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Do Arm Sleeves Work For Runners?

    I was recently watching the great documentary on Eliud Kipchoge, The last Milestone and noticed he was wearing arm sleeves.

    I have, of course, seen the conversation rage around compression socks but now arm sleeves. Are they just there to keep your arms warm, or do they have some benefit for runners in a performance sense?

    Arm Sleeves For Running. What Are They Good For?

    Running Performance.

    This is the real nub of it.

    Why would a runner wear these compression sleeves on their arms?

    The bottom line seems there is a little positive impact on performance. However, there might be gains in post-recovery.

    With compression of the arms aiding recovery.

    Of course, with running, the obvious point is a runner’s arms aren’t the highest impact area for a runner; that belongs to the good ole legs.

    So from a performance and recovery side of things, it would have to be said wearing arm sleeves would more than likely deliver limited results.


    Wearing brightly coloured arm sleeves when running, of course, could assist with increased visibility personally; I can think of ways to make myself more visible however it’s an option and, for some people, would make sense.

    Running In The Heat And Sun With A-Arm Sleeve.

    Wearing compression arm sleeves when running can help when the weather is hot as they give your arms direct protection from the UV rays of the sun as well.

    When wearing UV compression, arm sleeves can assist your arms in feeling cooler and comfortable when running in hotter weather conditions due to the moisture-wicking effect on your skin and how the material helps control your sweating.


    I have left the most obvious till last.

    The benefits of compression. However, the benefits to a runner of compression of the arms may be much less beneficial than a sport or pastime that is more arm centric.

    Of course, it’s a little bit more nuanced than that.

    A runner needs performance throughout the body, so having compression in the arms, can help with reducing swelling in the arms when you are doing longer types of runs, the compression in the arms assists in reducing swelling and reduce the inflammatory response because it takes away fluid build-up from the arms.

    Plus, you can use compression arm sleeves the same as compression socks as a recovery tool.

    Increasing blood flow in the compressed area and speeds up lactic acid removal from the body, which in turn assist in the speeding up of recovery.

    I did look for some science behind runners wearing arm sleeves and their benefits. The only test that caught my eye was that done on a group of wheelchair athletes.

    The experiment was to…


    The aim of the current study was to investigate the efficacy of an upper-body intermittent sequential pneumatic compression device on recovery after wheelchair team sport activity.

    What they did was…

    Eleven well-trained wheelchair basketball and rugby athletes (male, 8; female, 3; mean ± SD age = 33 ± 10 yrs) performed a series of performance measures pre-exercise, postexercise, and postrecovery (grip strength, pressure-to-pain threshold, medicine ball throw, wheelchair sprints, repeated sprints). Subjective muscle soreness and fatigue measurements were taken at the same time points as performance tests, with an additional 24-hr postrecovery measure. Participants completed two recovery trials, separated by 1 wk, of either passive recovery (control) or 20 mins of wearing recovery arm sleeves (intermittent sequential pneumatic compression) applied to both arms.

    However, the results were less than amazing….

    Intermittent sequential pneumatic compression may provide some benefit for perceptual recovery measures immediately after and 24 hrs after a high-intensity wheelchair activity with negligible effects on performance recovery.


    I know running is very different from a wheelchair athlete; however, if the benefits from a performance perspective were negligible for them, it has to be said it would be optimistic to think it would make huge differences in performance but might assist in recovery.

    Compression Arm Sleeves For Runners. Bottom Line.

    I don’t think many non-elite runners will put arm sleeves for runners at the top of their list of most important bits of kit.

    However, I am sure there will be runners that might use them as recovery tools or maybe in certain more extreme weather conditions.

    I have to say as far as cost goes, arm sleeves are a pretty cheap investment so it won’t cost you the earth to test them out and see if they work for you as a runner.

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