Currently, I have 5 pairs of compression socks and all of them feel quite different in fit and compression. I have acquired these pairs through either paying full price, buying a Schwaggle, or in the case of one pair, free from a Ragnar Relay sponsor.
Let’s start on the far right, shall we? Ok.
Thanks to reading SkinnyRunner’s posts on compression stuff, I figured I would go el cheapo, and get a pair of Walmart Special Geriatric Antithrombotic socks for $18 or $20. I am wearing them right now so this will be your only action shot with the socks. Also you get to see Louie’s ass, too.
(Also have my Aspaeris Pivot Shorts on – more shameless sponsor plugging)
So these bad boys? You can’t really run in them comfortably. And they are ugly (one of my Ragnar van-mates last year said it looked like my legs were prosthetics. Hot). BUT they are very compress-y. They are also pretty long, in case you are tall unlike myself. These, in my opinion, are an excellent option for post race recovery. And they are cheap.
The Recovery Sock (lime green, second from the right)
These socks have a special place in my heart because they are made in Italy (did I mention I’m 1st generation Italian? Probably but in case you didn’t know). I got these with a Schwaggle. They are snug (still less than the medical grade ugly ones), come in a good selection of colors, and feel like good quality socks. They are pretty thick, though. I have done a few long runs in them and the fabric is breathable, but, again, a little thicker of a sock than I’m used to. The length is average – right in the middle of all the socks I own. I wear an XS in these.
Zensah (pink, in the middle)
The thing that kind of cracks me up about these is that they label the socks with “L” and “R”. I am pretty skeptical that there would be much difference in “sock performance” if I wore the “R” on the left and vice versa. But since it would go against every fiber of my being to do that, I will never know for sure if it’s a crock of shinola.
These were another Schwaggle purchase. I had tried on the Zensah calf sleeves in the past and was not impressed, but figured I’d take the $25 risk on the full sock. Turns out they are a great option for short-legged folks like myself. They fit perfectly, lengthwise (I’m 5 feet even and I have a 27-28” pants inseam). The compression is better than the calf sleeves, but still less than the Granny Socks and Recovery Sock. But they are cute and they aren’t as thick as the Recovery Sock, which I prefer when using them during running.
PRO Compression (pink, second from left)
We’ve arrived at the only pair I have not laid out personal funds to acquire. PRO Compression is one of our Ragnar sponsors and they provided us socks for our 203.5 mile journey to insanity. I would say that if you are in the market for super-cute socks that you can wear in a race, these are probably your best option. They have the best selection as far as colors, prints, etc. They are also good for people with normal-to-long legs. For me, they are almost too long, so I can’t pull them up which reduces the amount compression I’m getting. If they came in an XXS, I think they would fit perfectly for me. They are also not thick which, again, I prefer for running/races. They don’t, however, breathe as well as the Zensah’s and The Recovery Sock (I felt like I had more foot sweatiness when I ran my 18 miler in these last weekend). The compression seems about the same as the Zensah’s, probably a bit more.
CEP Compression Calf Sleeves (white, on the left)
We have come to my personal favorites. I paid full price for these at Road Runner Sports in like 2010, and that’s probably why I got the sleeves over the socks (the socks were ~$50 while the sleeves were ~$35. At the time we were still a half-employed household). But, I kind of like that they are just sleeves because I get to wear whatever socks I want. I have used these in pretty mush every half marathon and marathon since I bought them.
They also have an extensive array of sizes. If you have slim calves, they will have a size for you. I ended up with the women’s size III (the smallest is a size II). These are about as tight as the tan Walmart ones, but they are thin and lightweight. I’ve had them for a while now and they have not lost much of their compression strength. They seem to be good for most leg lengths – they are maybe just a smidge long for me, but it works out because they extend down to my sock line. Of all five compression socks I own, I have to say these are the best.
To summarize my thoughts on the above brands:
Best Socks For Short People: Zensah & CEP
Best Socks For Tall People: PRO Compression
Best Socks for Looking Cute In a Race: PRO Compression
Most Affordable Socks for Recovery: Walmart Anti-thrombotic Ugly Socks
All-Around Good Compression Socks Not Made In China Or Some Other Cheap Labor Country: The Recovery Sock
Most Compression & can be worn while running: CEP
Overall Winner: CEP
(Good until the end of April 2012, PRO Compression is offering $20 off a pair of socks with free shipping if you use the code RR20)