The term “compression socks” conjures images of people sitting in a knitting circle at the retirement community. That stigma isn’t entirely fair, as athletes are increasingly looking to compression both for performance and recovery. Ironically, the pairs I recently tested around town and on local hiking trails came from a company with medical-device roots. That doesn’t exactly break the geriatric stereotype. But I’ll tell you what: the CEP compression socks aren’t your grandpa’s compression socks.
Designed for athletes but appropriate for all, CEP compression socks come in several heights and intensities. They’re not entirely synthetic, as several models contain 15% merino wool. But the compression benefits do require more artificial materials than straight-up wool would afford.
I tested three types of socks: a low-cut runner, a mid-cut hiking sock and a full-calf recovery compression sock. Each of them offered padding in the toes and bottom, with a more-breathable area on top of the foot. The taller socks also were breathable on the main tube, which is also a key compression area. That said, the areas surrounding the foot and arch offer compression.
That sounds like a lot of squeezing. It is. But until about the eight-hour mark the CEP compression socks just feel like they’re giving your feet and calves a hug. Contrary to popular opinion, compression actually increases blood flow in the appropriate areas, not restricts it. So the tightness isn’t an uncomfortable feeling, but rather a supportive one. On a very practical level, it also keeps the mid- and high-cut socks in place throughout rigorous activity, which is most welcome.
On a trail run I found the low-cut CEP compression socks to offer great support, especially around the arch. They also minimized that feeling of “tired feet” that you sometimes get after an uphill jaunt. I presume that was the circulation-boosting compression material doing its job. Since it was summer, I was also impressed that the socks didn’t overheat my feet.
Taking them out for a longer hike, I found the mid-cut socks performed just as well. There’s no shortage of altitude gains and switchbacks when hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. Buns and thighs aside, those also tend to tire the lower legs after a while. With the CEP compression socks, the area above my Achilles didn’t get nearly as tired as it sometimes does. The full-calf socks performed just as well, keeping my calves spry for a long period of time. And, as with the low-cut socks, neither of the taller pairs caused overheating.
The true test was when I passed the calf-length CEP compression socks off to my dad. Maybe that does go against the whole “athlete” thing. Perhaps it even ventures into nigh-geriatric territory. But my dad, who has varicose veins, regularly uses compression socks, so I wanted to get his opinion on socks from CEP. Sure enough, he said wearing them for 10 hours at work, where he’s on his feet most of the time, kept his legs from getting sore. He did notice that they felt a bit tight at the tail end of that period, but he said it was worth it to be more comfortable overall.
Look, the old-folks-home stereotype may be hard to break with compression socks. Wearing them might not be something a younger or middle-aged person might proactively bring up with friends. But athletes know the benefits and don’t seem to shy away from them, so why should the rest of us? Especially when they look really sporty and stylish, definitely not your grandparents’ socks. I was quite pleased with the CEP compression socks I tried, and I have every intention of taking them out on longer hikes well into the future.
The CEP compression socks were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links.