I know what you’re thinking, why are are we talking about socks and what the heck is a Sigvaris? Well, to start, socks are a much more important factor than most people may realize as I mentioned in an earlier post where I highlighted the benefits of compression socks and sleeves in deterring the pains of the infamous Calf-ocalypse that can occur during the transition period from traditional to minimalist shoes. Sigvaris is a company founded over 100 years ago, but found its real place in the medical field with the development of the medical compression stocking. These stockings, and now socks, can be used for various purposes, including for patients with varicose veins and even more serious ailments such as diabetes or leg ulcers. Sigvaris didn’t make the move to fitness related compression gear until 2009 where it opened a whole line of fitness related products.
A compression sock is just what you might expect it to be. Like most other compression gear, a compression sock is a very tight fitting sock that helps to wick moisture, limit vibration, and, more importantly, it can help to increase oxygen flow, which, if you remember from one of my earlier posts, can largely improve performance levels. The Sigvaris compression sock (actually titled Sigvaris Performance Sock) is a very technical sock and includes several attributes that aren’t available on most other socks in the same category. The most important features to me as a runner include:
- 3m for branding for reflective purposes around the top band
- Extra-wide top band which keeps the sock in place
- The toe area is cushioned both on top and bottom which limits hot spots and rubbing
- Extra padding around the achilles section which helps to limit rubbing
- Latex free fabric which helps both thermal and odor control
To top it off, Sigvaris has the absolute best options for sizing because they take both calf and ankle sizes into account (discussed more below). All of these fantastic features come at a price of $50 – $70 a pair and they can be found on Amazon or at your local running store (we suggest Berkeley Running Company). I’ve found that my legs and feet have stayed extremely comfortable even after long training runs when wearing these socks.
The only complaints I have are related to fit and design. As far as socks go, they are incredibly difficult to put on, but, to be fair, so is every compression sock/sleeve. Once you get them past your ankles, you’re golden, but you have to be careful not to damage the fabric with your fingers or toenails along the way. The bigger complaint I have is that I find the design actually has some built in hot spots. The stripe that wraps around the sock comes to an end to the outer side of the sock near the pinky toes and those who have longer toes, like myself, may find that the small seam on the stripe is just big enough to create some rubbing around the pinky toe.
A compression sleeve has essentially the same purpose as a compression sock, but does not include the foot. This allows the athlete to run with the benefits of compression foot/leg-wear, but free up their feet to wear their preferred sock. This is especially helpful for minimalist/barefoot runners who prefer to run barefoot, sock-less, or in toe-socks, but still want compression benefits. Last, but not least, sleeves are built for more than just runners. They are also designed for use by triathletes because they dry very quickly and, without the sock, they won’t leave your feet soggy when you jump out of the water.
The compression sleeve market is packed to the brim with tons of different viable options, so picking a brand can be a bit of a hassle. With that in mind, the compression footwear/legwear market is again dominated by Sigvaris in one specific area: sizing. When shopping for compression sleeves/socks, sizing is the most difficult thing to get straight. Sigvaris has this down by using what they like to call “superior athletic sizing”. Similar to the Sigvaris Performance Socks, the Sigvaris Performance Sleeves take both ankle and calf sizing into account. This is extremely important when you consider how drastically these two things can vary between runners (length of calves, muscle mass, ratio of calf to ankle, etc.). Aside from sizing, most sleeves have roughly the same benefits and feature very similar fabrics, so it is difficult to set your brand apart from the competition in such a crowded market, but Sigvaris manages to make its mark with superior sizing options.
The Sigvaris Performance Sleeves are available online in the $40 – $50 price range and are available in 6 different colors. This is a very competitive price relative to the rest of the market, which normally ranges from $20 to $60 a pair.
Recovery socks are a slightly different market and aren’t quite as popular, especially with the younger athletic community, as the compression sleeve/sock. Sigvaris designed these socks specifically to improve and speed up recovery time by helping to flush out lactic acid build up in the leg muscles, as well as relieve exercise-induced muscle soreness. Like both the Performance Sleeves & Socks, the Athletic Recovery socks are made from a latex-free material which helps to eliminate odor and wick moisture.
The Athletic Recovery socks are easily the most comfortable pair of socks I have ever worn. I can’t help but put them on the second I complete a run or even when I just want a warm pair of socks for lounging around the house. With that said, I can’t help but think I’m just wearing a well constructed pair of soccer socks. Regardless of my feelings about the socks being of a basic design, I feel they do live up to their purported benefits. I’ve found that my calves do in fact feel better after wearing the recovery socks for a few hours after long runs. This, paired with the compression sleeves/socks, has been a highly effective method for keeping soreness to a minimum over the past 3 months of our half-marathon training.
The Sigvaris Athletic Recovery Socks are available on Amazon between $30 – $40 and, like the Performance Socks, come in either black or white. This is, again, a very reasonable price considering the benefits they offer to any user.
After spending the last 4 months with Sigvaris compression and recovery socks/sleeves, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to run without Sigvaris included in my gear. I’m extremely impressed by the quality of materials used in every product and have been blown away by the stack of benefits they claim to offer and that I have experienced. To top it off, I’ve suggested Sigvaris products to other runners who have been having trouble with calf pain and they have reached new heights in their training due to all of the benefits Sigvaris has been able to bring to them. The price tags for these products may look a little steep, but I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with Sigvaris.
Steve is an Executive Recruiter at Robert Half Executive Search in Madison, WI with a business degree in Information Systems and E-Commerce from the University of Toledo. Steve loves spending his time away from work; running, gaming, watching movies, checking out new social networking tools/sites/start-ups and blogging.