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  • Writer's pictureCompression Athlete

How to Use Compression Leg Sleeves

Helpful leg sleeve guidance and advice for active individuals.

How to use compression leg sleeves.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen compression leg sleeves around, whether on a professional athlete, a long-distance runner, or even someone just wearing one during an everyday activity.

Fitting tightly on the leg like a second skin, compression sleeves give off a sleek athletic look.

But is there more to it than that?

There is! Lot’s more, in fact.

Compression sleeves are used for many different reasons in both the sports world and everyday life.

They’re simple to use, relatively low in cost, and can offer the user a variety of benefits.

Here, we’ll teach you how to use a compression leg sleeve, what they can be used for, and how to get the most out of your sleeve.

Note: Featured products are independently selected and reviewed by Compression Athlete. If you purchase through our links, we may earn commission.

How to Wear Your Compression Leg Sleeve

To begin, let’s go over how to put on and wear your compression leg sleeve.

First, straighten out your sleeve on a flat surface or by holding it at both ends.

You should notice that one end of the sleeve is larger in diameter than the other.

The larger end of the sleeve is where you will first slide your foot through as you pull the sleeve up your leg.

Compression leg sleeve diameters at both ends.

Pull the larger end of the sleeve up your leg until it rests over your knee.

The sleeve should be stretched full in length without any bunching and the smaller end of the sleeve resting at your ankle like the cuff of a pant leg.

Think of it like adding a leg to a pair of shorts in order to make pants.

If you were wearing shorts, the compression sleeve would be pulled all the way up to the hem of your short leg and extend all the way down to your ankle.

Thus, making a full-length leg.

Pulling compression leg sleeve over knee.

Finally, compression sleeves are designed to be worn with the stitching on the inside part of your leg.

Compression sleeves are relatively easy to adjust, so just be sure to line the seam up once it’s on.

For a point of reference, line the beginning of the seam up with the middle of your Achilles tendon and continue upwards from there.

If it doesn’t look like an exact straight line all the way up your leg, this is normal.

It will shape to the contour of your leg and a little wavering one way or the other is not a problem.

If you're looking for a high-quality compression leg sleeve, check out our top picks.

And if you're also looking to wear an arm sleeve, check out How to Use Compression Arm Sleeves.

How Do Compression Leg Sleeves Work?

Before you purchase or put on your compression leg sleeve for the first time, it can be helpful to have a good understanding of how exactly your sleeve works.

Understanding this aspect can positively inform your choice of compression sleeve, as well as how the sleeve is supposed to fit and feel on your leg.

In general, compression sleeves promote improved blood circulation from your body’s extremities by helping the applied muscles push blood back to your heart.

This, in turn, improves your body’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles.

And with better muscle oxygenation, your muscles will perform better, endure longer, and recover faster.

Athlete lifting weights wearing compression leg sleeves.

But how exactly are compression leg sleeves able to do this?

Compression leg sleeves work thanks to a unique combination of fabric and design.

If you’ve ever worn a compression garment, then you’ve no doubt noticed its signature snug and stretchy fabric that fits like a second skin.

When compression garments fit correctly, they apply a slight degree of pressure to the applied area, which is the same case with compression sleeves.

In addition to their signature fabric, sleeves also utilize a special graduated compression design.

A graduated compression design applies compression to the applied area at a heavier to lighter degree.

The heavier pressure is applied at the point furthest away from the heart, to promote circulation.

In the case of a compression leg sleeve, heavier pressure is applied near the ankle and calf and gradually works toward lighter pressure at the thigh.

This combination of signature fabric and graduated design is what allows compression leg sleeves to work so effectively at improving circulation.

Beyond promoting blood flow, the design and fabric of compression sleeves also offer great support to the muscles where the sleeve is applied and can aid in injury prevention.

How Long Can You Wear Your Compression Leg Sleeve?

Whether you’re an athlete or just an active person, compression leg sleeves can offer helpful support and improved circulation for your athletic pursuits and everyday tasks.

Additionally, compression sleeves are also used by many to address medical conditions, such as orthostatic hypotension, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, and more.

