Runners do not perform better by wearing compression garments. On the other hand they do have less muscle soreness when they wear compression garments during or after the run. It is possible that the decreased muscular pain is based on a placebo effect.

In any sporting commodities store you can buy them today: compression stockings, -pants and -leggings. Also in the streets it is not unusual to see runners running with brightly colored compression stockings. But what can runners expect if they wear compression garments? Engel and colleagues did a thorough literature review and sorted out what changes are to be expected when people wear compression garments in endurance performance and what they feel during and after running.


The running performance at the 800 meters to the marathon does not improve wearing compression garments. In addition, while running athletes consume as much oxygen while wearing compression clothing. This concerns both sub maximal and maximal oxygen uptake. This is shown in 32 studies with a total of 494 participants of all running levels which are combined by the authors and re-analyzed.

Compression Clothes


The time to exhaustion improves a little bit by wearing compression garments. This is probably because athletes feel less tired during the effort so they sustain this a little longer. Incidentally, such perseverance tests do not say much about competition performance

Finally, muscle soreness reduces significantly in an athlete after a hard running performance with compression socks or leggings during and after exercise.   The exact reason for this is still unclear, but it is likely a placebo effect. A placebo effect is a positive psychological effect because someone believes in the efficacy of the product, in this case the functioning of the compression garments.

If an athlete knows it normally can do no harm wearing compression garments during and / or after running, because there are no negative effects found. It is possible to experience with compression garments less pain, but the expectation is that the running performance will not improve.

Comment Peter Janssen:

I don’t agree with this last conclusion. When there is so little evidence that compression clothes work than don’t use them. On the other hand, if you wear the compression garments because it feels good or because you find them very beautiful then there is no objection.