt about compression sleeves. My hands and arms swell when I run and I have heard that compression sleeves can help with that. About your shin splints, ballet stretches will gelp the shin splints, or at least they helped mine. My mother is a PT who recommended these stretches. Stand with flat, bare feet. Point your toes, stretchyoiur leg outin front of you about a foot or less off the floor. Place your toes backon the ground still pointed, and drag your foot all the way back, S L O W L Y until you're pointing your toes about a foot or less off the ground behind you. Alternatively, stand on a step withjust your toes and raise and lower yourself above and below the stair. These helpedme no end with my shin splints. Good luck.

    1. Hi Cheryl, thanks for the stretching exercises. I've been doing the one on the step, but I will try the ballet one! you're awesome! thanks!

  8. Hello, I am a runner,i used compression sock to reduce muscle vibration during running, and so far help me much to get faster recovery.

  9. I also use one when I'm running. I find them to be pretty comfortable. Maybe because I'm used to wearing high socks when running. Some people say it's just placebo lol! Well, if it doesn't harm you, why not right?



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