Compression Advisory have produced a consumer version of their VR1 graduated compression socks, as formerly used by over 600 Premiership football players including those from Manchester United and Chelsea. The question is, do they really work and offer benefits to those of us that aren’t elite athletes?
The VR in VR1 stands for ‘venous return’, which perfectly describes what all compression clothing is designed to achieve. The idea is as follows: by compressing the surface of the calf, blood is pumped back to the heart rather than collecting in the feet, which in turn oxygenates the blood.
This process is supposed to aid performance, reduce muscle soreness and reduce swelling post-exercise. Compression socks are also used in a number of other areas, such as helping to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when travelling and to help with injury rehabilitation.
Compression Advisory say that the materials used in their VR1 graduated compression socks are medical grade, a fact that is spelled out clearly on the packing. In order to test them in the first place, we had to give a wide range of calf and foot measurements to ensure a good fit, a level of detail we’ve not seen in retail compression clothing before.
They certainly feel like a quality product when you take them out of the minimalist packaging. However, we would have enjoyed more in the way of packaged content with the socks rather than just a few words on the back of the cardboard sleeve. Even one additional sheet further explaining the benefits and giving more extensive care instructions would have helped.
Of course, while the heritage of the VR1 is based in football, they can be used in any sport or exercise that taxes the calves, such as cycling, running, cross-fit and triathlon. The people behind the product have good credentials too.
Dr Akbar de Medici and Barrington Bent are the founders of Compression Advisory. Akbar became aware of the benefits of medically validated graduated compression technology during his medical studies and research work. Barrington himself suffered from a case of DVT in 2003, giving him the impetus to be an evangelist of the technology.
The VR1 graduated compression socks come in a number of colours. Of course, they are a snug fit when you first pull them on, but you soon get used to the feeling. We tested them across a period of several weeks with a variety of exercises, including weightlifting and cardio activities. At first, we tried the exercises without the use of the socks and then – after a reasonable gap in similar training to ensure the comparison was ‘fair’ – we tried the same exercises using the Compression Advisory technology.
The socks were worn during the training sessions and for an extra two hours post-exercise. The only measurement available to us was to compare the effect of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the two days following the tests, and so the results could be seen as somewhat subjective rather than scientific, but we definitely noticed a good level of reduction in both the intensity of soreness and the length of DOMS when using the socks.
We also noticed that the socks have excellent wicking capabilities – at no point did they feel uncomfortable or create unwanted heat despite the intensity of the exercise. Although Compression Advisory claim the VR1 graduated compression socks delay muscle exhaustion time, we had no way of measuring that particular element.
Several clinical trials have been conducted with these socks, so we know that our own limited experience can be backed up by more conclusive data than we were able to gather, but the short version of the story is that they seem to work as claimed.
For anyone who trains hard in the gym, whether you prefer cardio work or a good ‘leg day’ with weights, or for those who enjoy amateur sports such as football or cycling, our (admittedly limited) tests have shown that you don’t need to be an elite athlete to benefit from using these socks.