When your short hikes are breezy 10-milers, and you rack up 30+ miles each and every weekend, you tend to get picky about what you put on your feet. After years of hiking and backpacking, I’ve fallen into the category of the foot-care superstitious, as though the ingredients for keeping my toes dry were some mysterious witches brew that could not be altered for any reason. Though I often have my doubts about new trends that enter the hiking and trail running world, I’d been curious to try compression socks for quite some time. When CloudLine Apparel sent me a pair of their finest in backcountry-blue, I knew I had to give them a go!
Now, the science on compression socks is largely out at the moment. Studies have shown mixed results as to whether or not they improve performance due to increased blood flow. There’s also a lot of unproven, anecdotal evidence that they lessen muscle vibration, increasing efficiency among the muscle fibers in your legs so that the fibers can focus on moving you forward, rather than fighting gravity.
Remarkably, studies monitoring the effects of compression socks on athletes during rest phases have been great. The socks’ pressure increases venous blood flow among runners during chill-out and recovery time, lowering the dreaded next-day soreness. There is also some evidence that they could help speed recovery by more quickly clearing blood lactate if one wears the socks after a workout.
I decided to test out CloudLine’s compression socks on a trail I had done before that obliterated my calves – Alta Peak in Sequoia National Park. The trail climbs 4000 vertical feet in 7 miles before descending into the beautiful Alta Meadow. This time, I decided to up the ante by carrying my full 35lb. pack all the way to the summit for an extra challenge. I left the socks on as I did a bit of recovery yoga in the evening by my campsite and decided to sleep in them as well to see how they alleviate soreness and fatigue the next day.
I can happily report that my calves felt fantastic on day two, with very little soreness after a big, uphill hike with a backpack on. I switched socks the next morning into a basic, Merino wool pair of CloudLine hikers and traversed an easy 7 miles back to my car. Now, oftentimes I feel the most sore the second day after a heavy workout or leg-busting hike, so I made sure to monitor my legs as the week progressed. I was thrilled that my lack of calf soreness remained; my legs felt fresh and ready for more action as soon as I was back from the trek.
Conclusion: I will definitely be taking these babies with me on my longer, mile-crushing trips this summer and fall, as calf soreness when you’re way out in the backwoods is no bueno. I can’t wait to try them out trail running as well! Consider me a convert.
Emily Pennington is an adventurer, solo traveler, mountaineer, quote collector, and all around lover of things that get people out of their comfort zones. Put on her first international flight at 3 months old, she's been adventuring in one way or another ever since. From wandering the forests of Sweden alone at the age of nine, to solo trekking in the Himalayas of India, to joining the circus as a professional aerialist, Emily is a big fan of the "just get out there and do it" mentality. She considers it her mission in life to inspire others to go outside, travel, and get curious about everything. As John Muir aptly put it, "going out is really going in.”
Find more of her writing and photography at brazenbackpacker.com