Why Do Runners Wear Arm Sleeves? The Top 11 Reasons

Here are the top 11 reasons why runners wear arm sleeves.

Do you run? If so, do you wear arm sleeves? If not, you may be wondering why people are putting something tight and constricting around their arms. Well, there are several reasons why runners might choose to wear arm sleeves. Regardless of the specific reason, arm sleeves have taken the running market by storm in the past decade and have caught the attention of many runners.

In this blog post, we will discuss the top 11 reasons for wearing arm sleeves while running. Whether you are a beginner or a professional runner, this information can be helpful for you in deciding if you should wear them too.

The Top 11 Reasons Runners Wear Arm Sleeves

While upper-body injuries and recovery may not be the first thing that comes to your mind with running, they are still a very real possibility. Wearing arm sleeves can help mitigate a lot of the risks and discomfort that the runners’ arms can endure. Let’s dive into all the reasons, big and small, that arms sleeves can be a great addition to your running wear.

#1 Injury Prevention to Keep You Running

Running can be hard on the body due to the impact the body must sustain with each stride. This is especially true for longer runs and race days. The compression that arm sleeves provide can help to reduce the amount of vibration and twitching in the muscles and tendons, which can lead to soreness and injury for microtears in local tissues.

See our full guide for more injury prevention tips.

#2 Quicker “Warm-Ups” with Increased Blood Circulation

Warming up the body is essential before a run, particularly a race. Moving the body with light activity and stretching is the best way- and arm sleeves can aid in this. Compression helps to keep the muscles warm with adequate blood flow, and thus oxygen- another important factor for preventing injury.

# 3 Quicker Recovery for Training and Race Days

Additionally, the compressive nature of arm sleeves can help to reduce post-run swelling and inflammation. This minimizes the inflammatory response of the body and can help to reduce the buildup of fatigue and pain-inducing lactic acid. Overall, this equates to a possible boost in the recovery process following a run or race. You can even keep your arm sleeves on after your run, or put on a clean pair, to continue getting the benefits of compression for recovery.

#4 Staying Warmth- Protection from the Elements

Another reason runners may choose to wear arm sleeves is for warmth. Especially in cooler weather, arm sleeves can provide an extra layer of warmth without the bulkiness of a long sleeve shirt. They can also be helpful in wicking away sweat to prevent chafing. If you live in an area that has four seasons or you plan to race somewhere that has a chance of being cool, arm sleeves might be your new best friend for staying comfortable.

#5 Sun and UV Protection

For runs that take place during the daytime, arm sleeves can also provide protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This is especially important for runners who are training for longer distances such as a marathon and will be outside for extended periods of time. Wearing moisture-wicking protection means longer running distances without feeling the need to stop and lather up in greasy sunscreen.

#6 Reduce Tan Lines

While it may not be a primary benefit, arm sleeves can help to prevent those pesky tan lines from forming. This is a great secondary bonus so you can show off those strong runners’ arms without random tan lines that make it look like you’re already wearing a shirt.

#7 Skin Protection from Falls

Arm sleeves can offer some protection in the event of a fall. Falls happen to runners, especially on uneven terrain, such as dirt trails. They are especially beneficial for trail runners who may encounter obstacles such as branches and other debris on the ground. While arm sleeves will not prevent all injuries, they may help to reduce the severity of cuts and scrapes.

# 8 Visual Safety

Arm sleeves can provide an extra level of safety for runners. If you are running early in the morning or late at night, wearing a brightly colored sleeve, or even one with reflectors built-in, can help make you more visible to drivers. This is especially important when running on roads with little to no shoulder or sidewalk.

# 9 Increased Awareness of Running Form

For some runners, wearing arm sleeves can help them to become more aware of their running form. The snug fit of the sleeve makes it easier to feel if the arms are swinging too far away from the body or if they are crossing the centerline. This can be a helpful tool for working on overall efficiency, biomechanical training, and preventing injuries due to poor or imbalanced form.

# 10 Improved Running Economy

Wearing arm sleeves has been shown to improve an individual’s “running economy.” This means that runners who wear arm sleeves require less energy to maintain the same pace as those who don’t. While the exact mechanism is not completed understood, it is believed that the compression of the arm sleeve helps to reduce vibration and oscillation in the muscles and tendons, which leads to less fatigue and a more efficient stride. This is great news for endurance runners!

#11 Look Great Running

When professional runners start to wear something, many runners- of all fitness levels- will inevitably want to get their hands on it over time. That’s why, even though some of the benefits on this list are more practical than others, looking great is still a perfectly valid reason to don an arm sleeve (or two). They come in all sorts of colors and designs, so you’re sure to find a pair (or ten) that fit your style.

A good confidence boost is always a great benefit for any piece of clothing worn while running.

