Feature: Carsick John
I live outside the UK on an island just of the coast of Europe; the indigenous people on the island are beautiful with an excellent genetic heritage and strong healthy physique. To keep themselves looking beautiful they divide themselves into sports tribes to perform ritualistic sporting activities with seemingly no enjoyment whatsoever.
There are many tribes on the island: The running tribe, by far the biggest; the road racing tribe; the triathlon tribe; the roller skating with ski poles tribe; even the XC tribe. The list of sub tribes is endless but there is one thing that unites all these tribes-people.
It is one simple item of sporting apparel that is the common ground across all these diverse tribal athletes. The compression sock.
From my observations of the locals, the compression sock must be worn long, like a school sock stopping just below the knee. It has to be visible, in a garish colour; loud and proud screaming to all who gaze upon it ‘yes this looks silly, but look I’m doing physical exercise’.
I don’t fit on this island. I’m neither beautiful nor am I at the peak of my physical performance and my socks are ankle length, black with a dubious sporting logo, they’re cheap and always ’on offer’ in packs of five, between the bargain DVD bin and kitchen care products.
I want to fit in with the locals, so I managed to get a pair of KTM’s new ‘performance wear’ compression socks.
The socks are for ‘during’ riding. But they aren’t really long enough to look truly silly as they only come half way up my calf, clearly not regulation knee sock height. But they make up for this with an amazing two-tone blend of bright orange and black.
They are very well made socks and have a quality feel to them, unlike my pack-of-fives.
I already own a compression top and some Lycra bib shorts that I’m reasonably certain give me absolutely no benefit whatsoever (either during or recovery), so I’m pretty sceptical about all compression wear in general, as it seems it’s more hyperbole than benefit.
I’ve never tried compression socks before so I didn’t quite know what to expect, maybe a sudden Superman feeling in my feet or a warm Christmassy glow.
The fit is pretty tight as it should be, but these feel very tight and when I first donned then they almost immediately gave me minor aches. I thought these would gradually fade throughout the ride, but instead the aches grew and turned into a deep ache in the arch of my foot and then spread to my ankles.
This wasn’t the kind of sports enhancement I was looking for and rather than decrease fatigue or cushion my ride these socks made my riding experience pretty uncomfortable.
There must be something fundamentally wrong. So I checked the fit and my feet. Yep, they’re the right size for my feet and my feet look pretty normal, well once they had stopped throbbing and returned to a normal colour.
Maybe it was my body rejecting the colour? It was time to comparison test. So for the last week I’ve been alternating on my daily ride between my generic supermarket black socks and the compression socks. After seven days of testing it became obvious compression socks are not for me. Daily it was either the pleasure of the cheap black ankle sock or the pain of the bright compression.
Even if I focused my mind to ignore the aches, I really couldn’t see any marked performance benefit. No added comfort nor could I ride longer, in fact my rides became shorter as I wanted to stop and get these tiny torturers off my feet.
Now I’ve only tested one pair of socks here and I’m not saying that these particular compression socks don’t work or that it’s only KTM’s socks that would cause aches and pains. But clearly like my other compression wear they simply do not work for me.
I have also found a great new respect for the indigenous athletes on the island as I now know what they have to endure to look so beautiful.
– You won’t go missed with that bright orange look.
– Do they really improve performance? I think not.