Compression socks or sleeves? I have always worn compression socks, but I have wondered about calf sleeves and the reasons you would choose one over the other. They are both great options for reducing muscle fatigue, but it was still a matter of curiosity for me! After a little investigation, I uncovered a very simple answer.

My Personal Preference

It comes down to your own personal preference. There are no added benefits offered by the socks, although some of the socks do come with additional padding on parts of the foot that get a little beat up on long runs (heels and toes). I like this feature of the Saucony Elite compression socks I have. I will say that both socks and sleeves can a get a little hot when you are running in the summer. In warmer temps I prefer to wear sleeves, so that there is a little break between the sleeves and socks for air exchange.


Compression Socks

The compression socks are an all in one deal, so if you like the ease of one article of clothing for the feet/legs, they probably make more sense for you. Alternatively, some people are really partial to a certain type of sock and therefore would rather have the ability to keep their favorite socks and still get the benefit of compression.


When to Use Compression Socks

Interestingly enough, there is a difference in the compression grade of some socks and sleeves, so you should check to see if your apparel is recommended for activity and/or recovery. There is also a thought that compression socks may be better for longer runs because calf sleeves could cause more blood to pool in your feet. I think I would tend to agree with this and use the compression sleeves for shorter runs and the compression socks for longer runs.

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I like to use compression socks during my actual long run, whereas some people like to wear them for recovery after a long run or race. Whether you do one or the other (or both!); compression is a great recovery tool, so find a pair of socks or sleeves that you like and see for yourself!

 CEP Women’s Progressive+ 2.0 Night Run Socks, Size II (Calf 9.5-12-Inch), Flash Pink/Black PRO Compression: Marathon Compression Socks, Purple, Small/Medium Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves (Medium)

Jessica Morrison

12 comments on “Compression Socks or Sleeves?”

  1. I prefer compression socks because I feel like they stay on better and provide more support. The pair of sleeves I have seem to inch down little by little when I am running. Thanks for this post – I also wondered about the differences between sleeves and socks and if there was a better/worse option.

    • Good to know Sara, I have never done the sleeves. I like that the socks are all inclusive too- I feel like anything inching around on my legs would drive me nuts!! 😉

  2. I just recently started wearing compression socks and love them, I thought about the sleeves too but haven’t tried them. I’ve had surgery and multiple foot issues so I like the compression on my foot as well. Never thought of using both.

  3. Interesting… I wondered if there was a difference, too! I use compression socks for recovery, and I like that it includes my feet/ankles/achilles so I think I’ll stick with those since it sounds like I’m not missing any other benefits!

  4. I have sleeves and never thought of the difference between them and socks. The take on which would work for a long run is interesting.

  5. Compression sleeves work great especially in the Spring when you can wear a sleeveless top with compression sleeves at the beginning of your run .. then remove them as you warm up. That is when I use them….

  6. I think you glossed over one of the main selling points compression sock/sleee manufactures make. While the compression/support factor of these socks/sleeves help reduce muscle fatigue, the biggest reason is the encouraged increased blood flow. The different manufactures all have different ways of creating compression, for some it’s simply a tight fitting sock, (in my opinion a substandard way of doing so) for others it’s a patteren of pannels that “point” the blood flow in the return direction. However, your best socks and sleeves have a graduated amount of compression to help incourage increased blood flow. One popular (CEP) manuafacture starts at the ankle and the compression decreases gradually at the calf. However there is one product that is the only sock on the market that makes a sock with gradual compression from the toes thru the calf. VitalSocks also known as The Recovery Sock. I’ve used every type of compression sock, sleeve, thights, etc since way before they were the next new thing to make you run faster, (I’m being sarcastic here, but I do believe they work) and this sock has way better performance results for me when compared to the others. The other big plus for me was the price , $35.00 a pair.
    Now coming back to sock vs sleeves, I’ve worn sleeves and for me the thing that doesn’t make sense to me is why would you ignore blood return from the foot and pull on a sleeve that, as you pointed out, can restrict blood flow in the foot? In my opinion, and experience, a good compression sock peforms far and above any sleeve.

    • Thanks for the comments Gary, I actually do discuss the increased blood flow issue in my other articles on compression socks. I am going to check out Vital Socks, thanks for the tip! 🙂 I think they work too– I have noticed a definite decrease in lower leg soreness after long runs when I wear my compression socks.

  7. Great question – and one I’ve debated as well! I currently have 2 pairs of compression socks, but am looking at a pair of compression sleeves. The one thing I find with the socks is that the actual sock portion is quite thick – which would drive me crazy during a run. Not to mention – the pink tie-dye sleeves from Zensah look so fun! 🙂

  8. I prefer sleeves mostly because my compression socks are pretty thin and my shoes feel too loose if I wear just them to run–I’ll put a pair of running socks over or under them. I know that’s not a lot of extra work, but it’s one extra thing to do! 🙂

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