I have to admit- I’m a compression sleeve newbie. However, after speaking with a handful of people who wear them, including my husband, I decided to give them a try.
I wasn’t even necessarily partial to any one brand in particular when looking into buying a pair. My only caveats were that I didn’t want them to fall apart quickly, I obviously wanted them to work as intended, and I didn’t want to spend a fortune.
As a sidenote, I didn’t necessarily need calf sleeves to resolve any issues. I simply thought they might be good to have on hand in the event I need them.
I gathered up in my brain the various brands I had heard of within the OCR realm: 2XU, ProCompression, MudGear, (others?) and went to work looking into which ones to buy. Knowing that Spartan Pro Athlete Robert Killian wears 2XU shorts/pants on occassion, I figured they must at least be a reputable brand.
To my surprise they had some on clearance so I purchased a pair… in my absolute least favorite color: hot pink. I guess they will make it easier to see me on the course when I wear them!
I can’t believe how incredibly snug these things are supposed to fit. It seems counterintuitive to wear something so snug in order to increase blood flow. In any case, I set out to wear them here and there on training runs in order to get used to them. I’m so glad I “broke them in” and found out what to expect from them before using them in a race or I think I may have disliked them and given up on them just from not being used to the snug fit.
I wound up having an issue lasting a week which I initially thought might be shin splints; but, rather appears to have been chronic exertional compartment syndrome. (Yes, I self-diagnosed. No, I don’t recommend that.)
I find cycling boring and uncomfortable and don’t care to cross train on a bike. So, I figured that I would take my calf sleeves out on a run and see if my issue persisted. A couple of times wearing my fancy bright pink calf sleeves, and I didn’t even notice the issue any longer. Seriously. I was really impressed.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
The benefits listed on the 2XU website that they self-promote (and provide citations/research for) are: more than twice the compression of other brands, scientifically engineered to be the lightest, most powerful/flexible compression, and number one in power balance and residual stretch. They also claim they help to improve performance (based on studies conducted). Improved performance can benefit you with gains of up to 10.6 seconds over the course of a 10k run, 5% peak power gains and 18% blood flow increase to your quads, power improvement of up to 1.4%.
They also claim their compression helps reduce risk of injury by reducing oscillatory properties of your quads, calves, and surrounding soft tissue. They can also help deliver lower markers of blood clotting in a marathon and reduce heart rate by up to 2.5%. As for help in speeding up recovery? You can experience a 4.8% increase in blood lactate removal and reduce swelling to your thighs and calves. (Note: there are caveats/limitations to these stats listed on their website at the link I’ve included).
What does half of this even mean? In plain English, it sounds like you can reduce risk of injury, recover faster, worry less about blood clotting and swelling, and potentially see improved performance when you’re really pushing yourself. The issue did seem to resolve itself rather quickly (which, assuming my self-diagnosis was correct- basically consisted of a lack of blood flow outside of my muscle compartments from over-exertion). I can’t make any claims to the improved performance, but I did feel like they helped with blood flow and recovery.
The downside to this brand that I see is that they are thicker than other brands, making them difficult to take off after an obstacle course race or long training run. I sometimes seriously feel like I’m about to get a cramp trying to take them off, and it takes me a good 3 minutes to pull them off dry. I stop counting when they’re wet and muddy. My husband and I have basically developed a buddy system for taking compression calf sleeves off. I should video it some day, because it’s probably hilarious to watch. I suppose it’s the point of compression sleeves, but they are also a bit warm to wear and I’m not certain I can really wear them here in the summer months in Arizona.
HOW ABOUT IN COMPARISON?
My husband also owns CEP and Zensah compression calf sleeves and/or compression socks. When I bought my pair, I bought him a pair of the 2XU as well. He does have chronically tight calves, and uses calf sleeves frequently. He really likes the 2XU, though his legs tend to get really warm in them so he prefers the CEP brand personally (they are a bit thinner).
However, he said the 2XU’s work really well and the reasons he would stick with 2XU over CEP was that 2XU’s offer a comparable quality for less money. 2XU does seem to have sales fairly often so you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on them. He wasn’t super impressed with the Zensah’s as they seem to stretch out too easily, defeating their own purpose.
I would buy another pair of these if I felt I needed another pair of compression calf sleeves. Hopefully not in hot pink.
There you have it, my review of the 2XU compression calf sleeves. What’s your go-to compression brand? Feel free to submit your own review for the OCR Community to consider.
Need other product reviews for OCR gear?
Check out our posts on WarriorPak gloves, Fit Four gloves, or Nathan running vests.