A review of graduated compression wear

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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)

2XU Elite Compression Tight
These are my 2XU with the pockets from an old pair of Race Ready Shorts.

These are my preferred running tights, with a useful level of compression. My wife added in some extra pockets in the back from some old Race Ready shorts, which was far harder than we anticipated. The latest version of these tights comes with a key pocket, and a waistband with a fastening cord which I upgrade with a toggle. 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, also available as the cheaper 'non pro' version, but the Pro is worth the extra.

1.2 Zoot CompressRx Active Tight (worth considering)

Zoot CompressRx Active Tight
A close up of the knee area showing the variable weave. You can see that there is less pressure and more room for the kneecap.
A side view, showing how the variable weave matches up with the kneecap. I’ve highlighted the changes in weave (and therefore pressure) using the blue diamonds.
The top view, showing that these tights have the extra pressure closer to the kneecap than the CW-X below.

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 this is a more effective approach than the extra material used in the CW-X shown below. This targeted compression should help to support and position the kneecap without applying direct pressure, and allow for more freedom of movement. The knee support might help with Knee Pain. The tights are a little tricky to put on, and the lack of distinct waistband causes them to slip down more than the Saucony. They have are no pockets, which I miss. While I liked the targeted 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

I like the way the CW-X Stabilxy looks in this color scheme, though they are also available without any contrasting panels or outlining.
A schematic of where the extra layer of material is positioned.
The CW-X Stabilyx tights showing the support bands going around the kneecap.
A side view, again showing the distance between the support bands and the kneecap.

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 such as the 2XU or Zoot. 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. Like the Zoot, the targeted compression might help with Knee Pain, but I suspect the support webs are too far from the kneecap to make much difference (see pictures). CW-X at Zappos.com.

1.4 CW-X Ventilator Tights

CW-X Ventilator Tights - notice the mesh over the thighs.
A heavily manipulated image, which should make the mesh panels more obvious.
The back view.
Another heavily manipulated image, showing the calf mesh.
The ventilation panels highlighted in light blue.

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. CW-X Ventilator at Zappos.com.

1.5 Saucony Men's AMP PRO2 Training Tight] (limited availability)

Saucony Men's AMP PRO2 Training Tight

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)

2XU Compression Recovery Tight

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)

Skins RY400 Compression Tights

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)

Zoot CompressRx Recovery and Travel Tight

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

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

2.5 Saucony AMP PRO2 Recovery Tight (unavailable)

Saucony AMP PRO2 Recovery Tight

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

Skins SOX

These calf sleeves do not seem to have sufficient compression to make much difference in training or daytime recovery. However, I've found them remarkably comfortable while sleeping, offering enough compression to make a difference. Skins SOX at amazon.com

3.2 2XU Calf Sleeves

2XU Calf Sleeves

These sleeves work well, with good compression and are available in white which is good for Running in the Heat. I have the version with the stirrups, which keeps them in place well. However, I've found that the bottom of the sleeve presses on my Achilles' tendon more than I'd like. 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.