Every year, I like to recognize the piece of gear that has the biggest impact on my hiking and backpacking experience by giving it the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award. This year’s winner is CEP Compression Socks which have helped me manage and cure a nagging overuse foot injury, Achilles Tendinitis while keeping me on the trail during one of my most active hiking and backpacking years to date.
Past winners of the Section Hiker Gear of the Year Award include:
- 2015: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Backpack
- 2014: Casio PAG240-1CR Pathfinder Triple Sensor Multi-Function Sport Watch
- 2013: Solo Wood Stove
- 2012: Therm-a-Rest Alpine 35 Blanket
- 2011: Pacerpoles (Trekking Poles)
- 2010: Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy Sack
If you hang out with any marathoners or runners, chances are you’ve seen them wearing compression socks or compression sleeves on their calves. They’re also popular in the trades where people who have to stand all day at work for reducing leg fatigue and muscle soreness.
If you’ve never tried a compression sock or a compression sleeve, they’re designed to squeeze the body part they cover in order to improve blood flow and reduce swelling. They’re available in different levels of tightness or compression, with a diminishing or graduated level of tightness as they get closer to the heart.
Compression socks provide three benefits to hikers: blister reduction, swelling reduction, and improved blood flow.
Blister reduction: Compression socks fit skin-tight, eliminating the sock-to-skin friction that can lead to blistering. They’re also highly wicking, moving moisture away from your skin to prevent fabric bunching and hot spot formation.
Swelling reduction: Overuse or mis-alignment injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can result in significant swelling in the foot, ankle, or lower calf. Compression of these areas prevents fluid from accumulating in them and relieves the pain associated with swelling.
Increased blood flow: Compression helps blood flow from the extremities back to the heart through the venous system, increasing the flow of fresh oxygenated blood through injury sites, particularly where blood flow is normally poor like the Achilles tendon and foot fascia.
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury commonly experienced by runners, particularly as they age in their 40’s and 50’s. It’s an inflammation of the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of your foot connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone is used in walking, running, and jumping. Symptoms include heel pain, tight calves, and swelling in the ankle and foot.
The causes of Achilles tendinitis can be hard to pin down but I think my case was caused by excessive pronation from using worn out hiking shoes. It also took me a while to realize that I had Achilles tendinitis because I was also suffering from plantar fasciitis, another common hiker injury, which causes heel pain and arch cramping. It was only when that condition cleared up, that I realized I had a lingering case of Achilles tendinitis. (My physician proved worthless in diagnosing any of this, shaking head.)
After my plantar fasciitis cleared up, I still suffered from an alarming amount of liquid buildup in my left and ankle. It’d get so swollen by the end of the day, that it looked like my ankle has been sprained, only it hadn’t been. The liquid buildup and swelling would go down at night when my legs were raised in bed, but the swelling would occur again by mid-afternoon, each day. It was unnerving. Really.
When I tried CEP compression socks, I wasn’t a complete “compression sock virgin.” I’d used another company’s ankle compression sleeve to help manage and ultimately cure my plantar fasciitis. That compression sleeve improved the blood flow to my plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue running under my foot that had been inflamed, which also has a poor blood supply. Based on that success, I figured I try the same with a sock which would run farther up my leg and cover the rest of my foot, in order to control the swelling and accelerate the healing of my Achilles tendinitis.
I got on Amazon Prime and searched around looking for the compression sock that wasn’t too expensive, and ordered the CEP compression socks because they were so highly rated by other customers. Overnight shipping and the Amazon return policy makes these product experiments fairly painless. Perhaps too much, judging by the sea of boxes cluttering my house.
It took a few weeks to get used to wearing the CEP compression socks which are a lot tighter than the ankle compression sleeve I’d used previously, but they did a marvelous job at preventing the buildup of fluid in my calf, ankle, and foot. I’d take them off each night to let my foot relax and lying horizontally on the bed didn’t result in further swelling while putting them on again first thing after waking up, even before my morning coffee.
Meanwhile, I continued hiking and backpacking in the White Mountains about 40 miles each week and along with my twice a week strength workouts. I wore those CEP compression socks for 8 weeks, every day, even when I was hiking, and the swelling is now gone.
It’s hard to believe that such a simple thing as wearing CEP compression socks would help clear up Achilles tendinitis when nothing else seemed to be working and that I could still hike at my normal frenetic pace without slowing down. I’ve been suffering from foot pain for 6 months (since May), so it’s a great relief to back on my feet again and healthy. If you suffer from Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis, I recommend you give compression socks or ankle sleeves a try to help control the pain and the swelling. I’m convinced that it cured me and I hope it can help you too.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
I have those exact same symptoms! Going to try these out! Thanks.
