Pinpointing the exact beginning of the trend towards compression wear may begin back in 2001 when NBA star Allen Iverson scored 51 points for his team on the very first night he wore a compression sleeve on his right arm. Iverson had an injured elbow and was required by his doctor to treat the problem with a compression sleeve. The result of that game prompted many other players to start wearing sleeves. From this point, it was only a matter of time before they moved on to other compression garments such as shirts, socks and leggings. Compression pants and compression leggings are now a common stock of normal attire.
This can also be seen in running, gym, and cycling as well as other competitive sports. Many athletes have adopted compression clothing only to swear by the absolute effectiveness of functional clothing. What is even more interesting is how compression wear is making a path into mainstream as preferred attire. You will see people wearing compression style clothing in grocery stores, restaurants and other public areas, only to let curiosity for this phenomenon make you wonder why you are missing out on the trend.
With that, startup companies and popular brand name sports companies are thriving with their own compression clothing collections. Researchers and sports scientists are quickly scrambling to prove once and for all whether compression clothing benefits are real or imagined. You can expect an influx of more studies in the next year to speculate on what is driving this trend. If compression wear looks and feels good, then any research is not applicable to a concept which is in full force. This is the future happening now. Functional clothing has a place.
Assigned value by the medical industry
Yet the history behind compression garments shows its humble beginnings from the medical field. Over a half century ago doctors discovered the uses of compression via graduated compression stockings. Compression stockings are routinely used through-out hospitals for post-operative surgeries. This also extends to air travelers who may be at risk for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), as graduated compression stockings are medically-approved to combat leg issues.
Since the medical field found healing practical uses for compression wear, it was only a matter of time before the connection was made with sports activities. When an athlete would suffer injury or be at risk for injury, it made sense to protect the weaker areas with a doctor approved application which was effective.
Medically, compression wear quickens recovery time and reduces pain and inflammation. The big argument by researchers is touting evidence which proves compression garments improve performance. The theory is these garments increase blood circulation, which delivers more oxygen and ridding of lactic acid waste. These mechanisms of action will supercharge performance.
Dr. Mike Hamlin, an associate professor of exercise and sports science at New Zealand’s Lincoln University studied the effect recovery aided by compression wear and his research reported immediate recovery improvements among rugby players who wore compression leggings. Hamlin mentions one 1996 study which discovered trained volleyball players increased their average—but not maximum—leaping height while wearing compression shorts. But he says there’s “little evidence” that endurance athletes perform better while wearing compression tights and tops.
According to Dr. Thomas Wakefield, a professor of vascular surgery with the University of Michigan Health System, compression is still a highly regarded ‘mainstay’ of treatment and recovery especially in areas of lower blood clotting and venous circulatory issues. He also states compression garments are helpful in place of blood thinning drugs, controlling muscle cramps, and restless leg syndrome.
A 2013 review of compression research states not to rule out the possibility that the placebo effect may explain these performance gains. However, the author also states ‘you can’t really trick an athlete into thinking she’s wearing compression garments if she’s not.’
Here is what is known about the compression gear story. There are medical conditions for which compression clothing is beneficial. And when worn after exercise, muscle recovery is fast.
What are compression pants and leggings Used For?
Compression wear has many positive attributes and compression bottoms are the most popular choice. While all compression apparel has a multitude more of exceptional benefits you can expect these advantages when you wear a pair over any given time
- Improves blood flow for any circulation issues. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients are being delivered to the muscles to prevent swelling
- Aids in preventing DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and varicose veins
- Reduces DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) DOM occurs 24-72 hours after intense exercise, impacting subsequent performances
- Flushes out waste by-products especially lactic acid and carbon dioxide. This is essential for overall health, especially in regards to high aerobic activities and aging.
- Enhances recovery time from injury. This is where compression clothing crossed over from medical into sports and fitness industry.
- Controls body temperature, good for all weather conditions
- Physiological advantages. People love how they instantly provide a toned and more muscular look. Compression leggings are a confidence booster, and motivation for a better lifestyle.
- It aids in proprioception which is how you sense your body positioned in space. Efficiency in movement is improved by reducing the amount of muscles which need to be activated. The end result is you are less tire
- Sun Protection is infused into the clothing with the latest technology offering a 50 SPF sun protection rating.
