Calf compression sleeves have risen in popularity in recent years, from pro athletes like olympians and footballers, to seasoned marathon runners sporting them during races and training. However, choosing the best calf compression sleeves for running or otherwise can be a tricky business if you don’t know what to look out for. So, we’ve done the research for you!
Below we have answered everything from what leg compression sleeves are, to what they do - as well as compiling a list of the best calf compression sleeves for you to choose from. We will cover:
- What Are Compression Sleeves?
- What Do Compression Sleeves Do?
- What To Look For In Compression Sleeves
- Best Compression Sleeves
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What are Calf Compression Sleeves?
First off, let's start by looking at what a calf compression sleeve actually is.
A calf sleeve is a tube of material fitted from ankle to knee that has graduated pressure along the leg. Graduated pressure means that they are tighter at the ankles in order to fight gravity, and become looser the higher they go up the leg.
Compression sleeves can range from 8mmHg to 60+mmHg (millimeters of mercury, a way to measure pressure). The lowest levels are for mild symptoms, like those experienced by people who sit or stand all day, either for work or otherwise.
Moderate compression (from 15-30mmHg) is ideal for medical symptoms that aren’t too serious, or those of you looking for sports compression leg sleeves. This pressure is tight enough to help with recovery, but not too tight that it will cause issues further along.
If you have been admitted to hospital you may already be familiar with lower leg compression sleeves because they are commonly worn during and after surgery to help regulate and encourage blood flow during recovery.
Outside of medical reasons, sport compression leg sleeves are popular because they provide extra support during a workout to encourage blood flow to the areas that need it the most.
Research from 2015 shows that wearing compression leg sleeves for running helps increase the tissue oxygen saturation which helps the body to recover quicker after exercise. The study found that higher pressure corresponded with a higher saturation level, which suggests it’s better to have a higher pressure garment for recovery.
The majority are made from a synthetic microfiber or cotton which is mixed with fabrics like lycra, spandex or elastane to make them flexible and stretchy. These materials also have other helpful properties that we will discuss below.
What do Calf Compression Sleeves do?
So now that you know what a calf compression sleeve is, you’re probably wondering what they do.
The main purpose of a calf support sleeve is, as the name suggests, to provide support through light pressure to the lower leg either during exercise or simply through regular daily activity. The graduated pressure works to boost the circulation in your legs by fighting gravity and improving blood flow up and down your legs.
Calf support sleeves improve your circulation through compression, which helps your veins and arteries work more efficiently.
This light pressure on your veins increases the velocity of your venous blood, meaning that it can flow faster through your body. Veins then carry blood back to your heart to be processed and sent back to the lungs for reoxygenation.
So, having your blood flow back faster, means that your body can process out toxins like lactic acid quicker, equating to faster recovery. Thanks to this process, compression sleeves assist in keeping lactic acid from building up in the muscles, as it’s removed faster through the blood.
When your arteries experience a light pressure, they actually dilate slightly because the muscles of the arterial wall relax which in turn increases blood flow. What’s the relevance of this you may ask?
Well, your arteries carry blood away from the heart and send it around the body, so having a quicker blood flow helps your muscles to receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function faster than usual.
The pressure from leg compression sleeves also has a stabilising effect. This decreases the muscle vibrations that result from impact with the ground. This impact leads to tiredness in your legs, meaning you have less muscle fatigue, so you can train for longer and recover quicker.
Not only that, but compression can also help boost the lymphatic system and reduce inflammation. This is due to the process of draining excess fluid from the body, which stops the swelling that’s common in inflammation.
Just when you thought the benefits of such a simple invention were over, we have one more, as they can also help you to avoid shin splints and injuries on the skin. So not only can you prevent future injury, but you can also have assistance during recovery.
This is especially useful for trail runners, you can find out more about trail running for beginners here in our article.
What to look for in Calf Compression Sleeves
Now that you know what they are and how to make use of them, you’ll need to know what to look for to find the best calf compression sleeve to suit you. The qualities we have listed below are those that we think you should look out for when making your investment.
Non-slip: Sport compression sleeves need to be able to stay snug on your legs throughout training and racing, which can last for several hours. So by having extra security in non-slip, you don’t have to worry about keeping them up and taking your attention away from training or competing.
