CEP Calf Compression Sleeve Review: Squeezing in More Recovery

by Jason Fitzgerald

I consider myself a little late to the compression scene. Many runners have been rocking compression socks and calf sleeves for over a year while I wasn’t totally convinced that they could provide much benefit.

After reading a great analysis of the research behind compression socks by Steve Magness I was more interested in testing a pair to see if I liked them. It seems that there’s enough research to support the claim that compression sleeves can actually reduce soreness and improve recovery. I also started seeing a ton more runners wearing them – like Paula Radcliffe and Chris Solinsky.CEP Calf Compression Sleeve

The folks at CEP Compression (Compete, Endure, Perform) sent me a pair of calf compression sleeves to review recently. I’ve worn them for an easy run, a workout, and for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. My goal was to test them during easy runs and very damaging runs like the race itself.

My Experience with CEP Calf Compression Sleeves

I needed to give a measurement of my calf at its widest (14 inches) so these calf sleeves are customized to my leg size.  My initial reaction when I put them on was that they were tight. The feeling of your lower legs being hugged by the compression sleeves is actually very pleasant. They make me feel much more aware of my body when I’m running.

During my first run with the calf compression sleeves, I felt great. It was a short run and I was trying to go slow and enjoy myself. Wearing the calf sleeves makes you feel like you should be running fast so it was difficult for me to keep the effort level down. This is entirely mental but I think very important: they made me feel fast. Everyone’s looking for a performance booster and the mental aspect of performance shouldn’t be overlooked.

About a week later I ran a 30 minute tempo in Rock Creek Park on mostly level dirt trails. I wore the calf sleeves and I got the same fast feeling. I managed to run faster than I normally do on my traditional tempo loop. Whether that can be attributed to the sleeves or not is up in the air – but I think they helped.

For me, one of their main benefits is the feeling of tightness during running. That feeling makes me feel fast and want to work hard. There also seems to be some good research that shows they can help reduce muscle damage when you wear them for a long run or hard workout. While reducing muscle damage isn’t always a good thing (you need some damage to encourage adaptation), they can be used successfully during hard training when you need extra recovery.

Following my two good experiences with the CEP calf compression sleeves during a long tempo and an easy run, I wore them for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. If you read my previous race report, you know that the race was a bit of a circus: I took the wrong train getting to the race, needed to wait in a 30 minute line for the bathroom, and only had time for 12 minutes of warming up.

Needless to say, I was not ready to race when the gun went off. Regardless, I settled in to my goal pace of just under 5:30 per mile. After about 2 miles of racing, my shins were throbbing. After 7 miles, my right soleus just under my calf muscle began to tighten up significantly. I wasn’t able to accelerate despite the pace feeling easy aerobically.

Even though I had significant problems with my lower legs during the race, I don’t think the compression sleeves were the culprit. My short warm-up and lack of strides are the two better candidates. I also regret not doing any workouts on the roads before the race. Running a 10 mile road race with barely any road running is going to subject your body (especially your lower legs) to significant stress that it’s not used to. Lesson learned.

Are Calf Sleeves For You?

Let’s face it: they look weird.

I get funny looks when I’m cruising through the trails in Rock Creek (may or may not be related to the calf compression sleeves). But I prefer them to standard compression socks exactly because they lack the foot. I have a different pair of compression socks and I get hot in them fairly quickly. I’d never wear them during a hot summer but the calf sleeves aren’t as bad.

If you want the feeling of compression but are worried you may overheat during the warm summer months then calf sleeves are for you. You can wear lighter socks (I go with Wrightsock Coolmesh socks) or even go barefoot in your shoes. Compression calf sleeves are also perfect for you minimalist runners who run in Vibram FiveFingers. Last I checked, toe socks don’t come in a compression variety and FiveFingers aren’t really made for socks anyways.

I continue to run in the CEP calf compression sleeves despite the debacle at Cherry Blossom. They’re fun to wear and the proprioceptive feedback I get helps me mentally switch it on when I need to run fast. Based on my experiences wearing them for hard workouts, I think my legs recover faster. The sleeves seem to minimize damage and I’ll still be wearing them when I need that.

