Looking to soothe tightness, prevent strain, and speed up recovery?
Then look no further than running compression pants.
May runners swear by wearing compression gear, whether leggings, socks, shorts, or other items, touting an increase in athletic performance and recovery rate.
Initially prescribed by physicians and sold in drug stores, compression gear was originally designed to improve circulation for issues like arthritis and diabetes.
Compression gear has been used as far back as ancient Greece to help with wound healing. However, those days compression hear has taken the fitness market by storm.
There are a few things to remember when choosing running pants, including size, material, and length.
The following guidelines will answer all your concerns on choosing the right running compression garments.
What Is Compression Gear?
Also known as compression fit clothing, compression gear refers to any article of tight-fitting clothing designed to boost circulation and limit swelling. It usually consists of clothing worn too tightly around your body.
The garment is often woven with spandex-type fibers.
The clothing is skin-tight and specifically designed to apply pressure on the body in a controlled manner to get the most benefit without limiting and hindering mobility.
Typically made of 80 percent nylon and 20 percent spandex, compression gear conforms tightly to the body, which may help prevent muscle oscillation during impact while increasing blood flow to the area.
In today’s article, I’m going to focus on running compression pants, but I’ve already published an entire post about running compression socks. Both serve different purposes, and you’ll need to decide what’s most important.
What Are Compression Pants?
To ensure we’re on the same page, let’s start by explaining what I’m referring to when I use the term “compression pants.”
Most people, when thinking about compression pants. They conjure up images of leggings or yoga pants. These aren’t the same thing as compression pants.
Here’s the truth.
Compression pants consist of form-fitting gear usually made of breathable spandex. Compression pants may look like a pair of leggings but are tighter. They snugly hug the body from the waist down to the ankles.
Compression leggings were initially used to prevent varicose veins and other vein problems from developing into chronic conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis. However, all sorts of people wear them to prevent vein diseases, especially travelers.
A lot of people sport compression leggings during and/or after exercise in the hope of boosting performance and improving recovery.
Compression pants are commonly worn to improve performance or recovery rate while hitting the gym, running, sports, or other exercises.
That’s why they’re common among athletes from a variety of backgrounds. Not just runners.
Most compression pants are made from spandex, lycra, polyester, and the like. These are designed to fit tightly around your skin, acting like a second skin and providing extra support.
Therefore, compression pants will support that affected area if you’re dealing with any sort of lower body pain or injury (apart from your feet).
Additional benefits of compression technology include:
- Moisture wicking to help prevent chafing, blisters, and rashes
- Keeping the muscles warm to avoid muscle injury
- Reduce pain from muscle stiffness and soreness
- Providing stability to the joints
- And so much more.
How Compression Works
A tight fit may reduce oscillation of the muscle during high-impact activity as well as boost circulation to the area by squeezing blood back toward the heart.
The theory is that compressing the muscles helps keep them contained and supported, improving circulation.
Of course, don’t take my word for it.
Research published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise journal reported that “a small aerodynamic drag reduction” can boost performance. This is especially the case when it comes to speed sports like running.
That’s not all.
The flexibility of compression pants may also provide additional support to your joints.
Research in the Journal of Sports Science found that the elasticity of compression gear could improve flexion and extension torque and helps your lower body muscles control the swing phase of your running stride. That’s a good thing if you ask me.
Some of the acclaimed benefits of compression pants include the following;
- Preventing strains
- Reducing muscle fatigue
- Increasing power output
- Improving recovery
- Groin support
- Making runs more comfortable
- Improving venous return
- Speeding up the recovery process
- Improving endurance
- Removing lactic acid faster
- Regulating body temperature
- Providing extra support to muscles and joints
- Reducing in-flight ankle swelling (edema)
How To Choose Running Compression Pants – The Tips You Need
Now that you know a thing or two about compression pants, let’s look into how to choose the best pair for you.
Size and Length
Before you make up your mind, make sure you’re familiar with the size charts. Choosing the right size is key if you’re serious about reaping the benefits of compression gear.
You can also use online size guides (provided by most brands) to help you choose the right pair.
Compression pants are also available in shorter lengths: 7/8 length, capris, ½ length, and shorts.
So what should you do?
Try a couple of different sizes and return those that do not suit your body shape.
You should also choose a length and thickness that suits your running temperature. For example, full-length tights are a bad idea in the summer.
Overall, shorter pants offer better ventilation and range of movement, whereas a longer pair works well for preventing chafing, especially if your thighs tend to rub together.
But also remember that compression pants that are too loose won’t provide pressure for your muscles and joints. Therefore, you won’t reap the gains associated with compression gear.
Wearing long socks with 7/8 tights will prevent overlapping.
But in the end, your choice will hinge on your personal preference as well as your sense of modesty.
Never used a pair of running pants before? Then you head to the nearest running store to try on a few different pairs.
The Right Tightness
Proper fit is key when choosing compression pants.
Make sure to find the right compression pants that fit tightly but not so tight that it cuts off your circulation. By rule, these should be tight—almost like a second skin—but without being too restrictive.
The tightness can be tricky, I know. You should choose your regular size but expect them to feel super tight when you first put them on. The tightness should fade as the pants adapt to your body shape.
Here’s the good news.
Thanks to the abundance of brands in the market, you’re likely to find a pair of compression pants to fit your body tight.
I’d dissuade you from buying tights online unless you’re ordering more than a few with the purpose of returning those that do not conform to your size and body shape.
You should always try on a new pair in-store first.
Compression pants should be stretchy, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
Most running compression pants are made with polyester, a polyester-spandex blend, or a nylon blend to create a tighter fit.
Polyester-spandex mixes provide better stretch and great moisture management, whereas fabrics with a high concentration of nylon will wick sweat faster.
Remember that tights for colder temperatures might also feature merino wool for greater warmth.
You should also choose fabrics with anti-microbial properties, especially if you tend to sweat a lot and/or often run in the heat.
But overall, avoid compression pants that have cotton in them. This dries slowly and is likely to cause chafing.
Cotton fabrics will cause a chill as soon as you work up a sweat.
Other fabrics to avoid include bamboo, which is warmer than synthetics but does not wick moisture, and polypropylene, which has similar properties to polyester.
Compression pants can help you stand out with some reflective strips, especially if you run early in the morning or later in the evening (when it’s dark out there).
I’d recommend paying attention to visibility if your compression pants are of dark colors, which would be virtually invisible in the dark.
Can’t find pants with reflective strips? Then go for brightly colored fabrics.
Most compression pants feature pockets or pouches for storing items such as phones, IDs, car keys, or money.
These can come in especially handy on runs during which you’re not using a vest or pack.
Choose running pants that feature pockets. This, in turn, can help keep your valuables safe and snug without distracting from your training. At the very least, consider getting pants with a small zippered key pocket sewn into the waistband.
Need larger pockets? Then keep in mind that pockets sewn closer to the waistband will bounce less while running.
A common mistake many people make is choosing the cheapest pants, which may appear to have all of the aforementioned features, but often will wear out faster and need replacement in just a few months.
Compression running pants range from $20 to $90+, but you get what you pay for at the end of the day.
So before you go for the cheapest brand, consider investing your hard-earned money in a pair of quality pants, especially if you intend to use them often.
Well-made running pants last longer and offer more protection. High-end compression pants are more comfortable, more durable, and hold their shape for longer.