September 25, 2013
Compression That Doesn’t Come Up Short
Not everyone knows about compression, so let’s start with the basics. Compression technology is used in medical and fitness fields to try to control blood flow to improve circulation. The technology started in the medical field, but where it has experienced improvement in leaps and bounds is in fitness and sports. Athletes benefit from better circulation and companies focusing on compression for athletes have improved how compression garments, such as socks, are constructed.
Compression garments vary in tightness in key areas, to help increase the ability to pump blood to the heart, and back to the limbs. Medical compression often uses bands of more dense elastic in socks and stockings to do this. Companies focused on fitness have studied the way the foot and legs operate in order to vary the density of the compression strategically.
One company that has taken a few steps in this strategic density is Swiftwick. The company created varied densities to address different areas of the foot. The densities are also created by different knits, rather than adding more elastic to the area. While the sock is made from manmade materials, it is actually breathable because of the textured knit in the sock.
One material used in the socks, Olefin, helps combat bacteria and odor. The company says it wants to make a sock that doesn’t stink. When you’re targeting the athletic crowd (with socks for running, cycling, skiing and other winter sports, triathlons, golfing, hiking and outdoor endurance sports) you have to combat the odor that comes from sweaty feet. The combination of the Olefin and the varied knits helps make a breathable sock that doesn’t develop a smell by the end of a training session or race.
You may have noticed that the title of the post is “Compression Gets Short.” This is because typically when you see compression socks, whether for medical or athletic uses, they are knee-high socks. That is because they offer compression benefits in the foot, but also from the ankle to the knee. Swiftwick has its share of knee-high compression, but also makes shorter lengths including a no-show sock. The socks offer compression to the feet with strategic areas of density. The shorter length is more targeted, providing compression to the foot. It is also more fashion-forward for those who don’t want to walk around in shorts and knee-high socks. You can still get the benefits of compression for training, races, and even just long hours on your feet without the look of medical-grade compression socks.
Recently I’ve tested a pair from the sustain line, which is made from post-industrial products. That means Swiftwick sourced a plant for materials, and uses the leftovers from other manufacturing processes to produce its line. These are materials that have previously gone to waste. While the socks are made from manmade materials, the socks are in no way like wearing a plastic bag on your feet. In fact, the knit is fluffy, and while they are compression socks, they feel like wearing air.
This past week at Interbike, I met with the company and was instructed to change my socks right there in the middle of the Swiftwick booth. They gave me the Performance Zero sock, a no-show sock that hides under my trainers. I immediately felt the difference. The socks were airy, and cooled my feet down before I put my shoes back on. As I am walking the show floor today, I am sure I will appreciate the compression the socks offer me. Hopefully now I’ll still be able to walk by the end of a long day at a trade show.
Image Credit: Swiftwick