Dress to Compress: The Facts

Find the gear that can squeeze more from your performance, speed your post-run recovery and keep you injury-free

by Justin Bowyer

skins a400 compression tights
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Compression Tights: The Benefits

  • Increased recovery speed: Used as part of the 'RICE' regime (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate), compression leggings - or tights - can rapidly reduce recovery time and minimise delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Less wasted energy: Tights reduce muscle oscillation, particularly through the quad and calf.
  • Less cramp: Lactic acid is flushed out by the squeezing of muscles and increased venous return - which may help reduce or even eliminate cramping on the run.
  • Decreased injury risk: The force of impact is lessened, helping to support and stabilise injury- weakened areas such as the knee.
  • Greater running efficiency: Supports injured or prone-to-injury areas such as the calf and quad, gently squeezing and cradling problem areas, reducing muscle oscillation and helping to keep muscles warm so that they can work more effectively.
  • More Oxygen: Compression socks increase venous return and help deliver oxygen to muscles with a tight fit around the foot and a graduated squeeze up the calf.

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Discuss this article

Yo, fellow runners.

Fancy elite running gear won´t make you a better runner, but another gullible shopper that thinks spending huge amounts of money will catapult them somehow to high levels of perfomance.The only thing you need is already in you: a heart, two legs and the will to challenge yourself and constantly improve. Running is mostly about happiness and finding an expresion of freedom in the physical activity, not a means to enrich some already fat cats dressing in corporate suits.

El Abisinio

Posted: 03/08/2011 at 11:09


A bit of an statement, I know.


Posted: 03/08/2011 at 11:24

Ah bless you, I think you are spot on.
Posted: 03/08/2011 at 12:11

if people want to wear posh gear, let 'em. Why should it bother anyone else?
Posted: 03/08/2011 at 12:17

Never been bothered by that amigo. I just offer my (critical) view on something that RW takes for granted, which should not necessarily be written on stone.
Posted: 03/08/2011 at 12:34

I agree with the whole thing of compression gear. People assume that compression gear will improve their times by certain amounts without any extra effort and this is part of the appeal - most of the benefits are probably placebo like. However, they could probably improve their times by more by simply training harder or smarter.Compression gear is nonsense and just another fad, which RW, with corporate committments and nothing else to write about take it upon themselves to cover monthly. Besides, as we have seen with the super-suits in swimming, elites have shunned performance enhancing apparel without sacrificing faster times (i.e. Ryan Lochte WR in FINA WC). It seems to me that compression gear is yet another expensive accessory aimed at the middle class runner with plenty of discretionary income, with a superiority complex.
Posted: 04/08/2011 at 13:08

Silly question... has anyone actually done any proper studies to see if this stuff works?  Or is it just a vanity corset for your various body parts? 

I read this bit about compression tops:

Better breathing: Tops train the breathing by gently squeezing and supporting the chest with each inhalation. This encourages a more focused breathing style and can even reduce the risk of a painful stitch.

This seems counter-intuitive (i.e. bollocks) to me.  Surely in a free state, the chest expands the way it wants to in order to get oxygen into the lungs most effectively, so this is actually constricting that movement, isn't it?  How can your breathing be "more focused" than what you've learnt to do naturally, in a state (i.e. running hard) where getting as much oxygen into your lungs as possible is a priority?

Posted: 04/08/2011 at 14:17

PhilPub wrote (see)

Silly question... has anyone actually done any proper studies to see if this stuff works?  Or is it just a vanity corset for your various body parts? 

Why don't you ask my friend Paula Radcliffe?

Posted: 04/08/2011 at 20:58

Yeah. Let Paula and whoever wants to join this forum. It´s in fact open to every single man or woman that have felt the joy or running at any point in their lives. But I guess the underlying purpose of some of the RW articles is not always to promote the practice of sport, but to serve as a commercial channeling to some of the most powerful brands of running gear in the market. I mean, c´mon, I´ve read in dozen places that running is a very cheap sport, only needing a small investment in shoes and little more. Most likely it´s all a commercial scheming to create a need that we never had before. My friend Arnulfo Quimare would certainly agree.

Posted: 04/08/2011 at 23:04

And now it turns out, according to some, that it's better to run barefoot so you don't even need the shoes!
Posted: 10/08/2011 at 00:47

Lots of good stuff written here. My own unscientific experience is that some sort of knee-length socks AFTER a hard workout does help my calfs recover. But I'm very prone to DOMS ...delayed onset muscle soreness... in that part of the leg. Oh, and as I do triathlon, the tight-fitting tops help reduce my wind-resistance on the bike, especially into a headwind. But mainly, yes, another ploy for the companies to extract money. Good compression socks are available in cheapo supermarkets every now and then for a couple of pounds. And lycra tops are cheap. Train harder and enjoy our simple sport !

