SLS3 Compression Sox Review
[TrailrunningSoul: today we kick off a series of two gear reviews on products provided by the San Diego Running Institute, a store owned by Dr. Victor J. Runco which provides trail running shoes and equipment to the local runners. The SDRI also offers membership to the San Diego Dirt Devils and sponsors many trail runs and races. If you like the SLS3 socks, check out the link at the end of the review which will take you to their on-line store. Also, this review has been written by Derrick Spafford, member of the La Sportiva Running Team and owner of the Spafford Health and Adventure which offers running coaching, race management and much more. Welcome to TRS Derrick! ]
I have to admit that when I first thought about trying compression socks I had a hard time with it as I kept having flashbacks to the 1980’s and runners wearing knee high tube socks. How on earth could they be comfortable, let alone aid in performance in long distance running? Even seeing women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe competing in them, I was still a skeptic.
The theory behind compression socks is that they are designed to offer maximum support to prevent the potential for injury. Additionally, and what seems to have caught the interest of runners the most is that by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply to the muscles, they can significantly increase performance and aid in recovery. Published studies have tried to pinpoint exactly how much of a benefit compression gear can offer, with results varying considerably. In general though, it is believed that there is a potentially significant benefit to wearing compression socks and probably a worthwhile venture for those who are keen to try to gain an extra edge on the competition.
In addition to the claims from other studies, SLS3 has done extensive testing on their line of compression apparel. SLS3 is an American company that has put a great deal of emphasis and work into researching, designing, manufacturing and marketing all things that are compression including socks, sleeves and clothing. SLS3 believes that the optimal level of compression for athletic benefit comes from what would be considered a firm compression, which measures 20-30mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Some companies come in lower, some higher, but SLS3 feels this is the best range and averages 26-28mmHg with their compression socks.
With this in mind, I received a pair of SLS3 Compression Sox and was eager to put them to the test. I ran with them through a number of runs over several weeks in a variety of different types of workouts including intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats and long runs. Temperature and weather conditions included training through the cold Canadian winter as well as some extremely warm days in the upper 80ºF range.
Initially I felt them somewhat restrictive, though considering I’d never worn a compression sock in the past, it really didn’t take me long to get used to the feel of them. The snug, supportive fit provided by SLS3 Compression Sox had me feeling like my calf muscles were well supported and essentially bombproofed from any intense running I was doing. One of the interesting things that I soon found from my experiences from running with SLS3 Compression Sox was that I seemed to feel less of a need for starting with a more gradual warmup. Right out the door it seemed like I was prepared to get into a steady training pace, which normally takes a few miles of easy running for me to approach.
Where I really noticed the benefit of SLS3 Compression Sox was during long runs. Most of my long runs are done through steep, rocky terrain that really gives your calves a beating. I found that I was completing long runs with noticeably less stiffness in my calves and Achilles tendons, compared to long runs done without them. This was even more apparent the day following the long run when I was walking a little less gingerly than normal upon waking. I found that even on days when I was nursing a chronically sore Achilles tendon or calf, I was able to get through some scheduled hilly trail runs relatively unscathed by protecting these vulnerable areas. Additionally, I discovered that sleeping with compression socks helped to alleviate next-day muscle soreness.
As for weather conditions, I felt that SLS3 Compression Sox performed best in cooler winter temperatures, early spring or late fall. On the hottest days of the summer, I find them to be a bit warm. Though the sock is made up of 70% moisture transporting polypropylene, I still find this to be a bit uncomfortable on days when you are looking for lighter and more breathable, or less, clothing. This has been a common complaint with compression clothing and socks in general and I have also noticed this mentioned by participants in various studies on compression socks.
In general, I felt that SLS3 Compression Sox performed extremely well. While I am not prepared to report that they helped me to run faster while shattering previous personal bests, the biggest thing that I got out of it is that I am convinced that I did recover much quicker while wearing them in and after training.
Get a pair of SLS3 Compression Socks – $55.45 at SDRI