And when you find a high-quality, great-fitting compression leg sleeve, you likely not only don’t mind wearing it, but might even wonder if it’s okay to wear it all the time.

In general, it’s okay to wear a compression leg sleeve for extended periods.

Athletes commonly wear compression leg sleeves for hours on end during competition and training.

Additionally, people commonly wear compression leg sleeves for extended periods during work and everyday tasks and activities.

If you’re going to wear a compression leg sleeve for an extended period, the most important factor to be aware of is the pressure level of your compression sleeve.

Various pressure levels in compression garments.

If your compression sleeve is from a reputable athletic brand, it more than likely falls within mild to moderate pressure levels and is absolutely fine to wear for extended use.

Simply look for a sleeve that fits correctly. You should feel slight pressure from the sleeve, but it should not restrict your movement or cause discomfort in any way.

Even sleeves with a mild compression level could end up causing problems if sized incorrectly.

A key aspect to look for in your compression sleeve is if it stays comfortably in place during activity and requires little adjustment.

Additionally, some people wonder about whether it is okay to wear a compression sleeve while sleeping.

Generally, yes, it would be okay to wear your compression sleeve while sleeping.

However, it should be noted that there’s really no reason for doing so, unless you have been directed by your doctor.

It’s always a good idea to take a break and let the skin at the applied area breathe.

For those wearing a compression sleeve for a medical reason, always follow the advice of your physician or physical therapist.

Why Do People Use Compression Leg Sleeves?

Compression sleeves are worn for a variety of reasons and can have several different uses.

In general, compression leg sleeves are worn to improve or assist athletic performance and physical activity.

They can also be worn for injury prevention or to offer support and stabilization to an injured or sore muscle.

Athlete holding leg in pain.

Compression leg sleeves are worn for these reasons and can also be utilized in various other ways, as well.

For example, compression leg sleeves are commonly used for added protection against scrapes, burns, and abrasions caused by physical contact, turf burn, UV rays, and more.

Some athletes even wear compression leg sleeves with an additional protective pad on the knee if their sport includes physical contact.

Whether in athletic competition or everyday tasks, compression leg sleeves offer overall protection without overheating and still retaining your leg’s full range of motion.

Compression leg sleeves are also used to regulate body temperature.

In cold weather, the improved circulation from your compression leg sleeves help to keep your muscles warm.

In hot weather, compression leg sleeves do a great job of wicking away moisture to keep you cool, dry, and comfortable.

And while those unfamiliar with compression sleeves often assume that sleeves are worn simply for style or attention, ironically, improved visibility also happens to be a good reason to wear a compression leg sleeve.

For example, runners may choose to utilize compression leg sleeves with reflective elements for improved visibility in lowlight conditions.

Even in daylight, brightly colored compression leg sleeves will stand out much better to drivers and make for a safer run or workout.

Do Compression Leg Sleeves Really Work?

If you’ve tuned into a professional sporting event in the past several years, whether basketball, football, track and field, or so on, then you’ve no doubt noticed the presence of compression sleeves on athletes.

And despite their broad adoption across the world of sports and by many individuals for everyday use, there are some who are still skeptical as to whether compression sleeves really work.

Compression sleeves absolutely work so long as you understand their intended use, as well as their limitations.

For example, while a compression sleeve will offer muscle support and stabilization to the applied area, it will not make a sore muscle instantly feel better.

Runner with compression leg sleeves.

Likewise, a compression sleeve can help to bring out your best performance by improving blood flow in the applied area, but it will not make you stronger or faster by its mere application.

In other words, compression leg sleeves do not work miracles, but they do help to optimize both your performance and recovery.

We know that compression sleeves squeeze the blood vessels where applied, which increases blood flow, removes lactic acid build up, and makes for a speedier recovery.

We also know that compression fabric is stretchier and more durable than other fabrics, making it a great choice for lightweight and breathable protection that allows a full range of motion.

Compression sleeves are comfortable, easy to use, and have a lot to offer.

And if you're looking for a great leg sleeve, be sure to check out our list of the Best Compression Leg Sleeves.


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