A review of graduated compression wear
I've tried a number of different graduated compression bottoms for both recovery and training. I was initially skeptical of the benefits of compression clothing, but I've become a believer over time. My review of the available research indicates that compression clothing is a worthwhile investment. Personally, I found wearing compression clothing while training improves comfort and reduces leg pain. I have also found that wearing compression clothing makes a significant difference to recovery. Recovery compression tights reduce discomfort while they are worn, and they also reduce overall recovery times. I even sleep in compression tights on occasion.
1 Training Tights
These tights are explicitly designed for use while running and training.
1.1 2XU Elite Compression Tight (highly recommended)
These are my preferred running tights, with a useful level of compression. I've worn these for recovery until my wife added in some extra pockets in the back from some old Race Ready shorts. The latest version of these tights comes with a key pocket, and a waistband with a fastening cord. Like all graduated compression tights, they do tend to slip down slightly, but the waistband keeps them in place. I find they are far more comfortable than Form Fitting tights and I miss them if I run in my 'ordinary' tights. 2XU Elite Compression Tight at Zappos
1.2 Zoot CompressRx Active Tight (worth considering)
These tights offer high levels of compression and use a variable weave to apply the different pressure to specific areas. This variable weave is the most technically advanced of the tights I’ve tried, and they are a more effective approach than the extra material used in the CW-X shown below. The tights are a little tricky to put on, and the lack of distinct waistband causes them to slip down more than the Saucony. Like the 2XU there are no pockets, but there is also no waistband. This means pulling them up periodically, which is a major distraction. While I liked the high compression, the extra tension made them slip down too often to be viable. If Zoot changed the design to include a waistband, I order a pair immediately. These may be worth trying to see if they stay up for you. Zoot CompressRx Active Tight at amazon.com
1.3 CW-X Stabilyx Tights
The Stabilyx tights are intended to provide extra pressure along certain lines to help align muscles and bones. This extra pressure comes from a second layer of material, so these tights are quite a bit thicker, less flexible and warmer than other tights like the 2XU. There is also rather more vertical tension, pulling the tights down at the waistband, which is a little uncomfortable. I was hoping that the tights would provide more knee support than other tights, but as you can see from the pictures, the extra supporting bands are some distance from the kneecap. If you like the idea of variable compression, then I’d suggest the Zoot approach of using different weaves of material is superior to the CW-X approach of adding a second layer. CW-X does have a similar approach in their Revolution tights, but these are rather expensive and don’t provide as much compression.
1.4 CW-X Ventilator Tights
These compression tights have mesh panels to reduce the heat buildup. While this makes them cooler than the standard CW-X Stabilyx, they are still warmer than other tights like the 2XU. If you prefer the CW-X style of support webbing, then these are a better option than the standard tights until the weather gets cold.
1.5 Saucony Men's AMP PRO2 Training Tight] (limited availability)
The Saucony training tights are higher compression than their recovery version, but less pressure than the Zoot Active, and similar to the 2XU. These are the only compression tights I’ve tried that have an ankle zipper, which is rather nice. I like these tights, but the lack of waist band is remarkably annoying as they tend to slip down while running. These are one of the few compression tights with a pocket, which is zippered and in the small of the back. The biggest problem with these tights is they are hard to find.
2 Recovery Tights
2.1 2XU Compression Recovery Tight (Highly Recommended)
While these tights and not as comfortable as the Saucony’s, they provide a little more compression. They have a good waistband, with a drawstring which prevents them from falling down. I find myself wearing these as often as the Saucony’s, though they're not comfortable enough to sleep in. 2XU Compression Recovery Tight at zappos.com
2.2 Skins RY400 Compression Tights (worth considering)
These tights mixed bag. I like the thin material around the knee area which reduces pressure on the kneecap, and allows the knee to bend easily. I also like the thin material which is cooler in warm weather. These tights have a strong waistband, which should be a good thing. Unfortunately the waistband is a little too tight, and is not adjustable. Worse, the waistband is a thick piece of elastic that tends to get twisted inside the tights and become comfortable. These are worth considering, but I only have a pair because they were on sale at a particularly low price. Skins RY400 at amazon.com
2.3 Zoot CompressRx Recovery and Travel Tight (Worth considering)
These tights have the highest compression of any I've tried. They include compression over the foot and a complex weave that varies the level of compression over the leg. This includes lower compression over the kneecap for instance. These are less comfortable than my Saucony recovery tights, but the higher compression makes them worth owning. I found these tights too low rise, with a baggy waistband so they tend to slide down more than any other tights I've tried. I had to sow tucks into the waistband so that I could wear them without having to continually pull them up, which helped a little. I also ended up cutting the foot off, as this was aggravating my Mortons Neuroma as well as being quite uncomfortable. Zoot CompressRx Recovery and Travel Tight at amazon.com
2.4 SKINS Travel and Recovery Tights
These tights have similar compression to the Saucony tights, but with foot compression. They are also thinner than the Saucony so they are cooler, but not as comfortable. I did not get on with these tights and sent them back. SKINS Travel and Recovery Tights at amazon.com
These are my favorite recovery tights. They have mild compression and are remarkably comfortable. As recovery tights, there is no waistband, but I have no problems with them slipping down. I wear these during the day under jeans and sometimes sleep in them. They are made of a material called Cellaint that claims to have special properties that help reduce pain, with some reasonable science based on treatment of diabetic patients. I'm not sure if it's the material or the design, but these are by far the most comfortable compression wear I've come across. Sadly they no longer seem to be available.
3 Calf Sleeves
3.1 Skins SOX
These calf sleeves do not seem to have sufficient compression to make much difference in training or recovery and I no longer use these sleeves. Skins SOX at amazon.com
3.2 2XU Calf Sleeves
These sleeves work well, with good compression. I have the version with the stirrups, and I found that the bottom of the sleeve presses on my Achilles' tendon, so I’d get the simple sleeves next time. The white color is good in hot conditions. 2XU Calf Sleeves at Zappos.com
4 Medical Compression Socks
My first test of compression socks used some medical compression socks from a local pharmacy. These helped recovery, but I found the compression of the foot too high. Simply cutting the feet off produced a cheap and cheerful calf compression sleeve.