Graduated compression: Graduated compression is the main reason that anyone chooses to wear calf support because it adds pressure where it’s needed. Finding the right support for your body involves finding the right gradient of pressure, so look for a low to moderate compression gradient for maximum comfort and suitability.
Seamless Stitching: Finding a calf support sleeve that is seamless prevents the sleeve from digging into your leg, or leaving seam marks. Most sleeves have been made without seams, but have a double check of the stiching before investing just to be sure.
Material: This is an important quality to take into consideration when choosing the best calf compression sleeve for you. If you’re wanting to wear them daily, then it is best to choose a support sleeve that is comfortable against your skin that you can wear for several hours.
Similarly, if you’re specifically choosing leg compression sleeves for running, you need to consider whether the material is suitable for sports and durable enough for your needs. Natural fibres like cotton aren’t always appropriate for sportswear, so knowing the blend of material can help narrow down your choices.
Durability: If you’re planning on daily use for your lower leg compression sleeve, the durability of the product is definitely something to consider. This is because it will need to last all day and be easily washable.
Sports sleeves need to be built to last through the rigours of training, so having a material with plenty of stretch that can hold its own shape is certainly an advantage to look out for.
Size: Buying the right size is hugely important when choosing leg compression sleeves because they are putting pressure on your circulation. Too much pressure will cut off your circulation and make you feel worse, cause your foot to swell, and they’ll also be difficult to get on and off easily.
On the other hand, if the compression leg sleeve is too big, there is little point in wearing it as the sleeve will not be doing its job. So, make sure to find a sizing guide and follow the advice to choose the best fit for you.
Compression Rating: The various shin sleeves on offer each have different compression ratings. These ratings show the amount of pressure through the sleeve which is measured in mmHg (millimeters of Mercury) over the length of the sleeve.
Most sporting sleeves have a mmHg of between 20-30, with some allowance above and beyond. There are compression sleeves with higher ratings up to 60+, but these are typically prescribed by medical professionals for specific health conditions.
Moisture Wicking: Moisture wicking is hugely important for sport compression leg sleeves, because you’re likely to be sweating and don’t want this to linger on your skin.
Moisture wicking fabrics also tend to be quick drying, which means they won’t get weighed down by liquids. Having a product that is well designed for this purpose provides more comfort and less distraction.
Breathable and Lightweight: You want your leg sleeves to be breathable for the same reason you want them to absorb sweat quickly from the skin; it’s cleaner for your skin whilst also working to keep you cool during your exercise.
Lightweight fabrics are an important consideration because you don’t want to be weighed down at the ankles during the day. Compression sleeves are not ankle weights, and the extra weight of wearing them shouldn’t be any more noticeable than most of your other clothing.
Style: Style is a more personal consideration, and your compression sleeves can be another way to express yourself through your clothing. There are plenty of fun designs and colours out there to choose from to find the right one for you and your personality.
Price: Finally, as always price is an important part of choosing any of your clothing, whether for training or daily use.
There are loads of great value options out there to suit any budget and get the right piece of equipment for you. Or you can choose a slightly more expensive option if the features suit you best.
Best Calf Compression Sleeves
Do note, that all products listed below are sold in pairs unless stated otherwise.
Price: £12.25 - £18.04
First up is a calf compression sleeve from Doc Miller, designed to be comfortable, breathable and lightweight.
These calf sleeves are made from 77% medical grade nylon and 23% spandex. The spandex spreads throughout the whole sleeve to make it easier to get on and off, as well as comfortable to move in.
These are lightweight synthetic fabrics, so you’ll barely notice any extra weight as you go about your day. Synthetic fabrics work well to keep sweat from lingering on your skin, keeping your legs feeling fresh as the day goes on.
This is one of the solid compression leg sleeves which provides moderate compression at 20-30mmHg - perfect for sporting or daily life.
It also comes in 6 sizes, from S to a 3XL, making it an inclusive option for all different shapes and sizes. If you’re unsure, the webpage has a handy sizing chart to help you make the best choice.
Finally, the Doc Miller compression leg sleeves for running are designed with a turn welt top, which provides extra comfort as well as working as an anti slip mechanism to keep the top in place as you move.
