Compression tights won’t improve your running performance, study finds

The tights can cost hundreds of dollars, but they didn’t help runners go farther or faster.

A study from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has found that wearing compression tights does not translate to better running performance over short distances – despite many manufacturers claiming this in marketing campaigns.

In the study, participants ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 80 percent of their maximum speed on two separate days, once while wearing compression tights and once without them. To determine muscle fatigue, participants’ leg strength and jump height were tested before and after the run.

Ajit Chaudhari, the lead researcher in the study, said: "When your muscle vibrates, it induces a contraction that uses energy, so the theory was that less muscle vibration would translate to less fatigue. However, the reduced vibration was not associated with any reduction in fatigue at all. In our study, runners performed the same with and without compression tights."

Aside from reducing muscle and soft tissue vibration, compression tights have been said to increase muscle warmth, wick away moisture, reduce chafing and swelling, increase blood flow, and reduce aerodynamic drag.

It’s worth noting that the study was funded by sportswear company Nike Inc., a competitor to major compression tights manufacturers including Skins and 2XU. Chaudhari also told us that the study could be limited by the length of the run, as participants also didn’t display significant losses in strength or jump height in the no-tights condition. Studying muscular fatigue with and without the tights after a longer run is the next step in the research.

Image credit Nchenga.