Now I have to admit that in the past, I’ve always found the notion of calf guards a little bit ‘poncy’ and mainly confined to the domain of triathletes. When it comes to running shoes, socks and alike, I’ve always been a little old school. Preferring to just whack some socks and shoes on, leaving the gaitors off and just getting on with running. Even in the marathon des sables in 2009, I seriously considered not wearing gaiters because I didn’t think you really needed them. If I was to have my time again, I wouldn’t take any as only 20% of the course is run over sand. However, I digress…
The reason for dipping my toe into this new world was simply because of the issues I get with my calves. Everyone has an area of the body they get issues with and mine, due to my running style (which is mid to fore foot strike) is in my calves. As such I thought I’d better do something about it, and calf guards seemed like a logical solution given their propensity to help with muscle oscillation. I am a sceptic I must admit, but I thought in for a penny, in for a pound.
And quite a few pounds (well dollars), these little bad boys cost – $55 to be honest, but in my mind if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys… or something along those lines. Working in the marketing world, I am always quick to take the ‘blurb’ with a pinch of salt, but what drew me to these calf guards in particular is how much ‘technology’ seemed to go in the back-end. I’m a bit of a tech freak as well, so this appealed to my nature in some regards.
One thing that also drew me to the socks is what Compressport call ‘silicon absorbers’ in the guards in the lower half aligned around where the ankle is. There are 220 of these little silicon spikes as they call them, which as the blurb says, supports the achilles through strenuous exercise. Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure, but one thing’s for sure my legs feel rock solid in these things.
There are four sizes for these particular type of ‘sock’, and you have to make sure you measure your calf around two areas, at the widest point and also the length of the lower leg too. The reason being is as I alluded to above, these things are locked tight onto your calf and take a little getting used when putting them on and taking them off. But this state of being ‘locked-in’ is good I think as in my mind and when I run, it certainly helps to prevent the muscle oscillation that occurs.
These socks also claim to help reduce muscle fatigue and toxin build up too, with such things as lactic acid. Now, whether this rings true on a 100km or 100 miler again I’m not sure. To be honest I think your body is so smashed and goes beyond what manufacturers and people think is ‘normal’ in that regard that I do take these things quite lightly when claims are made. Do they help? Yes indeed, I think they assist the process, but importantly in combination with a number of other factors too, such as the right nutrition and getting the salts into your body too. I think where the problem occurs with products such as this, is that bold claims are made, but people need to be clear that this is just part of the process and not the holy grail or finite answer to things.
To some extent, this is what annoys me when people claim that certain products make them run faster, be it a pair of new running shoes, a backpack or simply having a haircut. It’s part of a process for sure, but the core of it comes down to your training and how well you look after yourself before, during and after a race.
The Bottom Line
So do I like these? Yes I do, and I do feel some level of comfort and security with my calves when I have these things on. Do I think they help me in the management of my flimsy calves? Yes I do, but it’s also the other things that I do in training and racing that all combine to help with the management of your bodily parts too. Do the silicone gel thingies work? I’m not sure, I think they may do, but without some scientific testing on me before during and after a race, how am I to tell? In a race of course…
I wore them recently down at the GOW100km, and again I felt good in them, but do I think they helped to speed up/lessen impact after the race? Maybe. I certainly felt pretty good and was able to go and knock out a 50km run the following Saturday, but that’s not totally down to wearing calf guards. It probably had a role to play yes, but it wasn’t the complete picture. Now I’ve bought them once, would I buy them again? I’m sure I would, so these do get the thumbs up from me. I’d be interested in hearing from other fellow poncy calf guard wearers to gather their thoughts on how much these things help. Do they? Or is it a complete load of marketing hype designed to get us wearing yet another piece of gear?