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?
22 thoughts on “Gear Review: Compressport Calf Guards”
You seem to want to like these Dan, but don’t want to be taken in by the spin even though deep down you know they are working.
I have a pair of Zensah calf guards at home and have worn these at Western States, primarily to prevent smacking my shins early on when post holing through the snow. No doubt they feel good, and if you believe the hype then they prevent fatigue, but I much prefer to run without and certainly don’t train in them.
If they allow you to nurse an injury through the last two weeks of a big training block and then get the niggle right in the taper then they have done the job.
I wouldn’t want to rely on wearing them in training all the time though.
Have to agree with you Andrew, I have used my Salomon Exo II for a few longer training runs and then without to see if there is any really difference. Don’t feel a massive change on the actual run, but might be something in the recovery. Having said that, the best thing for recovery I have found lately is standing in waist deep cold water for 25-30 mins seems to be a great relief, no calf soreness layer in the day and following day.
I think for race day, they just help to prevent the attrition a long ultra pays out especially on those roughed up trails.
Dan, I have a pair if these as I had issues with my calves after mt solitary and wanted to be fit for tnf100. I wore them then and haven’t since.
I personally think they are shite. Wouldn’t ever wear them when running again. Felt like a tool wearing them at the time. Don’t even know if they helped. May have done during recovery and may have provided some level of reassurance during the race but I wouldn’t bother in future. I like my body to breathe when I’m running
In my opinion they are great training tool, but as I say tool. If dealing with lower leg injuries, they can be a good support for your calf and soleus, also can help to overcome shin splints caused by over-training.
Another thing is, that during colder days anyways you have to wear tights, why not go with compression garment a few times a week. The improved circulation will help to keep those muscles warm. They don’t do any harm to you.
If I haven’t got any issues at all, I never wear them during running or racing.
But If I had a chance to wear a full Skins recovery garment after every hard training I wouldn’t say no. They are really comfortable, and makes you feel like a health pill. During the TDF nearly every athletes are sleeping in dose ones; that might show something.
Some good points there Levi. I’ve used them a few times now because of some calf issues that I get. I also like wearing them in races too that run through dense bushland as they help to protect against cuts and brushing against foreign objects!
I also suffer from shin splints in the winter, although this Australian winter hasn’t been too bad to be honest.
I have a pair of these (gratis) and quite like them but have only worn them a couple of times. I prefer the Zensah (also gratis courtesy of Injinji) variety and started wearing them after cutting my inner calves up badly at Hardrock the first time. Since then tend to wear them in most 100s. Never in training. I like to think they help. Whether they do or not I have no way of really knowing but I like the feel of the support so just go with that.
I like your thinking Whippet. Sometimes you don’t have to have a reason, they could be just because they feel good and give you some level of security in your head, and I think that’s where my rationale comes in with these things. I don’t take all the manufacturers claims at face value, I’m not sure I believe them all either, but in my head it works. I’ll be wearing them for GNW, simply because I get that level of security in my head.
My primary focus is keeping cool most of the time, would these things be a hinderance to that?
I notice plenty of the top European ultra runners (and a few americans – mostly women) run in all compression gear these days. Are they doing it because of the benefits to their preformance or because they are paid too? (I dont want to be cynical about everything!)
Would they offer protection against thorns, prickles or snake bites? They look more comfortable than gaters for that.
I think its possible you could feel hot in these, but I don’t think it would make a huge difference to your overall body temp. They are probably what the manufacturers call ‘wicking’ as well I would have thought.
As for the Europeans, I get the sense that there could be quite a few who wear them because they are sponsored, but who knows – it would be interesting to read some independent studies on this (and not ones paid for by the manufacturers).
One of the reasons I do wear them is to help against prickles and thorns on the lower leg, and for a course like GNW, I think they do help. As for snake bites, I think they’d offer minimal protection as it’s essentially fabric… it isn’t going to stop that happening, but then the instances of snake bites on runners are so small. I think a lot is made of snakes on the trails, simply because of the scare factor. It’s like the whole sharks in the ocean thing, the chances are so small, but when it does happen the size of the event supercedes reality. BUT, if wearing calf socks makes you think its safer, then why not I say?
I’m not into hysteria about snakes, although I have encountered alot of them even in odd places like Mosman, Castlecrag and Roseville. I figure though if there was an easy an comfortable way to protect myself when I may be in a remote area with limited phone coverage then it would be worth thinking about.
Charlie, they also protect against things like poison oak which I was very keen to avoid on the trails in the States.
Charlie, since the inclement weather of the UTMB in 2009, it is now mandatory to have leg cover from the shin to the knee and then from the knee to the waist. A lot of the athletes use long shorts and compression sleeves rather than full length tights. If you see footage from this year, Kilian had them on, but rolled them down most of the time.
I find it bizarre that TNF would implement that rule and then not have a product designed to meet it ready to hit the market. Left hand not taking to the right hand. Salomon, Zensah, 2XU, Compressport all more than happy to step in and service the market. Anyone know who owns Compressport???
It’s a UK company I think, independent. One of the things I’m wary of too on the GNW is ticks, I guess in some ways I do wear them as a protective layer and I will be wearing them for GNW this year – particularly because it’s going to be a cold one this year 🙂
I’m telling you Dan, one year you’ll be right about the weather.
I think TNF are just the naming sponsors, the husband and wife Race Directors were the ones who brought the rule in for safety reasons among a few other modifications including French enabled mobiles for text update etc. But lets not get started on how controversial the on the fly course changes were felt by our US friends come race day.
ps I think Compressport are a privately owned French company and domiciled in Switzerland for tax purposes
Either way a little heads up to TNF “hey we’re about to mandate that 3,000 race entrants are about to be told they have carry / wear gear that covers their shins, you should really think about getting a bit of spandex that will cost $0.50 to make and get it to market for $55 before we make the announcement” Regards RD. Perhaps they did, and TNF were busy selling $6,000 tents to Everest trekkers. Who knows.
it does make you wonder how much faster some of the very best runners ever, like Yiannis Kouros or Bruce Fordyce would have run if they had of work skins or compression garments back in the day….. ;0
Yes just imagine Ian!
Uli Steidl once said this about compression gear; “I don’t think compression tights do ANYTHING for runners. They’re a fad just like the “breath right” nose strips were 10 years ago.” This from a guy who broke the course record in virtually every ultra he ran.
That was 2 years ago and they (compression gear) seem to have gone from strength to strength since.
I’m still split 50:50. At the end of the day, manufacturers can’t live off running shoe profits alone… they need to diversify the market, so they do that through things like compression gear, telling us that it will make us fitter, faster and stronger in some form or another. But, I do think they help in some way. Look at those go-faster swimsuits they developed a few years ago before they were banned. Clothing technology is moving forward at a fast rate, and I do think elements of it help performance, but not as much as manufacturers claim it does. That’s why I want to see some independent tests. And I mean independent, not university run, and company funded.
what about the new trend of Kineisiology taping, a lot of runners seem to swear by the benefits regardless of injury. Anyone tried it?
Team them with gaiters and a v-neck for the Euro look. You may not RUN like Kilian but you CAN look like him.