We wanted to put together an article on the growing fascination with long socks and if you aren’t exactly sure what we’re talking about, the “technical” term is over the calf (or OTC). In reality, manufacturers are designing these socks more like hosiery which aids in compression and runners around the world are taking notice. In this article, we reviewed some of the top sellers from various manufacturers and wanted to share our findings.
Before we dig into the individual manufacturers, it seems like we should address who the target market is for the product. Traditionally, doctors might recommend support hose or support socks for those cursed with a variety of leg elements including, but not limited to, shin splints, blood clots, varicose/spider veins and even general strains or pulls. Somewhere along the way, the athletic industry took a look at the benefits gained while using these during exercise and thus an entire new market was born. Many of your top-tier shoe manufacturers build compression socks as well, but for this we wanted to stick with those companies that are essentially devoted to producing socks and compression specifically for running. This doesn’t mean manufacturers of shoes can’t produce great compression products, but we find the companies that are dedicated to only this seem to produce a wider assortment of compression levels and a larger array of options for runners.
2XU is a company devoted to compression and they offer a number of products for your entire body as well as leg and arm sleeves, but their OTC lineup is stacked. The lineup includes their normal Compression level, X Performance, Elite Alpine (colder temps), Hyoptik (cold plus high viz), 24/7 (recovery and running), and even Thermal (deep cold). All models have varying levels of features adding or removing compression in key areas, but all have SPF and are antibacterial. If you need warmth, then definitely consider the Alpine or Thermal, but for normal runners the normal Compression or Performance will be perfect. the majority use their PWX compression fabric. Retail falls between $45 and $55.
We have a full feature coming on Compressport and their full body apparel and sleeves, but for now lets focus on just the socks. They have a really complete lineup for socks, but in terms of Compression and OTC its all about the Full Socks V2.1. Sporting their 3D.DOTS technology which gives you tremendous in shoe grip along with achilles protection, these things are a site to behold and are becoming a mainstay in ultra/trail racing. Retails for ~$50.
We have talked about Champion CSX before, but their OTC game is very strong. They are totally seamless and a mix of nylon and lycra spandex, but the real standout is that you can select your model by compression level, so they truly have something for everyone. Retails for $50.
CW-X is another company devoted to compression, but their full length compression model is the PerformX. Available in 3 colors, their patented Support Web is based on kinesis-taping technology giving you maximum support. These are also great for recovery as well. Retails for $40.
Falke is another queued up for a full review for their tops and bottoms, but this is about their Impulse Running sock. They are designed to focus on the sensor areas of the foot and calf face and are a mix of nylon and lycra (elastane if you are in the UK). Props for the real subtle black/red color combo. Retails for ~$50.
Farm to Feet
Farm to Feet is a true sock company (meaning it’s all the do) and their one big draw is delivering really well designed products at a lower price point. For instance, their Blue Ridge Run Compression socks only come in at $30 and instead of nylon or lycra, they are 100% merino wool making them super soft (they use nylon yarn for the compression). Compression levels run 12.5-22.5.
McDavid is a multi-sport compression company that not only makes great running gear, but also some great recovery products for those that suffer from plantars, etc. They do have several OTC sock models and we actually tested the thigh-high rebound/compression socks. I ended up actually rolling them down to normal OTC rebound as I didn’t love the over the knee feeling, but to each their own. Their calf sleeves are honestly probably one of the standouts in their lineup and as I mentioned, they have some great post run recovery compression gear as well.
PRO Compression is another company solely focused on making compression products and they offer two different OTC models for running, the Marathon and Marathon Elite. The Elite offers enhanced calf support, additional heel/toe padding and a no seam toe. Retail on the Marathon is $50 and $55 for the Elite.
Stance is an amazing sock company and almost everyone knows the name now as they produce just beautiful everyday socks. In 2015, they launched performance line, Fusion, and we reviewed the original offering and loved it. The styling is probably their biggest departure from other vendors and they have two models, the Bandit and the Tarmac. Both feature Stance’s Air channel cushioning as well as a reinforced heel and toe. Retails for $36.
Another full body compression player, Zensah offers their Tech+ compression socks. Sporting true graduated compression as well their Ultra-Zone ribbing which provides targeted arch and ankle stabilization. The best part here is they come in just a ton of colors, 10 to be exact, and are useful in both recovery and in-run. They also sport a no-slip cuff to to keep them in place throughout. Retails for $49.99.
One last thing to leave you with, I know some people think these all look silly. Please keep in mind that just like all other sports technologies, this all started from a place of need and valid research. So do keep an open mind and recognize that there may be some benefits here for you and each individual is different, but looks shouldn’t be the only gating factor for you. They may actually keep you running a lot longer than you might expect and provide you relief if you are consistently plagued by lower leg injury or pain.