Best compression socks for running 2023 for improved performance and faster recovery

The best compression socks for running can minimise aching and speed up recovery

Best compression socks for running: Pictured here, people running on a road wearing compression socks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best compression socks for running could help you recover faster, whether you're an ultra-runner or someone who 'only' dabbles with weekly park runs. Although running compression socks won't make you more quickly, they can help you achieve your fitness goals sooner if you use them correctly. Below are the best compression socks for sports, reviewed and ranked by T3's fitness experts.

Besides helping your lower legs feel more oxygenated during your runs, running compression socks can hold your ankles firmer, reducing the risk of ankle sprains. If you want something less compressing for your feet, we also have a guide to the best running socks and sports socks that provide less or no compression. Complete your running gear by getting the best running shoes (or the best women's running shoes, specifically), the best running headphones and the best running watch.

Best compression socks for running to buy right now

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How to choose the best compression socks for running and sports

There are a few important things to consider before buying a pair of compression socks. Not least of which is what they actually are and how they work. 

How do compression socks work? Well, in addition to making your lower legs look extra colourful, compression socks make blood flow more efficiently – it's the same reason people wear them during flights to help prevent DVT (or deep vein thrombosis).

Most socks apply gradient pressure, which means less pressure is applied to the leg the higher up you get. However, because different people have different shaped legs and feet, as well as different levels of circulation, you need to look for socks that apply pressure at the right level to the areas that are going to help you. 

The level of compression varies too. If a brand lists the grade of compression (rated in mmHg), it’s a good sign you’re getting real compression rather than something that’s just a bit tighter. Many brands don’t provide this information.

You’ll find a range of different fabrics. Some will combine compression with thermal layering to keep your feet warm. Others use moisture-wicking technology to do the opposite.  So it’s important to think about when and where you’re most likely to use them. 

It’s also worth thinking about thickness and how they’re going to feel in your running shoes. All the compression in the world won’t help you if you’ve got blisters because your shoe-sock combo has eaten up all the wiggle room for your toes.

To get the best fit, measure your calf circumference at its widest. You will need this number (in either centimetres or inches) to find the best fitting compression sock for your legs.

FAQ

What level of compression socks do you need for running?

[In-depth: what level of compression do you need for running?]

In short, it depends. Most people will not see the benefits of wearing compression socks for running, but compression garments can help with recovery as long as you wear them after the running sessions have concluded. In a study titled 'Compression socks and functional recovery following marathon running: a randomized trial (opens in new tab)', the researchers came to the following conclusion:

"This shows a significant beneficial effect of compression socks on recovery compared with placebo. The wearing of below-knee compression socks for 48 hours after marathon running has been shown to improve functional recovery as measured by a graduated treadmill test to exhaustion 2 weeks after the event."

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other content creators in the past, such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab). When he isn't working out, he loves roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment, including microphones, cameras and more.