Does It Work: Compression Tights

>> Monday, February 01, 2010

We’ve all heard the back-and-forth arguments. Pro (the theory): “Compression technology helps support those tiny muscles enabling you to focus on going faster while not working on having to stabilize those smaller muscles.” Con: “Well, why aren’t all pro athletes wearing them?” Pro: “Well, [this pro athlete] always wears them, and [he/she] just placed [top 10] in [this big race].” Con: “They’re just too uncomfortable - I can’t get used to wearing them. And is the price tag worth it?”

It seems like people love them or hate them. Here I am back in October in my new Sugoi Piston 200 Compression Tights:

I’ve had a chance to wear them for a number of workouts / races over the last few months, so I’ve developed my opinion. Here I am racing in the same Sugoi Compression Tights last fall:

Here are my numbers from two 10 mile races:

TC 10 Mile. Oct 5, 2009. NO COMPRESSION TIGHTS. 1:02:43

Monster Dash 10 Mile. Oct 31, 2009. WEARING TIGHTS. 1:02:19.

The Monster Dash 10 Mile was on a similar course as the TC 10 Mile (less long hills, but more short, rolling hills), but it was on a SLIGHTLY worse day. But I tried a different race strategy where I went out a lot faster at the Monster Dash, so I was nearly a minute faster than my TC 10 Mile time at mile 3, and 1:19 faster at the half-way point.

Compression Technology for Racing: Grade of C+. They were comfortable for me to race in, but I don’t see any improvement in my numbers. Those 24 seconds were mostly due to racing the first half of that race harder, not due to the tights. (BTW, I just wore those tights for my half marathon 10 days ago too.)

Compression Technology for Recovery: Grade of A-. This was the big surprise for me. On the same day that I did the Monster Dash 10 Mile, I also cheered and ran with Pharmie during part of her 50K Trail Race. Overall, I put 20 miles on my legs that day - the second highest mileage day I’ve ever had. And I kept my tights on from my pre-race until well after getting home from Pharmie’s race (from about 5 am until about 5 pm). Being in the tights that long DOES start to get uncomfortable (mostly because of leg hair and “the boys” needing to breath), but it really helped flush out my muscles. I actually wore the tights for about 8 hours on Saturday after a 9 miler because of some more intense leg workouts recently. I really feel they help for that!

What’s been your experience with compression technology? Give me your 2 cents. And check back at 2 am and 2 pm every day this week for more “Does It Work” posts.


trimybest 2:30 PM, February 01, 2010  

I totally agree. I don't have tights but do have calf compression socks. I wear them for recovery or for long runs if I'm already fatigued or sore. I wore them for the ironman and for the drive home afterwards. They may not definitively help for recovery in terms of shortening recovery time but they DEFINITTELY feel really good to put on immediately after a hard workout!

Also I wore them in hot races this year and kept them doused with water and that helped a lot to cool me.

Borsch 2:51 PM, February 01, 2010  

No experience but have been wanting to try the socks.

Maggs 2:54 PM, February 01, 2010  

I love then for recovery and in an IM by mile 100 of the bike I get excited for how good my legs will feel when I put them on for the run.

I wear them for runs over 10 miles and my calf problems seem less.

T 2:56 PM, February 01, 2010  

i have a pair of cw-x compression tights i got for like $40 on i've run with them a few times; they feel a litle weird. however, i haven't tried them out on a higher-mileage race, so i don't know how they'll be with recovery.

now that i've read this and the other comments, i'm excited to keep experimenting with them.

Aimee 3:06 PM, February 01, 2010  

Great review!

I got a pair of the Zoot compression tights last year when I was training for my first Half Ironman. I researched a lot and read A LOT of reviews before deciding to buy them b/c they are pretty pricey! I have to say that I absolutely love them for recovery tights. Yes, some of it may be mental (like many people say), but for me personally I really thought that they helped with my recovery after long workouts (running and biking). I would finish my workout, shower, then put them on for several hours. They are constrictive, but not so much where they are uncomfortable. Actually I find them really comfortable! I love them and will definitely be using them again this year for my 70.3 and marathon training!

