Increased vascularity in the legs of cyclists is both a blessing and a hidden curse. Genetics plays a role in how the vascularity presents itself later in life through varicose and / or spider veins. The weakening of the walls of the vessels causes leakage and sometimes pooling of blood in the legs. This short video does a good job explaining how pooling occurs.
Ever since 2016, when I had a device implanted inside my heart to prevent another stroke, my cardiologist has suggested that I wear compression socks when I ride. I’ve had spider veins since I was a teenager, which I attributed to hard landings in gymnastics. Becoming a mother only added more, and as I have aged my mom’s varicose vein “gift” began to rear its ugly head. On the front of my left shin is a thick, curvy vein that just looks ugly. Even though I may look like a soccer player or triathlete by wearing knee-heigh compression socks I have decided it is a must.
When I wear them my legs feel great. Added benefits are: 1) less sun damage to my body, 2) better circulation, thus better performance, and 3) the feeling of “lightness” in my legs. Recently I purchased a few pairs of high-vis neon Crazy Compression Socks, which will catch the attention of motorists as I spin my way on the road. Ladies love the fun colors and styles, while the guys may want a more subdued look.
Who wouldn’t want an enhanced performance? Or better yet, who would like legs like this? This is an image of George Hincapie at the Tour de France a few years back. While it didn’t seem to slow him down much, can you imagine how his legs must have felt at the end of the day? Maybe he didn’t mind. Perhaps this is his badge of courage. I don’t know, but I do know this is not a very sexy look. Does it mean that your legs will look like this if you don’t wear compression – no, probably not. Genetics play a big part of having varicose veins, and this is the leg of a professional bike rider who put way more miles on the bike than any of us ever will. However, since I have started having problems with varicose veins myself, why would I want them to get worse? Many others have them as well.
There are even more benefits of sporting compression socks for cyclists:
- Support of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower legs, allowing for structural stability
- Aids in the removal of lactic acid as it builds up during strenuous activity
- High viz compression socks are more obvious to motorists, creating almost non-stop movement to capture their attention
- Donning compression socks after a workout also helps your muscles recover by providing more efficient blood flow through the muscles, removing lymph and excess fluid build up. (I like to lie on my back after a ride, with my legs up a wall to aid the lymphatic drainage even more. This position also releases kinks in the lower back.)
There are certain grades of compression and- obviously- some products are better than others. Do your research to find out what is best for you and remember that the socks are supposed to be tight. When looking at a sizing chart, if you are borderline between sizes, choose the smaller one. Your legs will thank you!