Laymon, A. S., Chapman, R. F., Stager, J. M., Hong, S. L., & Johnston, J. D. (2010). Lower-leg compression sleeves: influence on running mechanics and economy in highly trained distance runners. Presentation 620 at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; June 2-5.

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This study examined whether or not wearing moderate lower-leg compression sleeves during exercise evokes changes in running economy due to altered gait mechanics. Highly trained male distance runners (N = 16) completed two separate running economy tests during a single session, a treatment trial of calf compression sleeves and a control trial without compression sleeves. Running economy was determined by measuring oxygen consumption at three constant submaximal speeds of 233, 268, and 300 m/min on a motorized treadmill. Variables related to running mechanics were measured during the last 30 seconds of each four-minute stage of the running-economy test. Ground contact time, swing time, stride time, stride frequency, and stride length were determined from accelerometric outputs corresponding to foot strike and toe-off events obtained from a minimum of 25 consecutive steps.

There were no significant differences in submaximal VO2 between control and treatment trials at any of the speeds. Additionally, there was no significant difference in the slope of the lines relating submaximal VO2 and running speed between the two experimental conditions. There were no significant differences in ground contact time, swing time, stride time, stride frequency, and stride length between control and treatment conditions at any of the running speeds. However, there was a large inter-individual variability in response to compression, with three subjects exhibiting large, consistent reductions in VO2 at each speed with the compression treatment. These three subjects demonstrated the greatest decreases in stride length and stride frequency variability with compression.

Implication. Wearing lower-leg compression garments does not significantly change running mechanics or oxygen consumption while running at submaximal speeds. Individuals vary greatly in their response to wearing such garments, and some may benefit markedly from their use.

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