Calf strain and shin splints can be a real pain when they start interfering with your running.
But you don’t have to suffer on un-aided.
The best calf compression sleeves for running will help to support your lower legs as they recover, getting you back on the road in ship shape.
I’ve taken a close look at the calf compression sleeves available on the market and chosen eight of the best to get you well on your way to running unhindered.
- TOP 8 Best Calf Compression Sleeves 2021
- What are Calf Compression Sleeves?
- Do Calf Compression Sleeves Work for Shin Splints?
- How Tight should Calf Compression Sleeves be?
- How Long Can You Wear Calf Compression Sleeves?
- When Should You Wear a Compression Calf Sleeve?
- Are Compression Socks or Calf Sleeves Better?
- Should You Sleep with a Compression Sleeve on?
- Are Compression Sleeves Supposed to be Tight?
- Which is Better Compression Socks or Sleeves?
- Do Compression Sleeves Help Tight Calves?
TOP 8 Best Calf Compression Sleeves 2021
What are Calf Compression Sleeves?
Calf compression sleeves are literally sleeves of material, worn over the lower half of your leg, that create a light compression over your calf muscles and shin.
Benefits of Calf Compression Sleeves
Calf compression sleeves are claimed to do two key things:
- Increase circulation throughout the lower leg, helping to increase oxygenation of the muscles and the removal of lactic acid.
- Help to support the muscles used during exercise, protecting them from vibrations and reducing the amount of recovery time needed after a run or work out.
How well they do each of these things is a matter of personal opinion and experience.
But, many people believe that they experience real benefits to their performance or recovery when wearing calf compression sleeves.
And, almost all pro marathon runners can’t be lying!
Calf compression sleeves are also used in an additional way that other items of compression clothing aren’t – they help the recovery and prevention of shin splints.
In fact, physiotherapists often recommend the use of compression sleeves or socks to aid shin splint sufferers.
So, if that’s you, you’re in the right place!
So, should you get a pair?
I’m not going to lie, calf compression sleeves make a lot more sense for running than compression shorts alone. But, tights and socks are also great options.
What it comes down to is whether you are prone to calf pain or have specific problems such as calf strain or shin splints that would benefit directly from a calf compression sleeve. If you do, then kitting yourself out with a pair of calf compression sleeves is a no-brainer.
If shin splints are a problem for you, it’s also essential that you’re wearing the right shoes for your condition – be sure to have a read of our article on the best running shoes for shin splints before leaving!)
On the other hand, if you’re generally pretty pain-free and just looking for a bit of a boost to your recovery, either tights, socks or sleeves will work well.
Sleeves are a great option if you’d love to be wearing compression socks but are prone to hot feet, or the compression socks make your feet too sloppy inside of your shoes.
Alternatively, the best compression tights provide the added benefit of compression throughout your thighs as well as lower legs. Tights are also the best option for providing sensory feedback and awareness of what each part of your leg is doing that can help with running style, posture and alignment.
If, on the other hand, you actually get more problems with quads, hamstrings or glutes, maybe checking out a pair of the best compression running shorts would be a better option.
As you can see, which item of compression clothing you choose depends on whether you have a specific body part that needs attention, and your preferences for comfort and style.
There is no right answer, and believers of compression clothing will say that any compression clothing is better than none!
Factors to Consider
Regardless of which type of compression clothing you choose to go with, you’re going to need to weigh up a few factors.
Firstly, pay attention to whether the sleeves you’re purchasing are unisex or gender-specific.
Generally, there won’t be much difference in the design, but it will make a difference to the sizing. A small unisex may not be as a small female’s sleeve.
Also, sizing calf compression sleeves has more to do with the circumference of your calf than the length of your lower leg (and nothing at all to do with your shoe size!).
Measure the circumference of your calf by wrapping a tape measure around your calf at its widest point.
If you don’t have a soft, sewing tape measure, you can also wrap a piece of string around your calf, mark the place where the ends meet with your finger and then lay it beside a flat, builder’s tape measure to get the reading.
Think about what temperatures you’re going to be running in.
Some calf compression sleeves are hotter or cooler than others and this can make a big difference to your run.
Think about durability.
It makes sense to spend your hard-earned cash on something that will last you many years.
The amount of compression is also really important.
Milder compression ratings are designed to be worn for longer periods of time after your run to aid in recovery.
Firmer compression ratings are designed to be worn only while you run.
Some people size up or down to customize the amount of compression they want, but this can be risky. You’ll likely end up having to return the product to swap at least once.
Moisture-wicking and anti-odor or anti-microbial properties can also be handy.
The less often you have to wash your sleeves, the longer they’ll last!
They’ll also last longer if you wash them on a cold cycle and leave them to air dry!
Do Calf Compression Sleeves Work for Shin Splints?
Yes, definitely! They’re not a quick fix and they won’t work by themselves if you’re not making any other changes. But, calf compression sleeves do significantly help with recovery from and prevention of shin splints.
How Tight should Calf Compression Sleeves be?
You should definitely feel some pressure, but not so much that your feet tingle or you feel any pain or discomfort.
Calf compression sleeves should be comfortable, this is not a case where there is any such thing as “good pain”!
How Long Can You Wear Calf Compression Sleeves?
This depends on the level of compression. Moderate level compression (20-30mmHg) should be worn only during your training and for a short time afterward.
It’s hard to crunch the numbers though as there isn’t any definite answer out there on how long is too long. But, it’s best not to sleep in them or wear them when you’re lying on the couch.
A few hours after training is a safe bet for milder levels of compression (15-20mmHg). Socks, on the other hand, can be worn for longer as there’s no chance of circulation to the foot being disrupted.
When Should You Wear a Compression Calf Sleeve?
Moderate compression sleeves should be worn while you run, and light compression sleeves can be worn throughout the day to aid in recovery.
Compression sleeves are a great option if you experience painful or achy legs, are standing for long periods, or exercise.
Are Compression Socks or Calf Sleeves Better?
Compression socks are usually a safer option as you don’t run the risk of your feet swelling or blood pooling in your feet. But if you use your calf sleeves mindfully, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Should You Sleep with a Compression Sleeve on?
The simple answer is definitely not. Compression sleeves help your circulation by fighting against gravity.
When you’re lying down, you don’t have gravity forcing blood into your lower legs in the first place so you could end up cutting off the circulation to your feet.
It’s too risky.
Even if you’ve heard of other people sleeping in their compression sleeves, please don’t do it.
Are Compression Sleeves Supposed to be Tight?
Yes, but not too tight! They shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable but you should be able to feel a light squeeze.
Which is Better Compression Socks or Sleeves?
Socks are slightly better for recovery after running as they help the circulation of your feet at the same time and prevent foot swelling.
But, sleeves can be excellent too, provided you don’t sleep in them, and are generally more comfortable to wear while running.
Do Compression Sleeves Help Tight Calves?
Calf compression sleeves won’t be as good as stretching for remedying tight calves – there’s no quick fix for inflexibility.
But, they can help with cramping and recovery from injuries such as strains that result from being tight.
That’s a wrap for the best calf compression sleeves for running!
Do you think you’re going to add a pair to your running kit? Do you already use them and believe in their benefits?
If you have any questions, be sure to flick us a comment, and make sure you’re subscribed to get all the latest reviews right in your inbox.