If you’ve ever tried compression tights (or socks, or sleeves, for that matter), you know that they can feel a) like a nice, supportive hug, or b) like you’re trying to squeeze into a slim-cut pair of jeans right after they come out of the dryer. Needless to say, one is much more enjoyable than the other. And yes—we know that these garments are designed to be tight (to help increase blood flow to your muscles), but they’re also supposed to make you feel better while (and after!) you run, so it’s important to find pairs that are supportive without being super uncomfortable. And we know that can be a challenge.
Good news! We did the heavy lifting for you. Read on for a quick guide to help you determine just how big—or little—a squeeze you might want on your next run. Or keep scrolling for our list of top-performing pairs, no matter what level of compression you’re looking for (or what price you’re willing to pay for it).
Although experts haven’t yet reached a consensus on whether or not wearing compression tights will actually yield better fitness results, we think there are enough compelling studies and positive runner reviews to confidently add any of these styles to your workout wardrobe.
Function: So why buy compression tights, you ask? Unlike joggers or other pants with a looser fit, these are designed to apply a healthy squeeze to your leg muscles and glutes, which helps circulate blood away from your legs and back to your heart. The added pressure should also help keep your muscles steady and reduce vibrations as you run. In theory, you’ll be exerting less energy this way, which gives you more power to tackle the task at hand. Another bonus: they’re often thicker (with reduced air flow) than regular tights, which naturally helps keep your legs warmer when running in cold weather.
Fit: The definition of compress is literally to squeeze or apply pressure. So, when brands use the term “compressive fit” to describe a garment, they mean it’s going to be tighter than normal. Think skintight, otherwise, your circulation will not be affected at all. With that said, you don’t want them so tight that they restrict your movement. The material, ideally a combination of spandex and polyester, will stretch, but only so far. For the most part, you should be able to tell whether or not the fit is right once you put them on. Don’t overthink it.
Breathability and Comfort: Again, while these tights bring the added benefits of compression, the bottom line is that if you’re not comfortable, you’re never going to perform—or recover—any better than usual. Your tights should be tight, but not too tight. And if you’re not going out hard, then you won’t need as much of a squeeze to help you recover after. You should ultimately look for the same elements you would normally look for in a solid pair of running tights: moisture-wicking, breathability, softness, good pockets and, depending on when/where you’ll be running, sun protection and/or extra warmth.
How We Chose
The idea behind compression, which essentially squeezes your lower body in all the right places (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves) while you run, is to improve your circulation and reduce muscle vibrations. There are varying levels—some are tighter, more effective, and truly less comfortable than others, but they all have potential benefits. We set out to find a good mix of pairs that could serve everyone—from runners who are seeking major muscle support to those who just want to feel a bit more stable while they stride. Below are our top picks.
Hip-to-ankle compression on the Zensah Recovery Tight stabilizes your muscles and improves circulation all at the same time, which can both boost your performance while running and reduce the amount of recovery time your muscles need afterward. Designed with a lightweight, ribbed fabric that massages your muscles as you go, they’re also super breathable and naturally wick sweat (and stink). Available for both men and women.
- Breathable fabric
- Full leg compression for allover support
- Definitely won’t replace your super-cozy, wear-all-day pair (i.e., compression doesn’t translate to the same loose comfort level of yoga pants)
The graphic design of these tights gives you a good visual idea of how compression is strategically incorporated into the fabric to enhance your performance and recovery. But in addition to offering all the benefits of a body-hugging fit (extra stabilization, boosted circulation, etc.) around key muscles, joints, and ligaments, this smart, breathable pair also wicks moisture away quickly and provides both anti-bacterial and UPF 50 sun protection.
- High-tech support means less muscle fatigue and faster recovery
- Flexible fit
- Pricey—but worth it
If the fabulous metallic lines on these tights aren’t enough to make you naturally want to move faster, don’t worry—the compressive boost you get from Nike’s exclusive Power fabric should do the trick. This shiny pair features a snug, supportive fit, but still keeps you comfortable while you stride with built-in stretch, flat, chafe-resistant seams and a smooth, wide waistband. Bonus: There’s a small back pocket and a larger hip pocket, so you have plenty of room to stash your stuff.