- Technology has also allowed for the inclusion of anti-bacterial and anti-odorless within breathable fabrics.
- Moisture is repelled away from the body and will evaporate at a much faster rate than other types of clothing.
How compression clothing is categorized
Here is the big misunderstanding about compression pants and leggings. Most consumers believe they are only directed at athletics, thereby passing up the opportunity to be a part of a fascinating futuristic trend in functional apparel.
There are separate categories for compression wear:
Compression pants and leggings are meant to hug the skin. They need to fit super tight in order to maximize the benefits. While you might be nervous about wearing something so close to your skin, trust these fabrics make the body look good. There is an active athletic shape which seems to magically pop once you slip on a pair, lifting the butt and tightening the legs.
You don’t have to watch sports to know how popular compression gear is. If anything, they have helped to bring immense interest to this trend. But other people wear these too, such as hiking, winter sports, cycling and in the gym. Sweats are no longer the popular option in active wear.
For those suffering poor circulation, leg issues, injuries and so on, compression pants, tights and leggings offer a tremendous amount of relief. As pressure is applied, a tingling massage effect takes over, offering to soothe achy, tired legs. Oxygen is pumped through the blood and back to the heart, while lactic acid by-products are flushed away. DVT is adverted while wearing compression pants or socks. Varicose veins are manageable with the addition of a compression garment. The medical benefits behind any compression wear cannot be overlooked.
While it is hard to comprehend at times, mainstream society loves the new. Wearing compression pants is a bold statement of self. Just as sweats once told people to be more laid back, compression clothing is telling them to get active, choose healthy and represent a lifestyle change. It doesn’t help that this type of attire looks good on the body and makes the body feel good all at the same time, ultimately pushing it from the shadows into everyday wear.
The difference between compression pants, legging, and tights
Basically, not much as it is usually a descriptor of weighted fabric in the design. Tights are simply a sheer legging, more resembling of pantyhose expressions. Leggings are considered a substitute for pants, as they are footless and body-hugging. Yoga pants are caught in the middle between leggings and pants in that they can be tight and narrow or boot cut, flared, and bell-bottom. They are a popular alternative to jeans and they flatter the body as do some leggings. Yoga pants are the heaviest in the fabric weight category.
Apply this to compression bottoms and it is the same thing with exception to a couple of things. Compression pants and leggings are meant to be a snug fit and are made of stretchable fabrics like Lycra, Spandex, Polyester and special blends. Instead of compression tights being like panty hose they are more like the leggings, just a twist of word descriptors. As well, when looking for a compression pant to be worn under clothes it would be referred to as a ‘base layer’.
Benefits of Compression pants and compression leggings
Compression bottoms are specifically designed to fit like a second skin. They offer more support than regular active wear. Immediately upon wearing you will notice a firmer butt and legs. They chisel problem areas while offering a delicate massage. Here are some added benefits:
Compression leggings are designed to minimize skin discomfort. While running or working out, friction can be a culprit for a later rash and skin irritation. This functional clothing has minimal seams and non-rolling waistbands, keeping comfort in check and chafing to a minimum.
While there is no evidence scientifically to prove this point, many runners believe wholly in compression gears’ ability to lower wind resistance, similar to leg-shaving done by Olympic swimmers. Type of clothing worn in competitive events could mean the difference between first and second place when it comes down to a time savings of even a second.
Your circulation is about to be amplified with a healthy abundance of oxygen. Your blood will start pumping efficiently. Oxygen is good for the brain, for the mindset. Legs receiving this will be rejuvenated, less tired and less pain.
Because of how you look and feel, your mind is going to get pumped up. This means sheer motivation. Hold on to the promise of a gentle massage and great looking legs, save for the rush of feeling better.
Your muscles are ready to be pushed to their maximum potential. They will recover fast from exercise and set you up for fitness success. Leggings reduce muscle oscillation, and lactic acid is flushed out which helps reduce or even eliminate muscle cramping.
Any area which may be prone to injury receives a nice cradling to reduce muscle oscillation and to keep muscles warm so they can work effectively.
Count on compression leggings to delay the onset of muscle soreness and reduce recovery time. Compression is all about less wasted energy.
