Last week I focused on some ways to reduce ground impact forces when running. This is also applicable to walking, or rucking (walking with weights in a backpack). These ground reaction forces can put a lot of stress on the body (particularly the lower extremities). Impact forces are 1-1.5 times your bodyweight when walking, and 3-4 times your bodyweight when running. It is no wonder that 70-80% of runners will experience some type of running injury. Some of these injuries might be plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, Iliotibial band issues, etc.
Last week I attended a webinar (online seminar) where Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CES of the Evidence Based Fitness Academy, spoke at length about the need to help our bodies handle, absorb, cushionm and react to these forces. In addition to strengthening exercises some people turn to compression gear. These could be in the form of leggings, or compression socks and sleeves.
Personally I have used compression gear off and on, and was never quite sure if they truly worked. Dr. Emily Splichal was kind enough to email me a link to a study that shows that yes in fact compression gear is beneficial.
The compression study shows that when you are not wearing compression gear your muscles actually fire harder. One might think this would be good, but in fact the harder your muscles fire, the more quickly you begin to feel fatigue. Also with the compression gear, EMG (Electromyography) tests on muscle activity showed that the muscles fire milliseconds faster with compression gear, which prepares the lower leg muscles to create more “fascial tensioning” or intra-muscular pressure. In layman’s terms it makes your lower leg more solid.
Will wearing compression gear make you an elite runner? No. It can however help you to delay the onset of fatigue, which a runner at any level can appreciate. It can also help your body better reduce and handle those ground reaction forces and help reduce your risk of running.