Contributor: Matthew J. Goldman, MD
Are there really socks you can wear that keep you from feeling tired? While the exact claims vary by manufacturers, the overall argument is that compression along with copper weaving in the fabric can work together to help you avoid fatigue.
If we break down these claims, here is what we know:
For muscles, compression socks get a thumbs up!
Researchers have noted some benefits of using compression clothing to help with recovery after exercise. People note small to moderate benefits after using the devices for up to 48 hours following significant amounts of moderate to intense (muscle-damage inducing) exercise.
These benefits include:
Research shows wearing compression socks between rounds of muscle-damaging exercise may also reduce soreness by not only increasing circulation of lactic acid/metabolic waste within the muscle, but also potentially reducing inflammation as well.
Therefore, this research seems to support the claim that lower extremity compression can potentially improve recovery and delay the onset of muscle soreness.
Why copper offers feet some limited benefits (but only for odor)
Studies support the antimicrobial properties of copper. This is based on a concept called “contact killing,” which means that bacteria, yeast and viruses are killed on solid metallic copper surfaces. Copper has been registered at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an antimicrobial material.
As a result, copper may eliminate odors as your feet sweat, which is a nice benefit. However, studies have not shown copper to be effective at managing pain, stiffness or physical function. Any analgesic benefits were found to be the results of placebo effect.
More study needed on how these could work together
Professional literature on copper and compression combined is scant or non-existent.
There’s just not any evidence yet to support the idea that people who use copper-infused compression clothing would benefit more in preventing fatigue or facilitating recovery compared to non-copper alternatives, other than the potential benefit related to odor.
At this time, the research remains somewhat limited. Further study is needed to shed more light on the effect of copper and compression when used in footwear to delay or prevent muscle fatigue. There are many questions that remain unanswered and variables that still need to be tested.
That said, there’s no harm in wearing copper compression socks if you don’t have any other issues. However, you should call your care provider if you notice any circulation issues or skin changes that don’t appear to be normal or that concern you.