As a coach the one thing I really hate are injuries, so I spend a lot of my time creating plans and sessions that help prevent injury (prehab) or working with other professionals to create rehab plans should an injury occur.
My athletes are mostly triathletes so fitting in the right strength, flexibility, mobility and stability sessions on top of the swimming, cycling and running can be a challenge.
Even with all the prehab and care strategies injuries do happen so I’m always on the look out for techniques and products that work and help with the healing process. I had heard about CEP compression products so was keen to find out more and choose to try their injury prevention plantar fasciitis sleeves and compression knee sleeve.
Who are CEP?
CEP’s pedigree is impressive, their parent company, medi, based in Bayreuth, Germany has been a world leader in pharmaceutical compression since 1951. Their products are backed by science and trusted by doctors and designed with athletes in mind. Their products are manufactured in a medical facility, where the standards of pharmaceutical compression are required. Each sock undergoes 16 quality checks and rigorous testing to ensure these requirements are met. They design products for elite and professional athletes, and they make the same compression products are available for everyone.
What makes a good compression product?
Compression socks should be tightest at the ankle and gradually become less constrictive towards the knee and thigh. By applying the perfect amount of compression on surface veins, arteries, and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower circulatory channels. As a result, the arterial pressure is increased, which causes more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet
Pictured below is the compression profile of the Compression Sock 3.0. CEP Compression Tall Socks and Calf Sleeves, features a True Graduated compression profile, which resembles a funnel or tornado.
This encourages enhanced blood flow and reduces swelling due to the pressure being greater in the ankle than the calf.
You will also find that putting on and taking off the compression wear will be easier due to this graduated design.
When choosing a compression product, you should make sure they provide the right level of compression. Some compression products have insufficient levels of compression to provide any medical benefits or performance advantages, essentially these are just standard socks.
There are other features you need to consider like if the product will blister, if they provide cushioning, can be used in really hot or cold conditions and if they provide the right level of stability. CEP feel that they have covered all these angles with their compression kit.
Who new compression was so involved? But having read about their technology and the care and research they put into their products I was keen to try them as a coach as they could be an excellent addition to my coaches’ tool kit.
The standard compression levels for compression stockings are 15-20 mmHg (over the counter), 20-30 mmHg (medical class 1), 30-40 mmHg (medical class 2) and 40-50 mmHg (medical class 3). This means that the products I got to test were over the counter and medical class 1 grades of compression products.
How does compression work?
The four pillars of compression are graduation, ability to flush out lactic acid, improving oxygen supply and increasing circulation. Let’s look at these in turn.
For compression to be effective, it needs to be graduated. This means that the compression is tightest at the ankle and gradually loosens up toward the calf. This is important so that your body will benefit from the compression, ensuring healthy venous return. If the compression profile is not graduated, this can have harmful effects on the body.
Flushing out Lactic Acid
Compression enhances the body’s natural process of flushing out lactic acid from your muscles. The compression helps push the de-oxygenated blood back up to the heart to be filtered with fresh nutrients. This allows for faster recovery and helps rebuild muscle tissue and fibres, even after an intense workout. Wearing compression works to repair and recover your muscles while you are using them, shortening your recovery time.
Improving Oxygen Supply
Compression allows for fresh oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to your muscles. This gives your legs that ‘feel good’ effect, making them lighter, less fatigued, and more comfortable. Providing a more sufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients can benefit the body during activity, standing, and even sitting.
Think of your lymphatic system as a series of valves that open and close as your heart pumps. When wearing medical-grade compression, the perfect amount of pressure is applied to your veins and arteries that keeps those valves functioning at the highest level. This allows for blood to move more efficiently though the body thus improving circulation. Improved circulation reduces swelling, helps prevent blood clots, and enhances the body’s healing process.
Benefits of Compression Socks for Athletes
- Stabilizes muscles
- Reduces fatigue
- Prevents shin splints
- Legs feel lighter
- Supports key muscle groups and joints
- Speeds up recovery
If you are injured compression can:
- Speed the healing process
- Relieve pain
- Protect from further injury
- Reduce swelling and inflammation
- Stabilize and protect joints
Testing the CEP Products
I wanted to give these products a real test so considered the best way to do this, so I selected the plantar fasciitis product as my partner suffers from this condition. During lock down I tore my left MCL (medial collateral ligament) so I’m still recovering and only just back running so the knee sleeve sounded like a good idea. I read this study by researchers in Switzerland on the benefits of wearing compression sleeves after ACL reconstruction
and they concluded that a compression sleeve improved the total integration of the balance control system and muscle coordination.