Philip, how can you stand being so relevant? Hah!
I don’t make this stuff up! All real life experiences. I just treat you all like my friends and blab about my life. It’s easy. :-)
How’d they work out?
Did you replace your Bitly compression socks for PF, with these? Or are they two different products for two different conditions?
Different conditions. The Bitlys are toeless compression sleeve that are thin enough to fit under a sock and exert max pressure at the instep. The CEP compression socks are just that socks and won’t fit under most hiking socks. They’re also a lot tighter around the bottom of the calf and go higher than just the ankle.
Do you think these would be helpful for people with Achilles and plantar pain but no swelling?
Sounds like you have plantar fasciitis and not Achilles tendenitis. Search for bitly PF compression sleeve on Amazon. That’s what I used.
I’d also recommend superfeet insoles to stop any pronation in your boots or shoes.
When sizing – do you measure your ankle around the greatest width of you ankle or just above – as in where the top of the sock would be? I don’t see an explanation for that on the CE website.
Go to this link on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2dTBUVZ
The CEP fit guide is in the thumbnail photos on the left side of the product listing.
Where is the “retired gear list”?
Not following you…what are you looking for?
Gear you no longer use or stopped using for whatever reason. I thought I saw that list somewhere but can’t find it.
Bottom of this post. you can find it by typing “retired gear” into the search box at top of the home page.
My doctor can’t help me either….
I have a very sore Achilles’ tendon. It was triggered by over use – but it’s been 5 months, and it’s only 2/3 healed.
It feels like a light sprain if I walk for a mile or two, and is stiff in the morning – but doesn’t have any swelling.
I tried taking a month off to let it heal – but it hardly made a difference.
There is no heel pain, or pain along the bottom of my foot.
What do you recommend ?
I would try the compression sock.
I’ve used over the calf compression socks, with the individual toes (like gloves for the feet) for 5 years now. Not only have they provided blister protection, especially if you’re prone to get them on or between your toes, but your lower legs feels so much more “energized” when your hiking is done. The toes feel better as well.
I have plantar fasciitis on my left foot. I have an Achilles injury on my right. Had to miss a Philmont trip with a Scouting unit. The Achilles is a painful daily issue, so I’m very anxious to try these socks.
I completely understand. Give them a go and let me know how they work for you. They should improve blood flow (return and refresh) and promote heeling.
In an email to you last year, I suggested that you might try on and review a compression sock brand called Thirty48. Your schedule was pretty full at the time and I am glad that you found a sock that works well for you. Still, I’d like to put in my two cents for Thirty48 compression socks. Besides the thin versions, these socks also come in hiking thickness. I have used both types after foot surgery and also when plantar fasciitis flared up. They are not overly expensive and really work for me, providing support for my high arches. I like that there are various thicknesses and heights. Thirty48 also makes compression sleeves, but I have not tried them.
Been having a problem with the tendon since a 13 day DWG to Pawling section in April. Used different boots and started to hurt the last few days. Have not been able to hike since. Ordered 3 pairs yesterday from CEP on their buy 2 get 1 free special. Hoping they help, will let you know. Thanks, David
I’d also suggest insoles to lift up the heel of your foot a bit and relieve stress on the tendon. Not hiking since April? I’d go mad.
Wanted to give you a quick update, recieved the socks 2 weeks ago (they had been back ordered, maybe your review sold a bunch of pairs?) Been wearing them every day except one since. Still some pain & the lump (calcium deposit) hasn’t disappeared yet but much smaller. Walking more normally & much faster. Hoping to be able to XC ski & snowshoe this winter where as before I had no hope! Keeping my fingers crossed, thank you so much Phil. Will give another update in 2-3 weeks.
Glad to hear you are doing better. I’m gearing up myself for XC season. Hope to run into you on the trails!
Bought a couple pair for a 60 mile trek in late April. The compression socks did wonders for my feet and I didn’t have the aches I usually get at the end of a long day. My only complaint is that I couldn’t get them to dry from day to day. I even quit early one sunny, breezy day to dry things out. I think the thickness of them was the problem. Otherwise, they did what I wanted them to.
I’m wearing a pair now – great for driving 3 hrs (which I just finished). They don’t take nearly as long to dry as my Darn Tough Hikers.