So, with all of these features you can count on a secure product. If you are looking for calf sleeves to wear while running, you might be interested in our article on jogging vs running: differences and benefits here.
Whether you’re looking for a single calf support sleeve or a pair, Rigorer’s compression leg sleeve has you covered as they give you the option of buying by the leg.
The style is simple but effective, with the option of black or white to match or contrast the rest of the workout gear you own. With inclusive sizing from M to 3XL, you should be able to find a calf compression sleeve to suit your size and your needs.
To top it off, Rigorer has used the latest compression technology to enhance the benefits of muscle compression and circulation. The calf sleeve is designed with a 4 way stretch for a greater range of motion, whilst also making it easy to take on and off.
Each leg is specifically designed for your right and left, which improves the overall fit for either leg. They have also included a double wave silicone anti slip bar at the top to keep it comfortably in place below the knee.
The materials are 81% cotton nylon fiber, and 19% spandex for extra elasticity. These are lightweight and breathable fabrics, which will help keep your legs fresh and dry during training.
Another top contender, the Danish Endurance calf compression sleeve comes in 4 sizes ranging from S to XL and 7 different colours; so you’ll have plenty to choose from to suit your size and style.
This calf sleeve is made from 54% prolen (a type of polypropylene), 38% polyamide and 8% elastane. Whilst Prolen is a synthetic plastic, the manufacturing process is ecologically conscious and doesn’t contribute waste to its surrounding environment, not only that but the end product is recyclable.
This yarn is also antibacterial, so you can wear them often without having to wash after every use and they will last longer than other shin sleeves.
Whatsmore, these running compression leg sleeves are breathable, allowing air to circulate over your skin and keep it fresh and cool.
With a pressure rating of 18-24mmHg, these compression leg sleeves fall right into the moderate pressure threshold, making them perfect for daily or sporting use. If you are looking to use them for sporting use and suffer with shin splints as an athlete, read our article on ways to prevent shin splints here.
Our next offering is from Gococo, who have brought out an excellent pair of sport calf compression sleeves.
This pair comes in sizes S to L, and Gococo provides a helpful sizing chart on the website, so you can take the right measurements and ensure you find the right fit for you. The calf sleeves are made with seamless knitting for maximum mobility and comfort, and to prevent seams pressing into your skin.
The design includes a reflective print which is perfect for visibility, meaning you’ll be able to train safely at night or low light.
The pressure rating is 18-27mmHg, which falls right in the prime target for sports compression sleeves. However, they are light enough that you can wear them for daily use as well, either at work or out and about.
With 63% polyamide, 28% elastane and 9% polyester, the composition of this calf sleeve is lightweight, breathable and will keep the sweat from drying on your skin and causing irritation. If you need comfort when exercising, head over to our list of the best running base layers here to get run ready.
If you’re looking for extra support around your ankle, CompressSport have one of the best calf compression sleeves in the UK that are specifically designed with this in mind.
Their calf support includes a ‘waffle effect’ fabric, which offers better support around the ankle and achilles tendon so you can train with more confidence. They have also included a knee tab to reduce the shocks and discomforts of the muscular vibrations you experience during training.
Made with 3D wave knit technology, these running compression leg sleeves are seamless for maximum comfort. The wave knit improves the vertical stretch of the material, meaning you get better mobility in wearing the compression sleeve, as well as it being easier to get on in the first place.
On top of all this, they have also made the materials extra resistant to wear and tear with a 65% polyamide 35% elastane ratio for movement and strength.
This fabric is quick drying so you won’t be weighed down by any sweat it absorbs, and it’s breathability means plenty of air will flow over and around your skin. In regard to sizing, it is slightly unconventional with 4 sizes called T1 to T4, however a sizing chart is included on the website to help you find the best fit.
For some great products to get you looking and feeling your best on your next run, head over to our article below:
- 22 Best Long Sleeve Running Tops (2021)
- 13 Best Running Watches of 2021
- 21 Best Plus-Size Running Clothes
Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!
Rockay Blaze have released one of the best calf compression sleeves in the UK, with great value for money and lots of stylistic choice. With sizes ranging from S to XL and 9 colours to choose from, you’re sure to find a shin sleeve to suit you.
