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Best Calf Compression Sleeves For Runners in 2021

 

We runners all seem to have one weak spot. For some, it’s the ankles. Others struggle with foot or heel pain. A common weak spot is the calves.

Weak calves can lead to foot pain due to a strained Achilles. A tight calf muscle can also shorten your stride, leaving you open to developing incorrect form. Poor form can put you at risk for a number of injuries.

Calf-strengthening exercises are a great way to develop your calf muscles. You may also benefit from using a calf compression sleeve.

Compression sleeves can help with recovery, bringing blood flow to sore muscles. Some runners wear them on a run or during a race. There’s no clear consensus if they increase performance or not – but with fun colors, they definitely make a fashion statement.

We’ve reviewed the best calf compression sleeves for runners. We chose the 2XU Light Speed Compression Calf Guards as our top choice. They use Muscle Containment Stamping fabric to provide targeted compression, have a low-profile design, and offer protection against the sun, too.

They’re not the only great option, though! So keep reading to find out which other products made the list.

Top 3 Best and Favorite

 

2XU Light Speed Compression Calf Guards

 

  • MCS fabric support
  • PWX FLEX compression support
  • Low profile design
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Rockay Blaze

 

  • Seamless construction
  • Graduated compression
  • Lifetime guarantee
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Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves

 

  • Muscle-mapped 3D ribbing
  • Moisture-wicking material
  • Anti-odor technology
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Best Overall

1. 2XU Light Speed Compression Calf Guards

Our first choice is 2XU Light Speed Compression Calf Guards. They use a technology called Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS), which contours around muscles and tendons in the lower leg to provide support where it’s most needed.

This helps to keep the muscles of the calf from vibrating too much every time your feet hit the ground during your stride. It might sound odd, but there’s a lot of movement happening in your legs when you run.

Each step causes jarring, but even if you’re wearing cushy running shoes, vibrations travel from the ground through your limbs. These can turn weak spots in the muscles and tendons into full-blown injuries, which is what this calf compression sleeve aims to prevent.

The PWX FLEX (70D) graduated compression fabric also helps to stimulate healthy blood flow through the muscles, healing them faster and keeping them filled with oxygen.

They’re made from Invista Lycra (28% elastane, 72% nylon), which stretches to provide a tight but comfortable fit. Flatlock seams prevent friction which could irritate the skin or cause blisters.

Their low-profile design ends just above the ankle. You can easily and comfortably wear socks of any length or go sockless. As an added bonus, these calf compression sleeves offer sun protection of up to UPF 50. They should also fit almost any runner, as they’re available in sizes XXS to XXL.

PROS:

  • MCS fabric support
  • PWX FLEX compression support
  • Low profile design
  • Sun protection up to 50+ UPF

CONS:

  • Some may find the ankle-length to be uncomfortable
 

Top Eco-Friendly

2. Rockay Blaze

Runners who support eco-friendly apparel businesses will love these calf compressions sleeves from Rockay.

They’re made from a mix of raw and recycled materials (42% multifilament polyamide, 32% polyamide, and 26% elastane), and every purchase of these calf compression sleeves removes 13 plastic bottles from the ocean!

As far as compression goes, they offer 16 to 23 mmHg of graduated compression to support your calf muscles when running and increase blood flow when recovering.

They’re designed to be both comfortable and durable. Specially placed mesh zones make them breathable enough that you won’t overheat while wearing them. They’re also seamless, which means no annoying lines on your legs that cause chafing.

Rocky’s Polygiene anti-odor tech is also created in such a way that you don’t have to wash these calf compression sleeves every time you use them. Just another way in which you’ll be making a difference when you purchase these. Not only will you be saving yourself water, but you’re reducing the amount of water wastage!

To top it off, they come with Rockey’s lifetime guarantee. Oh, and they’re available in a bunch of funky colors!

PROS:

  • Seamless construction
  • Anti-odor technology
  • Graduated compression
  • Lifetime guarantee

CONS:

  • Runners with large calf muscles may find the top seam to be a little tight
 

Best Value

3. Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves

Designed by an athlete and trainer, these leg sleeves feature 3D-ribbing mapped over the calf muscles in strategic areas. It mimics taping with kinesiology tape, offering the same benefits as well as extra support and stability.

Graduated compression enhances blood flow through the muscles, bringing oxygen-rich blood to the area for quick healing and recovery. It also improves proprioception (how you feel your limbs), which can have a positive effect on athletic performance.