Richard, the old git from triathlon.

Posted: 10/08/2011 at 07:26

Don't jump to conclusions! As a triathlete I've been following this debate for a while. I had very much been of the opinion given the absence of hard data that elite/professional triathletes compete in their sponsor's compression gear as a highly effective marketing strategy for their sponsors. On the other hand, good data has started coming through on the benefits of wearing compression gear (socks or tights) for recovery AFTER training. Since I am prone to very stiff calves after long runs that have left me almost hobbling for up to two days I thought I would splash out on an Aussie brand of calf guard that you can buy online in the UK for little over 20 quid. Many of my fellow triathletes were already both competing, training and recovering in them. And my experience is that they have made a huge difference. Not only for recovery, but if I now wear them for my 2 hour trail run I feel absolutely no stiffness in my calves afterwards. After a 1 hour run my legs feel completely fresh. Believe me, they make a big difference. And many others are reporting the same. And, as I say above, you don't need to spend much over 20 quid to reap the benefits of compression.
Posted: 10/08/2011 at 08:31

As a triathlete I wear compression socks which have helped to reduce calf soreness, which I was plagued with prior wearing these socks (especially when i wear them post exercise too)
Posted: 10/08/2011 at 09:14

Has anyone worn compression gloves???  Another gimmick
Posted: 10/08/2011 at 10:25

My compression long pants are very good for training in the winter. Becuse thaty are tight and don't move too much they don't chafe at all. That makes them worth the money for me. I think having used them compression gear seems to work better for recovery than when actually running but they do make a very good quality base layer too.

Posted: 10/08/2011 at 10:33

I do btw very much agree with the OP. How many people do you see with long pants on boiling hot days with vests on top and wooly hats on their heads. I always dress for the conditions first and worry about looking good last.
Posted: 10/08/2011 at 10:36

If people want to wear compression gear to look 'professional' fine, let them get in with it. But, some of us have good reason to wear it. I personally wear compression tops because I have some issues with my back where the discs scrape the nerve in my spine, after a good warm up the compression top holds everything togther nicely and seems to prevent running pain. I seem to also get some relief from back pain post running too, as the natural gel betweens the discs seems to find it way back into place, so, I've found the compression tops really help here.

There are some scientificly proven advantages for using compression gear, specificially the long compression socks, they improve oxygen flow to the muscles during racing by up to 5%; in tests they have been said to prolong the effect of fatigue. Never used them myslef, but would not rule it out if I thought it could knock a minute of a 10k time! If a club runner was aiming for a PB, why should they be laughed at for trying to get every advantage they can get?

Posted: 10/08/2011 at 11:46

There is a discussion about compression socks here:


and I notice that Nike's are £9 in JJB but I am sure you can get them cheaper. 

But the article promised 'do they work'. The Tri-ers say yes but where is the research. Compression has for a long time been recommended for some injuries but I suspect this is more as movement control support I alway wear short lycra shorts in the gym

Posted: 12/08/2011 at 08:15

I have only recently purchased some compression wear, (May 2011) both tights and top. I dont wear them every time I run but I do wear them on my long runs or races. I have been very pleased with the results though. Not in a reflection of times or my race performance but how they have helped my body to function and recover. I recently ran the Paddy Buckley route in North Wales where I was running for just under 23hours, during this time I wore the leggings the whole time and I believed they really helped with my leg recovery. No major DOM's occurred for me after that challenge; however when training for the event that had happened on several occassions where I was not wearing compression wear. I have suffered in the past from calf and hamstring issues and I have noticed I am getting less problems in these areas. It maybe that I am just getting fitter and perhaps I am attributing these to the compression gear unnecessarily. The wicking properties of the top make it excellent in hot or warm conditions (as does it UVA 50 rating). For the first 8 hours of my Snowdon Ultra it was 24-27 degrees C and the skin top was excellent for keeping me cool without feeling soaking wet with sweat. I also use the top for long runs (3hours plus) when I take a back pack as it reduces friction on my torso and since using it I have stopped getting a very sore lower back. I have not tried the gloves and probably will not as I never have any problems with my hands, I do however, know some other ultra runners who do suffer with their hands growing to twice their normal size due to blood not traveling away quick enough. They then find it very hard to move their finger joints to grab bottles, food etc so perhaps in such circumstances the gloves may be of use then. So I suppose in my personal view I do find compression gear useful, but as other people have stated it's choosing when to use it. I would say that 80% of my training is done without it and it probably would not benefit my training during those periods. For the other 20% though its my first choice of gear.
Posted: 12/08/2011 at 09:49

I wouldn't say compression gear improves race times, but I do believe there is something in them aiding recovery during and from training.  Therefore reducing injury and allowing more training may see an improvement in race times.

