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4 Reasons You Should Wear Arm Sleeves While Running

As runners, we all have our list of essentials: shorts, shoes, shirt, watch, heavy death metal music. But, arm sleeves? Seriously? Why do runners wear arm sleeves anyway? It might be surprising, but once you try them, arm sleeves might end up on your running essentials list. Especially if you choose some with fun designs or colors.

For runners, arm sleeves can improve recovery times, protect you from the sun, make it easier to regulate your temperature, and protect you if you fall. Arm sleeves aren’t just a colorful fashion statement, they can make your daily run better.

Maybe you don’t believe me that arm sleeves are the next best things since Ritz crackers. That’s ok! I wasn’t a believer at first either. We’re going to change that. Let’s dive into the reasons why arm sleeves are a gift to your running routine.

1) Compression Arm Sleeves Can Help with Recovery

You may have heard about compression socks or tights. These are popular tools that are used to improve blood circulation in the legs and aid with muscle recovery. Even though these tend to be more popular and well known, compression sleeves exist for arms too! 

Let’s be clear – compression sleeves are primarily recovery tools. Studies show that compression sleeves don’t actually improve running performance, but that they do help with recovery after the fact (source). Basically, compression sleeves increase oxygenation to the muscles, encourage blood circulation, and help remove lactate. All of this is great for muscle recovery (source). 

Sore muscles are primarily caused by a buildup of lactic acid and a swelling in the muscles. When you lift weights, go for a long run, or do any type of challenging workout, you create tiny tears in the muscles. This is totally normal and a sign that you’re encouraging your muscles to grow and become stronger. The body, though, treats the muscle as if it’s damaged. It swells as it floods with white blood cells and other nutrients needed for healing. This response is needed, but it can also leave you feeling sore (source).

When you wear compression sleeves, you encourage healing to happen faster by keeping the blood circulating and well stocked with oxygen. You’re also flushing away any excess lactate out of your muscles quicker than you would have if you weren’t wearing compression sleeves. All of this is great for muscle recovery. Studies show that delayed onset muscles soreness can be reduced by wearing compression sleeves (source). I’ll take that any day!

Even if you don’t want to wear arm sleeves while you’re running (hoping to convince you otherwise in our next sections), compression sleeves can be great recovery aids. Slip them on after a long run and you might mitigate some of the aches and pains that you normally expect in the following few days. 

2) Arm Sleeves Can Protect You From the Sun

Alright, so arm sleeves are great for recovery, but why should you wear them when you’re actually running? Well, arm sleeves can be a great way to protect yourself from the sun. No, airy long sleeve shirts won’t cut it. There are arm sleeves that have actually been designed to protect you from UV rays, something that basic long sleeve shirts can’t do. 

As runners, we spend a lot of time outside subjecting ourselves to the sun’s harsh ways. Yes, we all need a good dose of vitamin D every day, but not for the hours that our long runs require. Getting UV blocking arm sleeves is a great way to enjoy the sport you love while also protecting yourself from sun damage.

If you’re thinking, “heck, no! It’s too hot in the summer as it is. I’m not going to put on another layer of extra fabric.” I hear you. Running in the hot summer months feels like being baked alive. That said, sun damage is important. Also, arm sleeves are thin and airy. Even though they hug your skin, they aren’t the thick material you’re probably used to on your long sleeve shirts.

3) Arm Sleeves Make It Easier to Regulate Your Temperature

Let’s put aside those sweltering months of heat and think about those months in early winter or early spring when the weather is incredibly fickle. 

If you’re like me, during these months, you stand by your dresser and aggressively stare at your running clothes. When the weather is either really hot or really cold, the choice is easy. But, when the weather is in between, it’s hard to know what to wear. Is it better to be too cold to start with and then warm up? Or, to start off comfortable and then be too hot by the end of the run? Long sleeve, short sleeve, leggings, shorts. How the heck can you pick when the weather is all over the place? 

Arm sleeves make it really easy to adjust your outfit mid-run. As we talked about in #2, arm sleeves don’t provide heavy duty warmth. They’re pretty thin and airy. That said, they can protect you from those first shocking gusts of wind when you first step out the door for your run. When you warm up, slip the arm sleeves off and tuck them in the waistband of your pants until you finish your run. Easy peasy. 

Arm sleeves can also replace the need for a long sleeve shirt. Actually, they can be better than long sleeve shirts depending on your preferences. Sometimes, my long sleeve shirts live in this murky middle. If they’re too loose, the sleeves flop around. If they’re too tight, my shoulders and arms feel constricted. Arm sleeves give you a way to “disconnect” your sleeves from the rest of your shirt, giving you the freedom to move your arms while also having a tight material around your arms. 

4) Arm Sleeves Can Protect You If You Fall

By far, the most popular post on BTA is the one about my experiences with falling while running…over and over and over again. I’m a major uncoordinated klutz and, given the response to that post, I’m not alone. If you’re a regular tumbler, be sure to read through the comments on that post. You’ll find a large community of runners who share some dramatic stories of epic falls. You’ll also find a reason to start a pothole and speed bump awareness club.

Anyway, moving on. Arm sleeves can be a great way to give yourself “an extra layer of skin” in case you fall. Given the amount of scars I have from running falls, anything that will keep some distance between my skin and the pavement is happily welcomed. You may sacrifice the fabric of your arm sleeves, but at least you aren’t sacrificing your skin. You’ll be grateful the next time you dive arm first into a fall. 

I know that none of us like to admit that we have a chronic case of the whoopsie daisies, but sometimes we have to put our pride aside in order to save our skin. Arm sleeves can give you some piece of mind that at least your arms will be safe during your next tumble. And, if anyone asks, you can choose one of the other 3 reasons on this list as an excuse for why you’re wearing arm sleeves. 

Which Arm Sleeves Should I Buy?

Luckily, arm sleeves don’t top the list of complicated purchases. Even though there are quite a few to choose from, if you pick a pair with good reviews and a color you like, you’re probably safe. Also, arm sleeves aren’t expensive, so you might as well buy a few pairs and see which ones you prefer. It’s also good to have a number of pairs on hand for cleanliness reasons. 

Not all arm sleeves come with this sun blocking super power and not all arm sleeves are compressive, so be sure to read the description before purchasing. Even if you aren’t overly concerned about the sun protection, you might as well get this added benefit.

Another thing to keep in mind is that compression sleeves stretch out over time. They’re hardy little creatures, but all of those times taking them on and off can stress them out. Don’t expect that one pair of arm sleeves is going to last you for the next 10 years. If you fall in love with them and make them a must-have on your running essentials list, get ready to new pairs every once in a while. 

All of the following arm sleeves come highly rated so, if you don’t want to do any research, these are great bets. Some aren’t compression and aoms aren’t UV blocking though, so be sure to get the features you’re looking for.  Arm sleeves can sometimes get a bad rap as being silly accessories. They also don’t get the fame of their leg counterparts. That’s a shame though. Arm sleeves can be great tools to help you with recovery and your running routine in general.