Calf compression sleeves are something that you might not think of as a tool to increase your athletic performance, since they’re normally used for medical treatment, but wearing a pair of compression sleeves can have some benefits that you might not normally expect.
Let’s take a look at the why wearing calf compression sleeves might be a good idea if you’re looking for something to give you an edge on the track or on the field.
We’ll also take a closer look at some of the best compression sleeves on the market to see what sets them apart from the rest of the pack.
What are Calf Compression Sleeves
Calf compression sleeves are essentially a tube of tight fabric that is worn on the lower leg stretching from just below the knee to just above the ankle.
They are designed to provide pressure and support to the lower leg. In medicine, compression sleeves are used to reduce edema or swelling and prevent deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the extremities).
Benefits of Calf Compression Sleeves
Nearly everyone can benefit from the use of compression sleeves. There are a couple of exceptions to this that we’ll discuss in a moment.
Compression sleeve benefits include:
- Prevention of Varicose Veins – Varicose veins, also known as spider veins, can be unsightly and even painful. They occur when blood pools in your veins instead of returning to your heart. Compression sleeves help to prevent blood from pooling in the legs which can reduce the chance that varicose veins will occur.
- Improved Blood Circulation – Recent studies have proven that proper compression causes the arteries in the legs to dilate, increasing blood flow by 40 percent during exercise and 30 percent during recovery.
- Reduce Calf Swelling – Swelling or edema is caused when fluid builds up in the tissue. Keeping the lower leg under pressure can reduce swelling or prevent it from occurring.
- Improved Muscle Stabilization – Exercise, and even walking, causes vibration in the muscles which increases muscle fatigue. Proper compression improves muscle stabilization, reducing muscle fatigue and the impact of muscle vibration.
- Prevent Injuries – Muscle vibration doesn’t just contribute to muscle fatigue. It can also contribute to vibration related injuries like shin splints. Preventing the vibration with compression sleeves can, in turn, prevent injuries.
- Faster Injury Recovery – Ask any doctor what you should do to treat a soft-tissue injury and you’ll get the same answer: RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Compression is a key part of injury recovery, decreasing recovery time and reducing vibration that could exacerbate the injury.
You don’t need to run a marathon to take advantage of the benefits of wearing calf compression sleeves.
While most people can safely wear compression sleeves, individuals who suffer from peripheral artery disease or peripheral neuropathy should avoid using compression sleeves unless otherwise directed by their doctor.
The same thing goes for anyone who suffers from dermatitis or skin lesions on the lower leg.
How Long Should You Wear a Compression Sleeve?
Most compression sleeves are designed to be worn all day without discomfort. If you start to experience pain or discomfort, you should take the sleeves off immediately.
Do Compression Sleeves Help Shin Splints?
Yes. Compression prevents the vibrations that cause shin splints in the first place. If you’re already suffering from shin splints, wearing a compression sleeve can prevent them from becoming worse and allow them to heal.
What do you Need to Consider before Buying Calf Compression Sleeves?
Not all compression sleeves are created equal. What should you consider before buying a set of calf compression sleeves?
- Material – Compression sleeves are primarily made from microfiber or cotton that is woven with lycra or spandex to make them stretchy. Keep that in mind if clothing allergies are a concern.
- Durability – Look for durable sleeves so you’re not wasting your money on ones that fall apart after a wash or two.
- Size – This is perhaps the most important thing to remember when purchasing compression sleeves. If the sleeve is too small, it could cause damage and if it’s too large, it won’t work.
- Compression System/Rating – The amount of compression that a sleeve can provide is measured in millimeters of mercury or mmHg. Most over the counter socks will provide between 15 and 30 mmHg of compression. Medical grade sleeves can reach up to 50 mmHg.
- Moisture Wicking – If you’re wearing compression sleeves for exercise, you’ll want to look for a sleeve that wicks the moisture away from your body to keep your skin dry and comfortable.
- Breathable – Compression sleeves are designed to be tight but that doesn’t mean that they need to suffocate your skin. Look for sleeves that are made of a breathable material.