After logging about 40 miles in them, my one complaint is that the material may not hold up if you tend to kick your calf muscle when running. I’m slightly bow-legged and I think this is common for a lot of runners. If you finish a run and have a bit of mud on your calves then you kick yourself a bit. This isn’t necessarily the fault of CEP; after all, they’re not designed to be kicked by a running shoe a few times during every run. But it will wear them down a lot faster.

At the end of the day, I give CEP calf sleeves a big thumbs up. If you order, make sure to measure your calf appropriately or else they won’t fit right. These calf sleeves are available on the cheap at Amazon.com.

Have you tried CEP compression socks or sleeves? What’s your experience? Are the calf sizing charts correct?

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JimDog

Thanks for the review. I’m still debating getting some. I like the idea behind them but I don’t know that I’m “hard core” enough to get some yet :-)

Fitz

You don’t need to be hard core! They feel great and the research backing them is there…so why not?

v

i agree on the mental aspect of compression sleeves. not only do they feel good to me, but i also feel fast in them; it’s like i have a little extra support in my lower leg.

i bought them to help with my shin pain, but since buying my minimalist shoe, i haven’t had any shin pain. i do wear them around the house when, and if, i feel any tightness in my calf, which is not often.

mine are over the counter compression sleeves.

Fitz

Right, you can never discount the mental aspect of a training tool. Glad to hear your shin pain is gone!

Lydia

I like how you clarified that the funny look may or may not be related to the compression sleeves. :)

I have 2 pair of CEP calf sleeves. I love them. Remember how my legs always used to hurt? These, along with training, doing the various exercises you gave me, and time, helped with the pain. I spoke with a guy that wears them the day before a race. He claims that they help with blood circulation.

I’ll put in a little plug for CEP. I wanted a pair of socks to wear over the winter. I cheaped out and bought a different brand. They don’t feel like they compress as well. They are like wearing normal sock that go to my knees. I’m sad that I wasted my money.

Good article Fitz.

Fitz

I’m glad you picked up on that line Lydia :)

And you’re right – I have a pair of socks and the CEP sleeves. The CEP sleeves are hands-down the better compression sleeve for my lower legs.

Michael F

Have you tried the Skins? If so, how do they compare?

Fitz

I haven’t tried the Skins – is that a brand? I’ll have to look into those, thanks for the heads up Michael!

Michael F

http://www.skinsusa.com/
I am a CrossFitter and this seems to be the brand of choice for CF athletes. I would like to not spend as much money though.

Fitz

CEP is a legit brand, plus they’re a lot cheaper than Skins (and you can get 15% off using the BLOG15 code).

Kim N

I’ve had a pair of CEP (along with several other brands) for over a year. I mostly wear them after runs and to sleep in, for recovery and circulation issues. My experience with CEP is that they do not fit well on long legs (they don’t cover the whole length from ankles to just below knee) leaving critical areas “uncompressed.” Also, the fabric/knit is poor quality that gets holes in it easily (probably because they don’t fit well and I’m constantly trying to adjust them). I have found that the most comfortable compression sleeves are Zensah and Salomon Exo Calf, because they are longer and a nicer fabric/knit. Recofit makes a nice compression sleeve too, but it is not long enough. For any compression sleeves, it’s very important to measure your calf and not just guess. It is a good idea to try a few brands to find the one that works best for your legs. Thanks for the review.

Fitz

Good advice Kim, thanks for letting us know. Experimentation is key with gear, so it’s important to find what works for you.

Paolo

I’ve owned calf sleeves (not this brand) for about a year now.

At first I was kind of skeptical about them. I was skeptical about what I heard: they increase blood flow in the legs to bring blood back to the heart to bring more oxygen throughout your body. I’ve done several races in them and still use them from time to time. I’ll even wear them for hours on end during work (office job) for recovery.

Brad P

Injinji makes compression toe socks. They are more of a typical sock weave than sleeves I’ve worn (Zensah, Recofit), and they are comfortable enough.

Wes

I’ve had the 2XU compression sleeves for a couple of years now, and I only wear them to recover. I wore them on a 60 mile bike ride, and had to take them off half way through, mostly because it was TOO HOT. I probably need to try and run in them a bit to see how I like it. Thanks for the feedback!

Lisa

I have a couple of pairs of CEP socks. I love them. They make my legs feel like they are being hugged and I think they definitely help with recovery as well. I think the back-to-back halfs I did are evidence of that (I wore them both days).

