Are compression stockings good or bad?

Compression socks can be helpful but also harmful in certain situations. Let’s talk about what situations in which they can be helpful. For someone who’s running for multiple hours at a time it would probably be helpful. However, if you have the compression stockings that don’t go all the way down to the toes, what your actually doing is reducing the blood flow to that area.

Now why would we wanna reduce the blood flow to our feet and our calves? You don’t. You don’t wanna do that when you’re running. That’s the last thing that you want to do. We want to increase the blood flow to those areas. But when you’re not allowing your venous return or return of blood from the feet and from the calves, what you end up with is actually worse.  You can actually end up with blood clots and I’ve seen that actually happen.

I had a guy ran 46 miles ended up with the blood clot. So he was reducing the blood flow to his lower leg and more importantly, he was reducing the blood flow that was returning from his legs. We actually want both. We want the blood flow to go down into the legs and come back up.

The calves work as kind of like a second heart. So whenever we take steps, those calf muscles contract and they pump the blood back up the legs. So everytime you take the step, back up the blood goes into the heart.

When you have compression socks, it doesn’t oftentimes allow for the blood to return as easily as if you ain’t wearing them or were wearing the stockings that went all the way down to the foot.

It just depends it, especially if you have a problem with swelling in your feet and things but, I would suggest for everyone that if you’re gonna wear them, at least have the ones that go down past the ankle because that’s where a lot of swelling happens anyway is where the foot in the ankle meet. Because, the last thing that you want is building up a fluid and blood in the foot and ankle cause that’s actually leads to blood clots.

Don’t wear them for a long periods of time after you’re done running. I would suggest taking them off immediately after you finish running.

That’s actually another reason that they have you walking after the race and thats so that those calf muscles are still contracting when your walking. But the people that run in a marathon and they just stand still after finishing... a lot of times, those are the people that pass out. Because those calf muscles aren’t contracting anymore. All the blood is in there feet and into the legs. It’s not able to come back up to the heart so the brain isn’t get into the blood flow in needs and they pass out. So that’s why there’s usually a short corrale after the finish line...to keep you walking and the blood flowing.

Elevate your feet if your worry about swelling but which really want is that return the blood or return to fluid back to the system, back into the heart.

Thanks, and I hope you found this useful!

Dr. Cameron Dennis, PT, DPT

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