Updated: June 3rd, 2017
Compression Tights? Study Finds They Don’t Improve Performance

Compression tights – and compression garment in general such as socks and sleeves – gained increasing popularity in the past few years.

Athletes of all levels swear by them and the benefits they provide: from increased blood flow to reduced “wobbliness” to lower aero-drag.

A new study from the Ohio State University, though, has found no benefit for runners using compression tights.

The experiment

In the experiment, participants run 30 minutes on a special treadmill at 80% of their maximum speed, one day while wearing compression tights and one day without.

Ajit Chaudhari, who led the study and is an associate professor of physical therapy, orthopedics, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, describes the experiment more in detail:

“We have a specialized treadmill with force sensors embedded in it that measures how hard a runner’s foot is landing, how they’re able to push off and how that changes over time,” Chaudhari said. “The runners also wore a heart rate monitor so we could measure their exertion throughout the run.”

To determine muscle fatigue, participants’ leg strength and jump height were tested before and after the run.

The results

The study, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual meeting, shows that although compression tights greatly reduce muscle vibration, they don’t reduce muscle fatigue when compared to running without the tights.

“When your muscle vibrates, it induces a contraction that uses energy, so the theory was that less muscle vibration would translate to less fatigue,” said Chaudhari. “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.”

Does this mean compression tights are useless?

Not necessarily. Like every study, this one was limited by a few factors, for example the length of the run. It is possible that over a longer distance – for example a marathon – results would have been different.

Although the results showed that the compression tights did not reduce fatigue in runners, Chaudhari says there may be other benefits. If runners feel better while wearing compression tights, that’s enough to keep using them.

“There is nothing in this study that shows it’s bad to wear compression tights,” he said. “Every little bit of perception counts when running long distances, so they may help runners in ways we aren’t able to measure.”

Further, many runners (and companies’ marketing material) say that compression garment help during recovery – and their effect is compound over a runner’s total running history, not on an individual run.

What’s your experience?

Do you use compression tights and socks? Do you find them useful? Were they a waste of your money ?

Please share your experience with us in the comments below!

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