ShirleyPerly 3:07 PM, February 01, 2010  

I've not tried compression tights but the compression calf sleeves I have seem to work really well for me after a hard workout or race, esp. when you have to sit on a long plane or car ride. Both after my iron tri and after a marathon I was ready to get back to running within days!

Steve Stenzel 3:07 PM, February 01, 2010  

trimybest, I like your thoughts on using compression socks doused in water to cool down. (Or dousing them while they are on.) Nice!

And MM, I sort of forgot to think about IM distance. I bet I'd LOVE these tights over that length of a race. I've only used them for half marathons and 10 milers. Thanks for the input!

Jamie 3:15 PM, February 01, 2010  

I think you are spot on. If there is any benefit during racing, it is minimal.

Best used for recovery. Or just go with compression calf sleeves/socks for when the boys need a breather.

Kim 3:40 PM, February 01, 2010  

compression socks for recovery only :)

Julie 3:42 PM, February 01, 2010  

I do not own any compression tights yet...must get in future:) Steve go to my my post and help me out:) Happy Monday!!

Julia 3:46 PM, February 01, 2010  

I wear CW-X compression tights for all long runs, including 3 HM and one Marathon. I truly believe they allow my muscles to go further with less pain, and helps with recovery also. I don't think it makes me faster, but I fatigue less

Matt Ellenberger 3:49 PM, February 01, 2010  

... and 2am!? What are you doing to yourself Steve? I guess superman doesn't need any sleep

live better 4:04 PM, February 01, 2010  

Steve, do you wear the sandals when wear the compression tights and do they factor in with the better times :)

Regina 4:40 PM, February 01, 2010  

I have worn the socks for recovery and find them to work really well. I have CW-X tights and use them for long runs; I find they help keep my legs from fatiguing when piling on the miles.

Or, it could all be psychosomatic.

teacherwoman 6:44 PM, February 01, 2010  

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Chad 7:45 PM, February 01, 2010  

I've thought about them and then I look at the price tag.

Tawnee Prazak, M.S., CSCS 7:53 PM, February 01, 2010  

Testing the effects of compression wear is on my idea list for a potential thesis topic. Whether I focus on its effect during exercise, on recovery or even on thermoregulation (say, in Hawaii sort of conditions) is still being debated/researched. I'd love to hear any input or ideas you may have for me!

Unknown 8:17 PM, February 01, 2010  

Thanks for posting this review. I have been curious about the recovery aspect of the compression clothing. I have a lot of calf issues and was curious if I should look into getting some compression calf sleeves. I think you tipped me in the direction of getting some.

Ironman By Thirty 8:43 PM, February 01, 2010  

I'm a big fan of my CW-X tights. I have found they decrease recovery time. Not only that, but they make me feel fast when I am running. That part is probably all in my head though.

it's all about pace 8:37 AM, February 02, 2010  

Steve... don't run around in your sweaty tights after you workout... you will get the crotch rot and the itchy butt.... I kid you not

Steve Stenzel 12:11 PM, February 02, 2010  

I think if I had a pair of calf sleeves, those might help during runs or races. I have calf issues, so that might help.

And thanks for the warning about crotch rot! Maybe I was getting close to that when I spent 12 hours in my tights! Glad it didn't happen to me! Whew!! ;)

Ginny M 9:32 AM, February 03, 2010  

I finally caved and bought a pair of CWX stability tights this fall. I use them for my longer runs, or when I'm doing more hills. I am a believer! They really do help me with recovery, and I'm convinced that they also help during both types of runs as far as fatigue. I plan on getting a pair of the CWX halftights for the warmer weather.

Ms. R 8:26 AM, February 04, 2010  

Hey Steve! I love my compression techy clothing. I have the CW-X tri shorts, running capris and pants. They really help during workouts to keep my muscles from feeling as fatigued and they're also great for recovery. I have compression socks too and I also use those for running and recovery. I give all my compression clothing an A-/B+ -- it's all great for recovery and to prevent cramping/muscle fatigue.

Anonymous,  9:36 AM, February 16, 2010  

What a great resource!

Nate in modesto,  9:00 PM, April 04, 2011  

I have been using them on cold morning runs in training for a marathon and I feel much better during and after.

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