I don’t worry about strange looks for them (I have a hot pink pair and a black pair) since I normally wear them with a skirt! I say have fun with your running clothes. The brighter the better. ;)

I do have some Zensah socks as well but they are too thick for running for me, so I wear those after. I like socks more than sleeves because the sleeves sometimes bother my achilles for some reason.

Fitz

“have fun with your running clothes.” – Absolutely! That’s why I bought polka dot track spikes :)

Stephen

I’ve been wearing calf compression sleeves for a couple of months now but have migrated to using them after a run not during. I did a little research and couldn’t find any compelling reason to wear them while I ran – other than for warmth. The research does point to post-run recover benefits.

Jess @ Fit Chick in the City

Thanks for the great review! Now, if only I can figure out a way to sneakily measure my husband’s calf. ;)

Sara

I’ve been trying to do some research with these compression sleeves and have seen some pretty good reviews. The only question I have is regarding an injury I have sustained recently. I had a severe case of Compartment Syndrome I wanted to know if these would help with running. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.:)

Jason

Hi Sara! Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with Compartment Syndrome, other than knowing it’s a swelling issue and compressing that might not be a good idea. I’d ask your doctor.

Jeremy

I have moderate chronic compartment syndrome in my calves and have been trying to get back into running after a few years of not running at all as far as training. When it was bad, I could not wear my calf sleeves because they would make my feet go numb. Now that I have taken time off of running and the compartment syndrome is not as bad, due to me not running for such a long time and the muscle not being as big as it once was, I can wear them and my legs feel a lot better with them on. I use zensah sleeves, but I have been looking at getting CEP. If you have any questions feel free to email me!

lori o

Hi. I picked up a pair of size III socks at the expo in Portland this weekend. Love the way they feel but have a question – should they be leaving ring marks around my upper calf?

Jason

As long as they’re not TOO tight and cutting off circulation you should be ok. They should be fairly tight so a little ring mark is nothing to worry about, but you may want to contact the manufacturer through their website just to make sure. Enjoy!

Pete

My wife just bought me my first pair of CEP progressive running socks. I am currently using them for recovery. They are working great for calf recovery. I will be doing a Tuff Mudder soon and am thinking of getting a pair of calf sleeves to run in. I have been having issues with my illiotibial bands. Do you think the sleeves could help with this issue?

Jason Fitzgerald

Unlikely – try my ITB Rehab Routine for a better option

Rich de Glymes

I have had some soleus and calf problems for a long time and I found that wearing a McDavid calf protector helps keep the area warm and helps the circulation just like the CEP. They probably cost half the price and last 10 times longer. I use them for Racquetball and they also help for getting hit in the calf area. I have used the same set for about 10yrs and they never get loose and always fit perfect and since they don’t cover the feet you don’t get any hot issues.

nadia

Hi.

I just bought the CEP compression sleeves. I would like to know how tight should the sleeves be?

Yesterday I tried them for a run, but it acked a lot. Is it normal that at first they will be painfull and after many times trying them out, the pain subsides?

Please let me know, otherwise I am going to by another size. But I bought the size according to my calf measurements.

Please advice.

Thanks

Beginner Runner :-)

Jason Fitzgerald

Hey Nadia, they should be snug but not super constrictive. This is probably a better question for CEP though.

lee

Hi,

My lower legs always starting to cramp after I ran more than 15km, is this CEP calf compression sleeves going to help?

Please advice

Thanks in advance.
Lee

Karen

I bought cep calf sleeves because I have varicose veins, and by the end of a run my foot would swell or even if I was walking around a lot on a particular day. I have just been running for over a year and am training for my first marathon so am definitely not an “elite” runner! I think they are great for any type of runner. I have found that they are extremely comfortable and really do the job well. I wear it only on one calf but I bought two so I would have a spare. My foot does not swell at all now and I would definitely recommend them.

Aba Chiongson

Thanks for sharing! Have you tried the CompressionZ compression sleeves? I bought a pair from Amazon several months ago and so far so good! They’re really comfortable to use and they protect my legs when running.

Sabrina Adams

Great review! I own a pair of CompressionZ calf compression sleeves and I have to say they’re the best I’ve tried so far. It is cheaper than other brands but the material is high quality and very durable.

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