Compression socks have long been considered the "it" accessory for people with varicose veins, phlebitis, diabetes, or poor circulation.  Hospitals frequently use them after surgeries to prevent blood clots in patients. Now, compression socks are becoming the latest trend in fitness fashion and performance gear. Read on for how compression socks could improve your next run.  

Compression socks were created to improve circulation through the lower extremities by squeezing muscles and blood vessels from the outside in.  This compression acted like a muscle contraction and helped blood move through the legs and back to the heart more efficiently.  Now, runners are using them to bump up their performance.   The idea is that by improving circulation through your calf veins, you'll have more oxygenated blood for your muscles to use during extended workouts (like marathons).

Many athletes swear by compression socks, and the fitness fashion industry is redesigning them to look less like something your grandma might wear and more like high-performance clothing. 

But do they work?  According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, compression socks can help you run longer and faster.  Other sports medicine experts however, are skeptical. Studies performed by the American College of Sports Medicine say they found no significant difference in runners' performances with the use of compression socks. 

Other researchers believe that while compression socks may not improve your actual run, they might be a big help in recovering from it.  Compression stockings minimize the amount of damage done to muscles by stabilizing them and helping reduce the amount of shock they absorb.  They also improve circulation enough to prevent blood and lymph fluid from pooling in the legs and causing muscle cells to swell.  If muscles receive less trauma and swelling  and more circulation, they'll recover from exercise faster.  Athletes might also experience less pain, which means they'll run again sooner.  Frequent running might lead to better performance. 

While the experts offer mixed opinions about the benefits of compression socks, many top runners swear they help. Marathoners and triathletes are adding them to their essential supply list.  If nothing else, the new attention they're getting in the fitness fashion industry may mean more people who need them for medical reasons will be less hesitant to wear them.  That's an unexpected bonus.