FAQs – Why Do Runners Wear Arm Sleeves

What Does the Research Say?

There is a mix of research on the topic of compression garments about whether they’re useful or a waste of money. Primarily, studies have been conducted to look at compression garments for the legs more than for the arms. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy looked at the effects of compression garments on exercise. The study found that they had the potential to improve performance and recovery.

While more research needs to be done on the specific effects of arm sleeves, the available evidence does generally support the use of compression garments for runners. Plus, no negative effects have been illustrated with the use of arm sleeves- so there’s no harm in giving them a try. If you are looking for a way to improve your running economy, reduce muscle soreness, or speed up your recovery time, arm sleeves might be worth a try!

What Are Arm Sleeves Good For?

We have just reviewed tons of awesome potential benefits of arm sleeves. So whether you are looking for injury prevention, quicker recovery, warmth, UV protection, to reduce tan lines, or for safety reasons, there are many reasons why runners might choose to wear arm sleeves.

Not only can they be worn while training or racing, but they can also be worn post-workout. For soreness or an injury, adding a bout of rest, ice, and elevation can boost your recovery potential as well.

Who Might Benefit from an Arm Sleeve?

While arm sleeves offer a variety of benefits, some runners may benefit more than others. For example, those who are training for longer distances or who have a history of injuries might find that arm sleeves help to improve their running economy and prevent further injuries. In addition, those living in colder climates might appreciate the added warmth that arm sleeves provide.

Let’s look at a full list of who might benefit:

  • A beginner runner that wants to improve their running economy and/or form
  • A runner training for a half marathon, marathon, or even ultra
  • A runner with a history of injuries
  • A runner living in a colder climate
  • A runner that wants to prevent tan lines
  • A runner that wants to increase their visibility while running early in the morning or late at night
  • A professional runner that wants to minimize recovery time between each training session

How to Choose an Arm Sleeve?

Now that we have discussed all of the reasons why runners might want to wear arm sleeves, let’s talk about how to choose the right one.

  • First, you will want to consider the climate in which you live and run. If you live in a warmer climate, you will want an arm sleeve that is made from a lightweight and breathable material. Conversely, if you live in a colder climate, you will want an arm sleeve that is made from thicker material to provide more warmth.
  • Next, you will also want to consider the level of compression that you are looking for. If you are seeking more compression for recovery purposes, you will want an arm sleeve with a higher level of compression. On the other hand, if you are simply looking for a little added support, you will want an arm sleeve with a lower level of compression.
  • Finally, you will want to make sure that the arm sleeve fits well. It should not be too tight or too loose. You should be able to slide one finger between the arm sleeve and your skin

Ultimately, as long as your budget allows, you may want to try a few different sleeves to see which you prefer. Additionally, you may find you prefer different types of arm sleeves depending on what you’re doing (for example, training vs race day).

Who Aren’t Arm Sleeves For?

Generally speaking, arm sleeves are safe for most runners to use. However, there are a few exceptions.

  • If you have a skin condition or an allergy to certain materials, you may want to avoid arm sleeves altogether.
  • If you have been diagnosed with lymphedema (chronic swelling), you should consult with your doctor before using arm sleeves as they may worsen the condition.
  • The onset of numbness or tingling in your arms or hands with use indicates you need to get a bigger size or may ditch the sleeve altogether
  • If you are pregnant, arm sleeves may not be right for you. While there is no evidence that they are dangerous, compression garments should generally be avoided during pregnancy as they can cause discomfort.
  • Wearing an arm sleeve on an open wound can be problematic and lead to discomfort, aggravation, or even infection.

Not sure? Use your common sense as best you can. Then, talk to your doctor if you need further advice.

Other Sports That Arm Sleeves Can Be Worn

While arm sleeves are most commonly associated with running, they can be beneficial for other activities as well. For example, many cyclists use compression socks or leg sleeves to improve their performance. Compression garments have also been shown to be helpful for recovery after intense workouts, such as HIIT, swim races, and triathlons.

Other Types of Compression Garments

There are a variety of other types of compression garments available on the market. These include:

  • Compression socks or stockings
  • Compression shorts or tights
  • Elbow sleeves
  • Knee sleeves
  • Ankle sleeves

If you are interested in trying out a compression garment, choose a style and fit that helps your reach your running and fitness goals.

So Many Reasons to Love Arm Sleeves

There you have it! Now you know all the possible reasons why runners might choose to wear arm sleeves and how to choose the right sleeve for you. Arm sleeves can provide many benefits- so don’t be afraid to give them a try! They certainly won’t cause any problems as long as you’re staying in tune with your body.

Do you wear arm sleeves when you run? What are your favorite reasons? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out our other blog posts with specific arm sleeve recommendations.

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