In case you need a little help understanding key lingo used to medically explain compression wear, this will help you as you pursue your compression legging experience:
- Graduated or ‘Gradient’ Compression: Compression wear can be found in varying degrees of pressure. Gradient simply means the amount of squeeze at the beginning point to a gradual release at the end point.
- DOMS: Also called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, this refers to the general stiffness which occurs after 24-72 hours of intense exercise.
- Blood Lactate: This is more commonly known as lactic acid, and is a waste product in the human body. Raised levels of lactic acid lead to fatigue and a reduction in performance.
- Muscle Oscillation: The natural vibration which occurs in the muscle as it either is flexed or experiences impact.
- EIMD: Also called Exercise Induced Muscle Damage, this is what the medical field uses to describe muscle tears and wear caused by exercise.
- Venous Return: Abbreviated as VR, this term means the flow of blood back to the heart. You will often hear how compression wear can improve venous return.
Explore compression options
The key factor in having a positive experience with any compression wear is to become familiar with brands. There are many knock-off manufacturers eager to take your money for a less-than quality product which carries little value in looks or purpose.
A good solid tip for buying any compression gear is to go to the company’s website and research. The best companies like are dedicated to continuously improving their products.
While your jaw might drop at the price, the next step to make is to look for that same product on sites like Amazon. You are guaranteed to save a few dollars and still get the integrity of product.
There is a checklist to keep in mind when trying to determine a great product. Here are some key words to look for when shopping for compression pants or leggings:
- Promotes better blood circulation
- Offers a snug fit but maintains range of motion and flexibility
- Produces a faster recovery time after workouts due to oxygen removing lactic acid build-up
- Improves performance with the muscles
- Stays in place, does not ride up or roll down during activity
- Will retain original shape after multiple times of wear
- Allows great flexibility and motion without possibility of skin irritation
- Lightweight and breathable fabric with SPF 50+ sun protection for all day comfort
- Graduated fit to promote increased circulation throughout legs
- Mesh through for proper ventilation
- Moisture wicking/moisture sensing
- Anti-odor technology prevents the growth of odor causing microbes
Also emerging onto the market this year is a new technology which infuses menthol into compression wear to aid in inflammation and encourage relaxation in muscles.
The best of the best in compression pants and leggings
Compression gear as stated is different from one company to the next. There are companies which shine in the industry. Here are our picks due to meeting all the requirements of compression in construction, fabric, fit, price, reputation, and quality.
Best Compression Pants for Men
Any compression item by DRSKIN is worth a second look. They put out some amazing products. The DABB11 Compression Tight Pants Base Layer Running Leggings are made for both men and women. Like many dedicated compression wear companies, DRSKIN has its own patented technology inside the functional fabric with Aerocool. Aerocool is a water diffusivity layer, a water metastases layer and a water absorption layer. Their products also include UV 98.8 percent protection. These leggings are great for snowboarding, training, skiing, competition, and all weather sports.
2XU is the leader in excellent compression products. When you wear a pair of their leggings, expect to feel the difference right away. While athletes will wear Nike when they are less serious because the fit is looser, when they get down to business it is either 2XU or UA they are wearing. UA is another top product company in compression wear.
2XU technology is called PWX FLEX fabric and it delivers optimum power and flexibility to protect the abductor, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. Their leggings are strictly graduated compression. These are unisex too, available in many sizes with the 2XU logo always embossed into the design. 2XU also offers different levels of this same item with a higher price tag for added features such as weighted pads.
As mentioned UA reigns in performance compression wear. They make nice base layer compression leggings and tights such as UA Men's ColdGear Armour Compression Leggings with a dual-layer fabric of stretch-mesh lined in the inseam panels. UA’s eye for detail makes them a truly innovative sort in the industry. You can expect all the extra functional features preferred in compression gear. Anti-odor, anti-moisture with top wicking technology provides complete comfort.
UA makes an excellent ¾ legging version of this worth checking out. Many men prefer to wear the ¾ cut under shorts during workouts and training.
Nike deserves honorable mention only because some of their compression leggings receive high marks by serious advocates of compression clothing. While one pair gets strong kudos, the seemingly next pair doesn’t fit snug enough or hold form after continuous wear. The biggest complaint appears to be problems with the mesh lining ripping quickly.