The pressure rating is 16-23mmHg, which makes it perfect for daily wear or sporting use, depending on your needs. The design is seamless with extra mesh zones to make it more breathable and wearable, all factoring into your comfort.
The fabric is a 42% multifilament polyamide, 32% polyamide and 26% elastane blend, factoring into the lightweight feel. Alongside this, you can ensure plenty of stretch to get on and off easily.
Plus, the polygiene anti odour technology means that they’ll need less washing, so they are more durable in the long run. Not to forget, for the environmentally conscious amongst us, this pair of support sleeves are made from partially recycled materials. This means 1 purchase removes 13 plastic bottles from the ocean!
If you are environmentally conscious, you may enjoy our article on the benefits of a vegan diet, check it out here.
For a super budget friendly option, Kalenji have the Kanergy calf compression sleeves, which are perfect if you’re wanting to try out calf support but are unsure where to start.
This design comes in 2 colours and either S or M, with a size guide on the website to help you find the right fit. They have even made a ‘how-to’ guide for getting your new pressure support on.
This leg compression sleeve has a pressure of 14-23mmHg which is lighter than many others, and is more geared towards daily use. However, this is a great pair of introductory compression leg sleeves for running that you can incorporate into your training and recovery.
The fabric is 55% polyester, 38% polyamide, and 7% elastane which is great for comfort and mobility. These fibres all combine to make a lightweight and breathable solid calf compression sleeve while also being moisture wicking, which will help to keep you dry from sweat.
For better fit, the sleeves are specifically designed for left and right legs, which helps them stay up better. Plus you may find you only want to wear a sleeve on one particular leg, and the Kalenji can help you make up your mind.
Next on the list are the DonJoy Performance calf support sleeves, which are sold as singles so if you need two, you will have to buy one for each leg.
These come in sizes S-XL and have the option of 3 different coloured detailing - black, green, or orange for a pop of vibrant colour. The website has included a size guide, as well as an informational video for how to wear their leg compression sleeves.
These are a hybrid design between a calf support sleeve and a brace - meaning they can provide compression and firmer support for the lower leg simultaneously. There is silicone injected into the wraps for extra support whilst you’re exercising, especially as the support is targeted to 3 areas chosen for optimum effectiveness.
Being made of carbonised bamboo means the DonJoy compression leg sleeves are naturally thermoregulating and antibacterial, so you can wear them comfortably in any weather.
DonJoy have included anti migration technology to make the calf sleeve non-slip and more comfortable in the long run. The design has incorporated reflective materials for extra visibility in dark or low light conditions. To stay safe when running in low lit areas, check out our article on the best hi-vis & reflective running vest here.
If you’re looking for a great budget friendly option, look no further than the ToFly calf compression sleeves. These shin sleeves are suitable for any activity from exercise to general daily wear.
ToFly have definitely thought about inclusivity, with their sport compression leg sleeves coming in 8 sizes ranging from S to 5XL to fit a variety of shapes and sizes. With 5 colours to choose from, you’ll be sure to be able to match any workout gear or daywear to your style.
Made from 76.6% nylon and 23.4% spandex, these calf support sleeves are lightweight and breathable, whilst the synthetic materials make them moisture wicking and quick drying to keep your skin fresh.
Do note however, that these are hand wash only, and you shouldn’t machine wash them if you want your calf sleeves to last a long time!
If you’re looking for colour and style, the Zensah leg compression sleeves should be your first stop. Zensah has included a whopping 15 different colours for their design, so you’re sure to find one to complement your style and personality.
However, you should be aware that depending on your choice of colour, the material does change slightly. For the solid colours the material is a 90% to 10% blend of nylon and spandex respectively. This changes to a 49%, 41%, 10% blend of polyester, nylon and spandex respectively for the heather colours.
Either way these fabric blends mean that these are a lightweight option for a running compression leg sleeve. They’re also moisture wicking and anti odour, so you don’t have to worry about sweat lingering on your skin and causing itchiness or rashes.
For outdoor runners, you’ll be happy to know that these calf support sleeves have sun and UV protection so you can easily care for your skin in any weather.