- Pocket for your phone
- Serious style points
- Stretchy fabric adds flexibility, but means less compression
The benefits of compression are not limited to running laps. These buttery soft, nylon and lycra leggings offer a compressive fit, which Athleta describes as more of a “hug” than a “squeeze,” that is perfect for yoga—or any other workout, really. They’re comfortable enough to wear while working from home, and just tight enough to give you a good sense of support while you sweat. They’re fairly lightweight, so probably not heavy enough for the coldest days, but they should keep you warm most of the year. Plus, they don’t have an inseam, so you never have to worry about chafing again. And the best part—they’ve got side pockets that are big and tight enough to stow a phone without any bounce。
- So comfortable you won’t want to take them off
- Plenty of pockets for all your stuff
- Low compression
With thousands of positive reviews online and an incredibly low price tag to match, these comfortable, CompressionZ leggings are pretty hard to resist. They’re made with a nylon-spandex blend fabric that offers plenty of compression without limiting mobility. They’re also anti-microbial, breathable, and wick moisture away as you stride. The body-hugging (i.e., keep your blood flowing) fit makes them an ideal pair for running, traveling or recovering post-workout. Oh, and they come in lots of fun colors and prints.
- Unbeatable price
- Available in multiple colorways
- Not as high performance
Slip on this high-performance pair to optimize the time in between your workouts. They’re made with Skins’s highest level of compression and, unlike the company’s running tights, they were developed specifically to help improve recovery, boost circulation and reduce muscle soreness after tough training sessions. They’re also styled appropriately for wearing while you’re out and about—running errands, walking around the neighborhood, traveling, etc.—with a breathable, sweat-wicking fabric, a modest pair of shorts over the men’s tights, and a wide, comfy waistband on the women’s。
- High level of compression
- More modest, comfortable style
- Better for recovery than running
ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOWBEST FOR BOOSTING ENERGYUnder Armour Men’s UA Rush Seamless LeggingsUNDER ARMOUR$85.00
Part of Under Armour’s signature Rush line, these seamless tights are designed to improve strength and endurance. Made with mineral-infused fabric that somehow reflects the energy emitted from your body when you run directly back to your tissues and muscles. That means in addition to the muscle-supporting benefits of compression, you’re also receiving a constant, on-the-go energy boost. Additionally, the fabric effectively wicks sweat, so you’ll stay dry in the heat and warm in the cold. Ventilation spots are also strategically placed in the parts of your lower body that need to breathe the most, which allows you to keep your attention focused on goal crushing。
- Innovative new fabric uses minerals to give muscles a boost
- Breathable, anti-stink
- Only comes in black
If you’re looking for a supportive running buddy to give you a boost through all kinds of wintry weather conditions, this is it. Made with a luxe, two-tone fabric that keeps your body warm and your blood circulating to all the right places, these compressive-fitting tights offer the perfect combination of stretch and support. They also feature a double-sided construction with a wind-blocking lining on the front, a soft, wide waistband, reflective sashes for added visibility, and a few smartly placed pockets.
- Warm, wind-blocking fabric
- Three roomy pockets
- Supportive, yet not super compressive fit
- Pricey (but oh-so-cozy)
When you want research-backed compression benefits, 2XU is a good brand to check out. These nylon-elastane tights provide graduated compression that’s more powerful at the extremities to support blood flowing back toward the heart. The brand even says it uses a medically-certified device to measure the pressure on all its tights and socks to ensure they’re providing the right amount of gradient compression. Despite all that squeeze power, the tights feel comfortable during or after a long, hard workout. A thick, high-quality fabric supports and energizes your muscles while keeping your legs toasty on cold-weather runs.
- Graduated compression for improved circulation
- Snug, supportive feel
- Not a very wide waistband