I have always been an advocate of compression wear ever since I started running half marathons in 2013. Usually, I would wear my compression knee highs for long distance runs, after race recovery, or simply when I felt calf/ foot cramps. In the past, I had only ordered full length over the calf socks which honestly I hated. The reason being—I had found some ankle socks I absolutely loved running in (that wouldn’t cause blisters on my heels), which is a big deal when you actually like your feet!
When I was introduced to OCR racing in 2014, I realized quickly how clueless I was on the proper gear one should wear for a race. Between heat/ cold, mud, rain, gravel (for barbed-wire crawls), and every other element mother nature can throw at you—serious protection was needed, but what did that mean exactly? After asking some close friends of mine who were my running partners at my OCR “virgin” stage what the proper gear was, I remember them simply saying “COMPRESSION”! Okay, well awesome so does that mean I basically wrap myself up like a sausage in casing…? I gradually built my running gear game and began to add items like sweat resistant capris (anything NON cotton), tight fitting tanks and sports bras, I even ordered some compression sleeves from the same place I had used for my road running calf socks (big mistake, like HUGE)!
I remember the first race I wore those arm sleeves, which was at BattleFrog in Carolina. The “lightweight construction for incredible feel” and “blended materials” for maximum comfort and support did exactly the opposite of what they are made to do…increase blood flow. As I crossed the finish line after a nine mile stretch, I could feel my hands going numb. When I looked down to see what was happening…I saw ten fat piggies going to the market. I was SWOLLEN, beyond swollen. My arms were in so much pain and I couldn’t even attempt to rip my arm sleeves off fast enough! Once my sleeves were off, my blood starting flowing back to all my extremities and I felt normal again. My first thought was, “did I have a size too small”? The answer was no. The size was not the problem at all…those arm sleeves were not made for OCR.
Once I realized I could never again wear this brand (which will remain un-named, this isn’t a bashing session), I started looking for other options. One day I was given the opportunity to try out a pair of Athletics8 arm sleeves and I was super lucky enough to have the ORM logo printed on them also (sorry they aren’t for order on the ORM site ☹). I was very skeptical of the product at first, simply because of my previous experience.
The sleeves came in packaging that was very marketable and easy on the eyes. I know this sounds silly, but for me the fun starts at the opening. There was also product knowledge on the packaging which allowed me to understand what I was getting into before I even reached my sleeves. Immediately I saw words like: CoolMax Moisture Management, F7 ComfortWeave Fabric, Tactel Nylon, and Invista LycraSoft Elastene. Great a bunch of fancy words that I don’t understand, but it was a much better description than “blended materials”.
I could instantly feel the difference too! The sleeves were soft to the touch and although it was a size small, it had a true elastic feel and gave to my pull and tug. This is key for me because of my flabby arms (I do not pretend to have muscular arms). Well they passed the first test which was to simply get over my arms with ease!
The real test came at the Spartan Beast in Carolina. I am happy to say that they passed with flying colors. The fit was fantastic! Instead of cutting off circulation at my bicep like I was used to, they are made long enough to pull up to right under your arm pit and stretch all the way down to your wrist. Much more skin covered from the UV-rays (UPF50), barbed-wire crawls, climbing walls, and for falling (for us clumsy few). However, they are made for much more than a skin protectant. Their main use is to provide the right amount of compression to increase blood flow in the muscles and surrounding tissue.
• It stretchs! Which is fantastic for people with larger arms or muscles.
• It is soft…you forget you even have them on.
• It’s durable! I wasn’t scared they would snag, pull, or rip.
• It stays clean and fresh. I admit I am lazy after a race so cleaning off my gear thoroughly the same day doesn’t happen. However, this material protects against bacteria colonies!
• The moisture management technology (CoolMax) helps your skin stay cool and dry. Although in OCR you don’t really have an option to stay cool and dry, this is a very helpful tool for long road or trail runs!
• The UPF protection protects against 97.5% of the sun’s rays.
• The 50/50 fabric allows the right amount of compression, but still allows you to be mobile (so no fat little piggies from swelling).
Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to use my arm sleeves as much as I wanted after the Carolina Spartan because I moved in to my new home quickly after and thought I lost them in the move. I was devastated! This was right around Christmas time and I had found a discount code for Athletics8 so I ordered some calf sleeves to try (just in case my arm sleeves came back up…which they did about a week ago, yay!).
I had the same great experience with the calf sleeves. Actually, I was able to use my calf sleeves in more ways than I ever expected. I was always scared to leave my old compression socks on for a long period of time because they just felt super tight. However, with my Athletics8 sleeves I am able to wear my own socks I love, they literally melt into my skin, and I can wear them post recovery for as long as I want!
Overall, I highly recommend Atheltics8 sleeves (both arm and calf) to anyone looking for active support for endurance, protection from the elements during a race, or even for all day post recovery. I am definitely going to be stepping my A8 gear game up this year and expand into the sports bras and capris! Check out their website for all of the apparel they offer!
*Photos By: Spartan Race and Allison Dacus