The size guide ensures you can find the best fit for you, with sizes ranging from XS/S to L/XL to choose from.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Zensah are great compression sleeves for shin splints, and work to alleviate symptoms and support the lower leg during training or recovery. If you feel like an athlete that just can’t help but be injury prone, read our article on how to prevent ACL injuries here.
The McDavid uCool calf compression sleeves may only come in sizes S to L and one colour, but they have incorporated some great features which make this a standout in our list of the best compression sleeves for running.
The uCool, as the name suggests, is specifically designed with active cooling technology to keep your skin temperature down to a comfortable level. This is done by using enhanced evaporative cooling which claims to keep your skin up to 2 degrees cooler.
Whilst your skin is kept cool, the compression of the leg sleeve helps to keep your muscles warm and activated throughout your workout to stop you from getting stiff.
These sport compression leg sleeves are made with a thicker material to protect your skin from scrapes and scratches which makes them a top choice for outdoor and trail runners to protect your skin from bugs and low growing plants.
For ultimate comfort and strength McDavid has used a 6 thread flatlock technology at the seams to ensure they lie flat and don’t irritate your skin.
Not only that, but if the weather gets hotter, they have you covered as they include 50+ UV protection, so you can train safely in any weather. Finally, you won’t have to worry about sweat lingering on your skin, as these leg compression sleeves have moisture management technology to keep your skin clean.
Run Forever have produced a top pair of recovery compression leg sleeves with a graduated pressure from 20-30mmHg, meaning these calf sleeves are ideal for both during and after training to promote a healthy recovery.
The design includes a non-slip cuff, a seamless construction for better fit, and optimum comfort. The material is lightweight, soft and durable, all the while being a pair of lower leg compression sleeves that are built to last.
With 11 colours and sizes ranging from S to XL, you can be sure to find a style and size that is best for you. If you’re unhappy with the fit of your calf sleeves, Run Forever has a guarantee to send out a new pair for you to try. Although, there is a clear size guide to help you find the best fit.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you, these Run Forever running compression leg sleeves have reviews by the thousands saying how brilliant they are. With that many happy customers, it’s hard to go wrong!
The 2XU calf compression sleeves are a versatile alternative to calf compression socks, with a powerful and flexible knitted fabric weave to provide graduated pressure comfortably along the leg.
The knitted weave of the fabric creates a seamless build that makes the calf sleeve more comfortable over a longer period of time. This construction also helps to stabilise your lower leg muscles and reduce muscle fatigue during training.
The design incorporates zoned ventilation which works to allow air to circulate and keep your skin cool. The materials are lightweight and won’t get weighed down by excess sweat during exercise.
This specific example comes in one colour, but with sizes from XS to XL you’ll be sure to find an option to work for you. The detailed care instructions mean you can take care of your support sleeves to get the most out of them, be sure to pair these with your pick of the best cushioned running shoes here.
If you’re looking for a great pair of running compression leg sleeves with positive reviews, this offering from Skins Essentials may be the one for you!
The contrasting light blue and navy colours really make this design pop, and with sizes from XS to XL, you’re sure to find one that’s your fit.
This particular design benefits from tailored left and right leg construction to improve the overall fit, so make sure you wear them on the correct leg. This material is super effective as the high stretch elastomeric yarn has shape memory, and will return to its original shape no matter how much stress you put it under.
The inbuilt inseam panels offer extra support to stabilise your muscles and reduce fatigue whilst you’re training. The material is moisture wicking, which means it brings sweat up to the surface to evaporate quickly and won’t get heavier and makes these great sport compression leg sleeves.
Finally, you can be sure to stay safe when out in the heat, as the 50+ UV protection means you can keep your skin safe throughout the year, regardless of the weather. If you do like the run in the summer months however, get prepared by reading our article on running in hot weather: tips and precautions here.
If you struggle to find calf support in your size, the Zeta Wear calf compression socks just may be the answer you’re looking for. Coming in blue or black, these are a 3XL support sock, specifically designed for plus sizes.
The 20-30mmHg pressure is perfect for exercise or daily wear at work, home, or even for long haul flights to help regulate blood flow.
The anti odour technology means you can comfortably wear them for a long time with confidence whilst the anti static material means a comfortable feel on the skin.
