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Compression Tights--How Compression Clothing Can Help Athletic Performance

Updated on February 13, 2010

If you're a runner, sprinter, or cyclist that doesn't wear compression tights, then you are missing out on a number of benefits. Compression running tights and clothing are made of special fabric that shapes the body and ultimately helps an athlete perform better.  In fact many sportsmen and sportswomen sing praises of compression clothing.

What's So Great About Compression Tights Anyway?

Compression tights are becoming more common among successful athletes. Any sport's enthusiast knows that the tiniest amount of inches and small amounts of time makes a huge difference in performance. Optimum performance is essential in almost all sports, and a compression tight can help. These leggings can be used by almost any athlete, from basketball players to cyclists to running and weightlifting.

Women and men's compression tights are made from a thin, stretchy material that is very light and doesn't restrict movement. These leggings are designed to fit snugly around the body for maximum comfort. The benefits of compression leggings and other clothing include:

  • Maintaining a perfect temperature for the body. This is especially important for outside activity, since cold air can retract the muscles. When muscles are retracted, they are more vulnerable to injury
  • Controls moisture and sweat from the body
  • Aids muscle motion for bikers.
  • Helps runners achieve longer strides
  • Help athlete keep a proper posture
  • Makes muscles more powerful and reduces muscle vibration
  • Helps with a healthy blood circulation throughout the body
  • Helps to prevent muscle fatigue and cramping
  • Discourages bacteria growth and prevents body odor

photo source: / CC BY-SA 2.0
photo source: / CC BY-SA 2.0

Compression Tight Benefits According To Science

The benefits of compression leggings isn't just product hype--their effectiveness has actually been confirmed by scientific research.  According to a French study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine¹, doctors observed that compression tights delay muscle fatigue by applying pressure on the muscle groups.  They found that by controlling movement of the muscles and decreasing trauma by impact, compression clothing allows for maximum oxygen absorption in the blood.  This means that runner can run faster over longer distances.

The author of the study, Stéphane Perrey, Ph.D., concludes that  compression tights can help  trim up to 6 minutes off a 3:30:00 marathon time, possibly due increased blood circulation to the lower body. The study also pointed out that compression tights improved running technique through more consistent and improved knee alignment and function. 

¹Study was published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006 and authored by Stéphane Perrey, Ph.D.

Buying Compression Running Tights

Men and womens compression tights are readily available and can be easily found in any sporting goods store or online.  Even though there are a variety of brands in different colors, they all pretty much use the same type of material and the weight is similar amongst all products.  Compression tights are available for both the upper and lower body with shirts, sleeves, as well as long and short tights.

Sizes are standard in small, medium, large and x-large.  The most popular brands are Skins, 2xU, CW-X, and Opedix.  Prices vary from $35 on the lower end, upwards to $300 dollars or more depending on size and style.


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    • Bobski606 profile image

      Bobby 4 years ago from U.K

      As a person who suffers with venous insufficiency from a deep vein thrombosis I've found that compression clothing does a wonderful job for my performance when working out. Having that extra bit of support in my legs in the difference between working out that day or staying on the couch.

      Your article is very informative and included some aspects that I didn't know about even though I use them myself on a regular basis.

    • profile image

      Bilal Akram 6 years ago

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    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Interesting hub. It seems that for every paper published that proves the benefits for compression clothing on performance there seems to be another that disproves. I personally use them post exercise and feel that they definitely assist in recovery.

    • Steve Newman profile image

      Steve Newman 6 years ago

      Good article, Alexis. Thanks for providing some good information on the value of compression tights. I've been promoting this benefit for some time on my blog, The Nylon Gene ( Ironically enough, the photo you chose to illustrate your point is one that I made, and that's me in the photograph. (Not to worry, I have no objections to its use, and it's licensed for shared use through Creative Commons).

      And, to expand on Steve Katz's comments, I can report that I was in fact wearing ActivSkin sheer legwear when the photo was taken. It was Style A677, which is one of their full support varieties. In addition to the compression benefit, there is another one for runners in cooler weather. When worn with shorts as pictured, the thin sheer material provides just enough insulation to keep the chill of cold morning air off the bare legs. Yet, when the runner's (or cyclist) body temperature rises during exercise, the material wicks away perspiration through evaporation and keeps him from overheating.

    • profile image

      Steven Katz 6 years ago

      Most of the brands listed above are heavier weight and I'd like to call attention to a much lighter weight brand for warmer weather, or to wear as an under layer. Activskin, made in the USA, is a hosiery-weight fabric available in many different styles and in a few basic colors. Think tights, pantyhose, and support stockings and you've got the idea. Economic, too. Made specifically for men, but women buy them, too.

    • Sun-Girl profile image

      Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

      Informative hub which i so much enjoyed reading from.