Posted: 12/08/2011 at 20:11

My experience, as a relative beginner, has been that compression socks worn after a run (even over night much to the amusment of the Mrs) really do help with recover. I'm much less stiff in the calves now than ever before with the same amount of warming up/down and stretching.

 Cost wise, they were £7 from eBay (the brand is More Mile) I'm sure there are loads of other 'better' makes and models out there but these work well for me.

Would I ever wear them whilst training or racing? hmmmm...maybe....:0) 

Posted: 13/08/2011 at 14:31

I wear my Skins tights in bed Or other times  my footless Skins socks in bed

I don't think I wear my running vest in bed

I just seen the new compression sports wear in Kettlewell 


 Pretty impressive

Posted: 14/08/2011 at 21:36

It just amazes me that someone who has (obviously) tried and tested something and found it has not worked for them has then gone on to assume that it cannot and does not work for the rest of the population.

 At 3.30am I don't have the words...but something along the lines of arrogance springs to mind!

Posted: 24/08/2011 at 03:34

I didn't think it was arrogrance...I thought it was just someone putting their opinion out for discussion.......and he stated RW seems to cover it all the time as saying its the best thing to become the next Bolt........................

these are the kind of discussions that are helpful.................not the opinions of a few who are being sponsored by the companies but the opinions of loads of normal runners who have tried them and made up their own conclusions.............

I am still deciding but I do think they aid recovery after a session............never used them to train in though

Posted: 24/08/2011 at 06:31

Like a lot of you i have wanted to try out compression wear for a long time after reading and hearing about its benefits as both a recovery tool and a base layer and like most of you i was put off by the price.

I am a bit of an instagram geek and came across a uk brand called armatura. I noticed quite a lot of people on there using it and was pretty surprised how cheap it was, think i paid under a tenner each for both the leggings and a top.

Now firstly as a garment this stuff feels great on, you immediately notice the comfort and thermal properties of the leggings and long sleeve top. I first tried mine out on a morning 5 miler and although nothing magical happened they took away the initial chill of a cold winters morning then kept my body at a stable temperature throughout the run while keeping me dry and comfortable. 

I left the tights on for the drive home (i run on a moorside about 40 mins from my house) and im pretty sure this helped out with the aches i usually get after the hill sprint i do at the end of this run. Actually wasnt too bad leaving them on as they dried out very quick so it wasnt as gross as it sounds.

Im not sure id spend 70 quid on something like this as i work out most days so i would need several sets and just cant afford that but with this brand being priced under a tenner i have bought a few from them and been impressed. The site i used was www.compressionwear.com and when i ordered the postage was free, dont know if it still is though.

have fun out there.

Posted: 05/04/2014 at 10:59

Glad you've revived this thread Fitnessgirl. 

I wore compression socks at the end of day one of a two day ultra  I slept in them  and my legs felt much better than expected the next day.  They hardly ached at all after 66 miles.

What I really don't understand is the rise of arm guards/sleeves.  What on earth are they supposed to be for!

Posted: 05/04/2014 at 11:11

I have used the calf sleeves and they seem to have much the same effect of the leggings. I found some cheap ones on ebay so figured it was worth a go...

I can only assume the arm sleeves are intended to improve blood circulation in your arms as obviously they are an end limb so any compression there is going to speed up overall circulation. 

Posted: 05/04/2014 at 17:17

Arm warmers ? Cyclists have used them for decades.
Posted: 05/04/2014 at 18:06

I appreciate compression gear may not physically work but I agree some things create a good placebo effect. If it makes you a happier runner and gives you more confidence when out running, then why not buy it?

One example I think of is lucozade sport, I'm sure it's all marketing hype and most don't need it, plain water will suffice. But if it keeps unfit people exercising on a treadmill then I can let it go.

I once read an article in a mountain climbing magazine that suggested, if you buy gear that makes you happy then mentally you have nothing else to worry about, you can focus without worrying "is the gear good enough" in the back of your mind and can't blame a poor performance on anything other than yourself. 

Posted: 07/04/2014 at 21:02

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