When you take the knee sleeve out of the box you are struck by the quality and thickness of the fabric. Despite quite a think material it was easy to put on and position on the knee. The colouring of the sleeve gives you an intuitive way to position correctly. On the upper part of the sleeve on the fabric closest to your skin are some rubber dots that help it stay in place (if you have ever worn hold ups (if you know, you know) you will recognise the mechanism!).
CEP’s Compression Knee Sleeve provides knee stabilizing support to relieve pain, soreness, and fatigue from the source. Unlike other knee sleeves, the CEP Compression Knee Sleeve is designed with a medically inspired, anatomical fit that places the knee in a position to recover from injury while you train. By providing support and stabilizing your knee joints with a light, yet significant compression, CEP’s Knee Compression Sleeve will improve circulation while you move. This support, combined with its ability to adapt to a wide range of athletic movements, makes this the perfect knee sleeve to keep you doing what you love while you heal.
In the time after my MCL tear I have noticeable differences in my ability to balance on my left leg (the one with the injury) and my right leg. Based on the study I decide to test the study which said that many people in the study had better balance. I can confirm that it did seem to help with my unilateral balance.
The knee sleeve I tried have the following features and benefits:
- Light to moderate compression on the knee for pain relief
- Anatomical fit adapts to athletic movements
- Promotes healthy circulation and reduces swelling
- Sensitive silicone top band keeps sleeve in place during activity
- Tough, durable material lasts through tough training conditions
- Perfect for runner’s knee, minor knee injuries, and joint pain
Compression Level: 15-20 mmHg
Material: 80% Polyamide, 20% Elastane
The Mayo Clinic defines plantar fasciitis as pain in the heel area that is caused by inflammation in the tissues that run between the heel bone and the toes. It’s a thick strip of tissue (fascia) and ligaments that get irritated and inflamed causing serious pain, especially when someone walks.
People with tight calf muscles, high arches and runners are susceptible to this condition.
In an analysis of 32 scientific studies completed in 2016, researchers Engel et al. linked the use of compression socks to improvements in running economy. In 2020, another study found that inexperienced runners saw significant improvements in ground stride length, swing time, and heel strike parameters when they wore compression socks instead of traditional socks (Jefry et al. Abstract). A more efficient running stride doesn’t just make you faster, it also makes you less susceptible to injuries.
The plantar fasciitis sleeves are more technical and thinner than the knee sleeve and have different types of weaves and fabric depending on its position on your foot. Its thin enough to be worn under a sock and inside running shoes. You can wear it when you are running, cycling and at the gym. You can also sleep in them if you want enhanced healing while you sleep.
CEP’s Plantar Fasciitis Sleeves provide compression that supports and stabilizes the arch of the foot, placing the foot in a position for optimal relief and support. Designed with knitted massage zones that provided superior comfort while improving circulation during everyday use and physical activity. Thin, yet strong fabric can be comfortably worn with any footwear. Perfect for pain relief and reducing swelling from plantar fasciitis strain.
The plantar fasciitis sleeves have the following features and benefits:
- Compression reduces swelling while stabilizing arch of the foot for relief
- Knitted massage zone for improved fit and circulation
- Can be worn with athletic shoes during activity
- A great solution for plantar fasciitis treatment while being active
- 5 sizes to guarantee a perfect athletic fit
- Great for active pain relief from plantar fasciitis
Compression Level: 25-30 mmHg
Material: 73% polyamide, 16% spandex, 11% polyester
We found that both compression products did improve stability and reduce pain for both our knees and feet. They were both comfortable enough to wear during walking, while training and during the night.
They are not a miracle cure but could help speed up healing and are very good quality. It’s been interesting learning more about compression wear and reading the studies around this topic. I will be adding these products in to my coach’s kit locker.
If you are considering trying a CEP compression sleeve, then make sure you read the size charts carefully to ensure you order the right size.