Zensah’s fabric is soft against the skin, made from a combination of nylon and Spandex (solid colors) or nylon, polyester, and Spandex (other colors). The Spandex gives them a good stretch which makes them easy to get on and off without compromising the compression properties.

It’s also moisture-wicking, pushing sweat to the surface so it can evaporate quickly. Anti-odor technology keeps you smelling fresh as a daisy too! Take note that you can only wash these on a cold cycle – heat will cause them to lose their compression.

PROS:

  • Muscle-mapped 3D ribbing
  • Moisture-wicking material
  • Anti-odor technology
  • Made from ultra-soft fabric

CONS:

  • Their compression isn’t as heavy as others
 

Most Comfortable

4. Nike Zoned Support

Nike is known for making excellent quality apparel, and their calf compression sleeves are no different. Made from an elastane/nylon blend, they’re both soft on the skin and easy to get on and off with minimal fuss.

They’re designed with an anatomical left/right fit for the highest comfort and support. Another important comfort factor is the flat seams, which reduce friction against the skin and prevent irritation due to chafing.

The compression is light on these calf sleeves, which adds to the comfort level but still provides good support to the muscles. Runners who are used to heavier compression may liken this light compression to a pair of tights.

Nike’s Dri-FIT technology helps to remove moisture from the skin’s surface, keeping you dry and cool. A small reflective Nike Swoosh gives you a visibility boost.

Once you’re finished your run, simply throw them in the washing machine so they’re fresh for the next one.

PROS:

  • Anatomically contoured design
  • Flat seams for comfort
  • Reflective detailing increases safety
  • Dri-FIT technology

CONS:

  • Compression may be too light for some
 

Best Lightweight

5. CW-X Speed Model Calf Compression Sleeves

Sometimes, compression gear can feel heavy and restrictive when wearing it. Not so with these calf compression sleeves!

The CW-X Speed Model sleeves are designed to be lightweight and easy to move in. Despite its airiness, it retains a healthy level of compression, offering you all of the benefits and none of the downsides of other sleeves.

Viscomagic technology allows for varying compression levels throughout the sleeves, targeting the most necessary areas. Flex Move tech provides a stretch factor of an astounding 300% without compromising the compression.

Other factors contributing to their comfort include a left/right anatomical design, breathability and sweat-wicking properties, and flat seams for zero chafing. Save your legs from the sun too, with a sun protection factor of UPF 50+!

PROS:

  • Multi-directional stretch (up to 300%)
  • Viscomagic technology for effective compression
  • Sun protection up to UPF 50+
  • Flat-seam stitching

CONS:

  • The ankle-length may be uncomfortable for some
 

Top Fun Print

6. OS1st DC Comic Calf Sleeves

There’s no need to go for an inconspicuous black calf sleeve if you love a pop of color and personality! The OS1st DC Comic Calf Sleeves are fun and funky, and provide the compression you need while looking cool as you’re running!

Choose from Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and the Flash. Each one is eye-catching and displays the logo of your chosen superhero.

Apart from just looking awesome, these calf compression sleeves offer medical-grade compression using Compression Zone Technology. This creates graduated compression across 6 distinct zones (including a Calf Stabilizer Zone and an Achilles Stabilizer Zone), providing targeted support to the areas that need it the most and lighter support to the rest.

With a shape-to-fit design, targeted stabilization areas, and reflective detailing, these calf sleeves satisfy your running and recovery needs as well as your inner kid!

PROS:

  • Six zones of graduated compression
  • Shaped-to-fit design
  • Stabilization zones
  • Reflective details

CONS:

  • May not have your favorite superhero!
 

Best For Recovery

7. CEP Compression Calf Sleeves 3.0

Some calf compression sleeves work best during running, while others are super for recovery. That’s what this one is great for.

It features some heavy compression (20 to 30 mmHg), which may be uncomfortable and restrictive while exercising. But for recovery, it’s a great level to stimulate blood flow and bring oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the legs, healing the muscles faster and reducing DOMS.

Although the compression is high, the yarn is soft and comfortable on the skin, also using flat seams for no chafing. It also incorporates HeiQ Smart Temp Clima-Management , which increases its breathability to keep you cool and dry.

A wide knee band prevents constriction and makes it comfy to wear for miles on end. Its low-profile design ends just above the ankle, and can be worn by itself or with socks.

