Tightwad Triathlete Tip #4

Posted: June 4, 2011 in Equipment, Financial

Even just 3-4 years ago, showing up to an event wearing tight knee high socks, or thigh-length shorts would have had you labeled as crazy, and now you’re crazy if you don’t; it seems that the whole athletic world has suddenly gone compression wear nuts.  What the hell?  Is there really anything to these silly looking things, or are we all just sheep lined up to blow our hard-earned dollars on the latest ridiculous-looking triathlon consumer trend?

Compression wear (socks specifically) were originally prohibited to be worn during events, including the infamous Ironman brand of races, as they covered up the body markings made on the participants calves, but after much argument from triathletes that the socks either provided extra protection from the sun, or it was unfair to disallow racers to wear what they regularly trained in (lame excuses, but true), so promoters eventually caved to allow participants to use their precious compression wear.

In essence, compression socks have become the next Speedo.  But, who wears Speedo’s anymore?  When Mark Allen or Dave Scott raced Ironman back in the 80’s, they did it wearing Speedo’s as that was the preferred thing at the time, now you would seldom ever see anyone wearing such a revealing style of clothing unless you’re on lazing around on a beach in Majorca or something, and even then it’s questionable.  Speedos have since become nearly obsolete, and spotting somebody wearing them nowadays is on par with spotting a Bigfoot, or finding a four-leaf clover, except, I wouldn’t consider such a sighting as ‘lucky’ per se – particularly if it was me wearing it.

What we now know for sure, of course, is that compression wear can aid in both a longer race and recovery by decreasing muscle vibration and promoting blood flow from the legs to the vital organs.  And, really, who wants to prevent flow to the vital organs?  Not this fat guy!  I’m not going into all the scientific principles behind compression wear, but if you’re really interested you can click here for the breakdown.  But, anyhow, just because it works – apparently – doesn’t necessarily mean I’m ready to begin forking out the big bucks at all the local Running stores just to be fashionable and keep up with the running Joneses.

Originally, I purchased a pair of Zoot Active Compress RX socks with a gift card I received for Christmas.  These trendy things would have run meabout$50 in cash, definitely not an amount I would have happily turned over had it not been for the gift cards.  Call me cheap, whatever, but $50 for a pair socks?  Are you shitting me?

Pretty bad ass, right?

Sure they look snazzy (aside from the fact that I was sized as a ‘Women’s Medium’) and all the popular triathlete and cycling pros swear by them, hell, the consumer reports read like some profound sporting manifesto.  I do enjoy wearing them after a long workout and believe they do assist in my recovery, despite the silly feeling I have while wearing them, but are they really worth that much?

I have also noticed that your basic pair of Men’s Graduated Compression Athletic Support Socks (Trueform Airway Plus) at Walmart, which actually predates the recent popular compression craze by about, oh, two decades or so, runs for only $14.95.  That’s a huge difference in price!  So what, exactly, is the difference between these two products except that one is a more trendy athletic ‘sock’, while the other is a therapeutic ‘stocking’ for old people suffering with diabetes and varicose veins?  One makes me look like a serious triathlete, while the other makes me look like somebody’s grandfather out picking ‘tomatahs’ in his garden.  Long story short – I decided to purchase the $14.95 old man socks as well.  Sometimes you just have to do your own market research.

Bad ass Lite

What I found was that the Walmart brand old man socks worked just fine for recovery purposes in my opinion.  They were a bit ugly of course being just a plain white cotton blend, but that just means I wore them underneath a pair of pants – no biggie.  There’s no fancy swoosh logos, or stylish labels and whatnot, but they did manage to do exactly the same thing the fancy Zoot pair I got for Christmas did – reduced the swelling in my lower calves which is all I really wanted them to do – so Mission Accomplished.  The downside, of course, is that being made out of cotton and not of any special manmade wicking fibers or anything whoopty-fucking-doo like that, I wouldn’t recommend wearing them while working out as they will inevitably get very moist and uncomfortable.  But that’s okay by me as I never wear compression socks when I run or bike anyway.

So, my fellow fiscal triathletes, if you’re after the basic recovery factor provided by compression socks, look no further than your basic pair of stretchy graduated support socks available on the shelves in the in-store Pharmacy section of your local Walmart and leave the fancy swooshes and shit to the pros.

  1. Aquaman says:

    What amount of time do you wear Compression Socks for after a workout? I’ve never used them myself, but I’m thinking about getting the old man version…

  2. The simple answer: for as long as you can tolerate after your workouts. I leave mine on for about 5-6 hours before I feel like slipping into something more comfy before I go to bed, I have heard of others who wear them much more than that…much more. The old man pair would suit your needs i suspect for a few hours after your races or workouts.

  3. Aquaman says:

    Excellent! I hope to see you at more of the workouts. I am currently slipping into a bit of a lazy triathlete/hiper-active runner phase…

  4. Then come on out to the run workout in Burgoyne Woods on Tuesdays (6:30pm) and help some of us older, slower triathletes with an added push. Oh, and you should be out riding with us on Sundays too…just saying. Get the Manta Ray out too. 😉

  5. Aquaman says:

    Are the Tuesday night runs becoming more regular? I know before they were a little on the iffy side, but if there’s a consistant run then I shouldn’t have any trouble getting there, unless you guys are running over 12km . And Sundays too, deffinately.

    • Those are the one workout that I can’t make during the week, but I understand that the attendance has been much better what with all the new members. If you show up too, there will be even more! It’s not a distance workout, more shorter speed and hill intervals…right up your alley ‘Skinny’.

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