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Down ‘N Dirty: CEP Progressive + Compression Run Socks 2.0

After a decade of working in the outdoor industry, there’s one thing I don’t have a shortage of: socks. From trade show to trade show, I’ve been handed them by various public relations reps and also offered them as a quick handout at the end of meetings. My sock drawer is stuffed with them: synthetic, merino wool, low-cut, mid-cut, ski-boot cut, all in various thicknesses. They all work well and serve the purpose they’ve been designed to fill — help feet breathe, offer protection and support, and stand up to abuse.

That’s why at first I didn’t think much of the CEP Compression socks when they arrived in the mail a month ago. They stayed in their clear bag, a pair of black innocuous socks with a few white letters on them spelling out the name of the brand. Like underwear, I viewed them as a necessity; manufacturers can get all fancy with them, but at the end of the day they’re just socks.

More out of curiosity than anything, I finally broke them out and the timing couldn’t have been better. For several months, I’d been training to tick an item off my bucket list, a marathon-length run, and the goal was getting near. The run wasn’t an organized event, just the arbitrary goal of a 26.2-mile outing that would take place in the mountains. I’d heard a bit about compression technology and figured maybe the socks would help.

A week or so before I broke the socks out, I was able to run 20 miles and knew it was just a matter of time until I’d attempt the goal, but all the mileage was making my legs hurt. There was constant pain below my right knee and also in my left hamstring. All the pain was causing me to limp. To keep moving toward the goal, I got a sports massage at Fixt Movement to alleviate the problem. As the owner, Geoff Hower, pried my knotted-up muscles apart, especially the calves, which were like gnarled up rocks, I couldn’t help but let out a prolonged “ou-OU-ch!”

As I stepped out of his office, limp now gone, Hower recommended that I come back and sample some of his other services: infrared-light healing, a foam roller and compression sleeves. He said clients came in regularly to use the compression sleeves and that many owned their own pair.

I went home and marked the upcoming event on my calendar – just five days to go.

Then the day came, my frequent running buddy Peter Holben said he was ready, and soon I was stashing food and water along the course.

I tore the CEP Progressive + Compression Run Socks 2.0 out of the plastic bag and out came two knee-high socks. I didn’t expect them to resemble leggings but they certainly did. Clear L and R letters identified what foot they belonged to, which CEP’s website stated were there to ensure a proper anatomical fit. Then I put them on and was amazed — it was evident that these weren’t like any other socks I’d worn. Every spot on my body they covered felt relieved. It was like having Hower’s hands tightly gripping my lower legs.

This was especially the case on the sore tendons just below either side of my knees, which had been hurting since I’d upped the training mileage. These four spots were the ones I was concerned about further damaging during the upcoming run.

Later that day, now hours into the run, my lower legs continued to feel great, including the trouble spots below the knees.

Hours later, and nearing the end of the outing and now running in a daze, Peter started complaining that his legs hurt. Admittedly, by this point mine did too, but in less spots than expected. One spot was on the left hamstring and the other was a spot just above the left ankle. I was totally sold on the socks and was convinced they had made a huge difference.

Nearing the finish line, my house, it was obvious that exhaustion had killed my appetite — all I wanted to do was sleep. Once in the door, Peter broke out the electric massager and went to work on his painful legs. But I didn’t have to.

Progressive + Compression Run Socks 2.0 are made of 85-percent polyester blend and 15- percent Spandex, provide compression, cut vibration, stabilize joints and muscles, increase blood flow and reduce the risk of injury. CEP uses medical-grade compression. They’re designed to stand up to 200 washes.

Additional compression sock brands include 2XU and SmartWool.

MSRP: $60
Available in 8 colors and also available in merino wool (3 colors)

Pros: These aren’t just socks. These socks use medical-grade compression to stabilize and support muscles and joints and increase blood flow. Wearing them feels like having a masseuse grip your legs (and feet) while you exercise.

Cons: These aren’t the warm and cozy socks like others in your drawer. They’re built for running, not wearing around the house.

Where I took Them: Ran 22.9 miles through snow, ice and slush from Four Mile Canyon (above Boulder), via the Switzerland Trail, up 2,649 feet to reach the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (8,917’), then back down.

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