Congrats Columbus Marathoners! Now, What Were Those Crazy Compression Socks?

Congrats Columbus Marathoners! Now, what were those crazy compression socks you saw people wearing & should you get some for your next race?

Fall brings marathon season with Chicago last weekend, New York coming up the first weekend of November and most importantly, the Columbus Marathon this Sunday, October 16th!  Runners are known to do whatever it takes to reach their goals including forcing down that last Gu, waking up at the crack of dawn to get those miles in, or unfortunately, attempting to continue training through foot pain and injury.  One item that many marathoners and distance runners have been seen wearing as a part of their race day uniform are tall compression socks in black and a rainbow of other colors.  But the real question is: are these socks just successful at intimidating competitors on the line with their cool looks, or do they actually serve a purpose?

Interestingly, while it may seem like compression socks are the ultimate new running necessity aside from proper fitting running shoes, it is not the runner population that tends to know a bit more about the benefits and uses of compression socks.  It is diabetic patients with swelling, or edema that podiatrists regularly prescribe compression stockings, or socks to.  Patients with venous stasis from causes such as improperly functioning, or insufficient valves and varicose veins also can have their condition improved with the use of compression socks.  With normal valves and vessel structure, the calf muscles function to pump blood upwards against gravity to prevent this pooling.  In patients with the conditions mentioned, there is a slowed return of blood via the veins to the heart, resulting in some venous blood pooling.  This pooling can not only result in dermatitis, or a rash, but it can also lead to the formation of dangerous deep vein thrombosis and venous ulcers.  In order to help restore normal venous blood flow, compression stockings are used to gradually increase pressure up the leg, assisting the “calf pump”.  While this has been shown to have positive effects in groups of people with the disease states discussed, the effects of compression sock induced decreased venous pooling, assistance of the skeletal muscle pump and increased deep vein blood speed still require more research before they can be conclusively linked to their claims of performance gains in running.  Many athletes also utilize compression stockings post-exercise in order to decrease lactic acid build-up, but this use also requires more research.

So while they may look cool, and can be extremely beneficial if you have venous insufficiency in your legs and feet, compression stockings have a ways to go before they can definitely prove themselves as doing more for your race time than just making you LOOK fast.  At this point, if athletic compression socks make you feel better when running, then do what is best for you – just make sure you test them out before your big race and always call your podiatrist if you develop any foot or ankle pain!

Please visit for more information or call 614-885 FEET (3338) to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Podiatry & Surgery is located on the North side of Columbus, Ohio near Worthington.

By Dr. Animesh (Andy) Bhatia