PROS:

  • HeiQ Smart Temp Clima-Management
  • Graduated compression of 20 to 30mmHg
  • Low-profile design
  • Flat seams

CONS:

  • Might be too restrictive for running in
 

Best Colors

8. PRO Compression Calf Sleeves

If color and brightness are your thing, then these are the calf compression sleeves we recommend. They come in a large variety of colors and patterns, so you should be able to find any color you need to match to your running shoes or outfit.

Focused, graduated compression around the calf gives your lower legs support and stability when running. It would also be more than adequate for recovery, increasing blood flow with compression of 22 to 26 mmHg.

A nylon and Spandex blend is slightly stretchy but very comfortable. Non-slip cuffs prevent these from slipping down while you run, but they’re wide enough to be comfortable and not restrictive around the upper calf.

The fabric is moisture-wicking and antimicrobial as well as colorful. You’ll look, feel, and smell good in a pair of these!

PROS:

  • Anti-microbial fabric
  • Graduated compression of 22 to 26 mmHg
  • Non-slip fitted cuff
  • Large range of fun colors

CONS:

  • Can run small
 

Most Compression

9. McDavid Dual-Layer Training Compression Calf Sleeves

If you need extra-strength compression, these calf compression sleeves will fit the bill. They’re constructed of a double-layer of compression material, designed to be worn during hardcore activities like CrossFit and power lifting.

They’ll do well for runners who need more intense compression, though. They’re tough and durable, so whether you’re running through bushes or you take a tumble on the road, they’ll be just fine and protect your legs at the same time.

Targeted compression to the calf muscle keeps the muscles warm and ready for action. It’s also very supportive, the dual-layer adding a little extra stability.

With UPF 50+ skin protection, wide cuffs, and a unisex design, these calf compression sleeves are great for runners and other athletes who need solid compression.

PROS:

  • Double-layered compression
  • Targeted compression
  • UV protection of 50+
  • Flat seams

CONS:

  • May not fit over bigger calves
 

FAQs

Still deciding on buying one of the best calf compression sleeves for runners? Here’s some more info to help you choose.

What Does a Calf Compression Sleeve Do?

Compression gear is known to help accelerate recovery. The compression properties stimulate blood flow in the body part on which it’s worn, which brings fighter blood cells to the area and helps repair cells.

But compression calf sleeves also have some benefit when worn during running, as opposed to afterward when recovering. The tightness of the compression calf sleeve gives the calf muscles a little extra support.

They also help to reduce the amount of vibration in the muscle while you’re running. This might sound odd, but keeping the muscle as still and supported as possible can lower your chance of injury.

When Should You Wear Compression Calf Sleeves?

The most beneficial time for you to wear compression calf sleeves depends on your reason for wearing them.

If enhanced recovery is your goal, the most logical time to wear them is after your run. The increased blood flow will bring oxygen-rich blood to your worn-out muscles, which will help them to repair and recover faster. It can also help reduce DOMS.

If you need some extra support while running, then obviously the best time to wear your compression calf sleeves is while you’re running.

They’re also great for keeping the blood flowing when traveling, especially if you’re prone to DVT or clotting.

We advise not wearing your calf sleeves too often. Make the decision to wear them either during or after running, not both, and don’t wear them while sleeping. They don’t offer extra benefit, and in some cases, lying on an already compressed area can actually cause damage.

What to Look For in a Calf Compression Sleeve

Fabric

Firstly, make sure that the gear you’re getting is truly compression gear and not just tighter-than-usual gear. Compression gear offers graduated, targeted support to the area that needs it – it’s not just tight.

Compression sleeves come in many different materials. Some common materials include polyester, nylon, Spandex, and elastane.

Many have odor-neutralizing and moisture-wicking properties, which are important for exercise gear.

When shopping for compression calf sleeves, you’ll notice that some come with extra support built-in. These may be built-in taping, silicon support layers, or other forms of stability.

Double-check if the material of the pair you choose is suitable for exercising before buying. Some are made specifically for travel.

Fit

Your compression calf sleeves should be tight and supportive without being restrictive. If they’re uncomfortable enough that you can’t move properly or are constantly thinking how annoying they are, then you may need to buy a size up from what you’re currently wearing.

Keep in mind that fit and compression are different things. Choose the size you would usually select in normal gear. Then, decide if you want light or heavy compression. You can even get prescription strength.

Obviously, make sure to choose the right gender too, as this can affect the fit.

Style

If you want an eye-catching way to show off a bit of personality while you’re on the road or trail, then choose calf compression sleeves with a color or pattern!

The Wired Runner