Made predominantly of cotton with a spandex and nylon blend, these calf compression socks are softer on the skin and thicker, which makes taking them on and off easier than ever before. The cotton blend ensures they are moisture wicking which helps to keep your skin clean but also dry faster than pure cotton.
Zeta Wear also has a ‘How to’ section, with instructions for the easiest way to get your calf compression socks on, and how to care for them to ensure they last as long as possible.
Hopefully by now you have plenty of choice to pick exactly what features suit your needs, but before you go check out our answers to the frequently asked questions surrounding compression socks below.
Do Calf Compression Sleeves Work?
Despite knowing what they can do, some of you may still be sceptical about whether calf compression sleeves actually work.
Calf Compression sleeves are not something to enhance your performance directly, instead they help during recovery and during training to allow you to exercise for longer. If you’re a sprinter, they won’t make you run any faster, but they do have other benefits.
A data review from 2016 found that runners could benefit from wearing compression leg sleeves with improvements to their endurance performance (the time to exhaustion) due to their running economy, clearance of lactate and other factors.
Runners could also benefit from reduced soreness, damage and inflammation during recovery, which means they can get back to training quicker. So, in turn, getting back to training faster means you’re ahead of the race in terms of practice!
If you are trying to prepare for a big race, head over to our article on how to train for a marathon here.
When Should You Wear and for How Long Should You Wear Calf Compression Sleeves For?
The reason why you buy your compression sleeves will affect when you need to wear them; if you’ve brought them for daily use, then you should wear them daily. If you’ve brought them for training, then you should wear them for training, including race day and after for recovery.
Outside of sports and exercise, you can choose to wear lower leg compression sleeves for a variety of reasons. Several people who spend a long time sitting or standing choose to wear them to boost their circulation - from people working in hospitality and offices, to nurses and pilots.
In terms of length of wear, most of the lower pressured compression sleeves are designed to be worn for a long time, up to and including all day when you’re on your feet.
However, if you’re sitting down for a long time you should choose calf compression socks instead of sleeves because the pressure is spread along the foot, whereas a sleeve could cause swelling in the foot if left on for too long when you’re sedentary.
In terms of recovery, you should wear the sleeves for at least 30-60 minutes after you’ve completed your training or race to help boost your circulation. If you’re wearing compression socks you can keep these on for up to 6 hours after mid to high exercise, or up to 12 hours after a marathon.
Unless specifically advised to by a medical professional, it’s best not to wear lower leg compression sleeves whilst you’re asleep. If you feel any pain or discomfort when you’re wearing your compression sleeves, take them off immediately.
How Long Do Calf Compression Sleeves Last?
Durability was one of the points to consider when buying a compression sleeve, and definitely impacts how long they can last.
Most suppliers have an average time that calf compression sleeves can last, and effort has been put into making them last longer and keep their shape. Of course, wear and tear affects how long something will last, so if you’re using your sleeves every day, they will wear faster than with occasional use.
The easiest way to get longevity out of your product is to make sure you’re following the washing instructions and guidance to get the most out of your calf sleeves.
How Tight Should Calf Compression Sleeves Be?
Since they’re providing pressure support, calf compression sleeves should be tight enough to do their job, but they should not be so tight as to be uncomfortable.
Most are designed with graduated pressure, which means they’ll be tighter at the ankle and get looser as they get higher up your leg.
If you experience any of the following; pinched skin, pain, numbness in the leg or foot, or any skin discoloration, you should take them off immediately as they are too tight, which could do more harm than good.
Before You Go...
By now you should know the advantages of calf compression sleeves and how to pick the best one for you and your needs. Adding new elements to your training can be tricky, but we hope this information will help you to make an informed choice about the best calf compression sleeves from the UK, and worldwide.
Just before you leave us, if you have an interest in the fitness industry, you may want to check out our personal training diploma here. Or, you can browse through all of our fitness courses on offer in our downloadable course prospectus.
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
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- Dermont, T., Morizot, L., Bouhaddi, M., & Ménétrier, A. (2015). Changes in Tissue Oxygen Saturation in Response to Different Calf Compression Sleeves. Journal of sports medicine (Hindawi Publishing Corporation), 2015, 857904. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/857904
- Engel, F. A., Holmberg, H. C., & Sperlich, B. (2016). Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing?. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(12), 1939–1952. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5