- Lightweight – You don’t want sleeves that add a lot of extra weight to your legs. They’re supposed to provide compression, not double as ankle weights. While they’ll be heavier than socks or leggings, they shouldn’t be heavy enough that you notice the weight.
- Style – You don’t have to hide your compression sleeves under your clothes. Look for sleeve that match your style.
- Price – You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a set of compression sleeves. Look for something that suits your needs but is in your price range.
It might seem like a lot of things to consider, but as we said above – not all compression sleeves are created equal. Doing your research can save you a lot of money and time in the long run.
Best Women’s Compression Calf Sleeve
Compression sleeves don’t have to be unattractive, which is exactly what Blitzu is trying to prove with their calf compression sleeves.
These are available in four colors – black, pink, purple and white – to match every aesthetic.
They’re ideal for anyone who is looking to reduce the pain from shin splints, prevent athletic injury, or anyone who is on their feet all day and might experience swelling at the end of a long day.
These sleeves are designed to provide graduated compression, which means the compression varied from 20 to 30 mmHg.
This helps to boost blood circulation and reduce swelling. They also provide the same kind of support as kinesiology tape, without the hassle of having to tape each leg or get taped up by a trainer.
You will need to measure your calf to ensure the proper fit.
These particular sleeves come in two sizes – small/medium which will fit a calf that is 11.5” – 14.5” in circumference, and large/x-large which will fit a calf that is 15” – 19” around.
Best Calf Compression Sleeve for Calf Strain
Whether you’re running a marathon or just walking to and from the office, calf strain can be a big problem.
Run Forever Sports offers a set of compression sleeves that can help to reduce calf strain, and other lower leg injuries.
They also come in a variety of colors – black, purple, blue, pink, white and beige – and are thin enough that they can be worn underneath regular clothes.
These sleeves also provide graduated compression, varying between 20 and 25 mmHg, making them ideal for athletes and individuals who are concerned about lower leg swelling alike.
They are also available in more sizes, which ensures a better fit. Small sleeves will fit calves that are 10”-13” in circumference, while medium will fit individuals with a 12”-15” calf. Large fits 14”-17” calves, and extra large will fit a 16”-19” calves.
The sizes do overlap a little bit to make it easier to ensure a proper fit.
Top Calf Compression Sleeves Reviewed
Let’s take a closer look at a couple more of the best calf compression sleeves on the market today.
If most of your workout gear is black, this is the compression sleeve for you.
The majority of these sleeve come in black, with a gradient of color toward the bottom of the sleeve.
These sleeves provide 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression and are ideal for anyone who is looking for a bit of extra compression.
These washable sleeves are made of a blend of nylon and spandex, which means you can toss them in the washer without worrying about them losing compression.
These are also extra durable. All the seams are double-stitched, adding extra strength without creating uncomfortable seams that might press into your skin.
Like the Blitzu sleeves, the Physix Gear ones only come in two sizes. Small/Medium and Medium/Large sleeves will fit calves between 12” and 16” in circumference, while Large/Extra Large will fit calves between 14”-19”.
If you need a set of compression sleeves that will fit every outfit, this is the one for you.
Doc Miller calf compression sleeves come in an astonishing 38 color options, so you’ll never need to worry about having the right set of sleeves to match your outfit.
These sleeves offer 20-30 mmHg of graduated compression, and are designed specifically for athletes. This doesn’t mean that other people couldn’t benefit from this particular brand.
These sleeves are also made of a nylon/spandex blend which is designed to be seamless for maximum comfort. If you’re worried about a correct fit, this is also one of your best options.
There are 9 size options from small to 5XL with an option for a wide ankle sleeve as well.
Again, you will need to measure the circumference of the widest part of your calf to ensure proper fit.
Wrapping It Up
Calf compression sleeves are a fantastic accessory for athletes who are looking for a way to add an edge to their game, or anyone who is on their feet all day and is concerned about feet or lower leg swelling.
It’s important to remember that not all calf compression sleeves are created equal. It’s important to do your research and determine which sleeves will work best for you.
If you suffer from lower leg pain, shin splints or swelling, but don’t want to wear a full compression sock, consider adding a couple sets of compression calf sleeves to your wardrobe.