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. I'm not sure there is a significant improvement in aerobic capacity while wearing graduated compression tights, as it is hard to measure this accurately. However, they do seem to improve comfort and reduce leg pain. Over longer distances, this improvement in comfort may translate into a faster time. I have found that wearing compression clothing does make a significant difference to recovery. Compression tights reduce discomfort while they are worn, and they also reduce overall recovery times.
1 Training Tights
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 tights come without even a key pocket, which is an annoyance, but they do have 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.
1.2 Zoot CompressRx Active Tight (recommended)
These tights offer high levels of compression and use a variable weave to apply the different pressure to specific areas. The tights are a little tricky to put on, and the lack of distinct waistband causes them to slip down somewhat. Like the 2XU there are no pockets, but there is also no waistband. This means pulling them up periodically, which is a distraction. On the other hand, the high level of compression is an advantage.
1.3 Saucony Men's AMP PRO2 Training Tight (worth considering)
The Saucony training tights are higher compression than their recovery version, but less pressure than the Zoot or the 2XU. These are the only compression tights I’ve tried that have an ankle zipper, which is rather nice. I liked these tights, but they were not good enough for me to keep them.
1.4 CW-X Tights
I used the original CW-X tights and they do provide a little more compression than Form Fitting clothes. The CW-X tights provide most of the extra pressure along certain lines, indented to help align muscles and bones. I found that the pressure provided had marginal benefits compared with Form Fitting tights and nothing like the 2XU or Zoot tights.
2 Recovery Tights
2.1 Saucony AMP PRO2 Recovery Tight (Highly Recommended)
These are my favorite recovery tights. They have mild compression and are remarkably comfortable. As recovery tights, there is no waistband. 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. There is a workout version of these tights that have somewhat higher compression and a waistband that I've not tried.
2.2 Zoot CompressRx Recovery and Travel Tight (Recommended)
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.
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.
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. I no longer use these sleeves.
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. This pressure caused me heel issues, so I no longer wear these. The white color is good in hot conditions.
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.