Coovy is moving fast up in popularity and gaining a solid reputation for consistently providing quality. Their Sports Compression Under Base Layer 3/4 Tights Workout Armour Pants are an amazing snug fit made of a combination of lightweight and midweight compression fabric.
Coovy uses a 360-degree full stretch construction to help enhance muscle mobility. The price isn’t bad either. This is good value for the buck. Expect to see more compression wear by Coovy in the future.
And while men like compression pants or leggings, women do too. The look and feel of compression wear gets the confidence going and the mindset strong. While 2XU, UA, and DRSKIN go unisex on compression pants, women still have other choices in performance active wear.
RBX is scoring high points amongst women for the stretch jersey fabric in their compression leggings. They also include the mesh lining for breathable fabric and anti-odor technology. Specifically, the RBX Active Women's Body Contouring High Waisted Crop Capri Compression Leggings offer a snug fit with complete support and range of motion.
Best Compression Pants for Women
RBX Capri compression leggings also include a wide reinforced waistband to prevent roll-down while moving. The added support gives the body a toned, lifted look. There is a wide variety of colors, patterns and designs available by RBX.
The newest well-loved compression pant being bought today is the Best Women's Athletic Compression Pants created by former MLB Player Gregg Olson. They come in a wide range of sizes and are designed with Aero TM technology. You will easily release heat. You can expect odor free fabric with Freshguard technology and some serious moisture wicking abilities. They look great and feel great with a snug-hug fit.
As said before, there are many knock-off manufacturers who advertised ‘compression’ but when you read the fine print, there is no actual compression involved. For women, if you are serious about compression, it is best to stick with the unisex companies mentioned above which are dedicated compression wear manufacturers then to compromise functionality.
2XU has a new product in the way of compression running pants. Technology is on a whole new level here. 2XU Men's Elite MCS Compression Tights are light years ahead with the fabric and look on these. These leggings are driven to advance human performance. Made with cutting edge performance fabrics, 2XU uses a next generation compression technology called MCS, or Muscle Containment Stamping. The fabric traces gently over key muscles, and tendons for a focused compression.
They have a unique drawstring waistband to allow for an adjustable and more secure fit. Even if you are only a weekend warrior, you are going to be so at a maximum level.
Moms or moms-to-be don’t get left out of compression clothing either. If anyone can benefit from functional clothing, it is the endearing pregnant woman who needs relief for her legs. Hormonal changes and the added pressure on the legs can be a circulation trigger, denying the extra oxygen needed for the legs. Edema and varicose veins can become problematic during this time. The biggest relief lies in compression leggings or pants.
Gradient compression clothing, especially compression leggings is an excellent way to love your legs during pregnancy. Compression placed on the legs is a gentle way to massage and improve leg health. It is very effective in preventing swelling or edema and reducing the painful heaviness often felt during this special time. Many women will wear them post-partum along with tummy compression garments.
Preggers makes active wear leggings which massage your legs as you hustle through the day. The 10-15 mmHg compression also offers extra support for your growing tummy. Popular amongst pregnant women, Preggers are the leggings to own because of their amazing comfort and the breathable fabric. Once again, it is best to stick to a company which specializes in this area, especially for pregnant women.
Another area not to be forgotten is for women who are thicker, rocking the plus sizes. Women look great in compression pants no matter what size you are, but the average size is 14 and manufacturers have become keen to this. If you check some of the better brand names like UA, and 2XU you will see they cater to many sizes, and are unisex in nature.
There are some compression leggings you just can’t help but love. Lupo has received the ultimate highest rating with these leggings. In fact, there is not one review which is less than 100 percent. Compression leggings make the butt and legs look amazing. They snugly hug your body to give you the ultimate confidence booster. You don’t have to worry about a rolling waistband, it provides extra support. The bonus is the anti-wick technology to keep any sweat at bay.
Compression wear is going mainstream fast. This is understandable given the benefits of compression pants and shirts. The futuristic appeal of clothing which performs on your body seems to be right on mark. Technology will eventually progress to clothes being able to moderate temperature, change colors, detects moods, charge devices and hold sweet cologne infusions. It is inevitable. Meanwhile, compression wear is now. And regardless of the lack thereof of research, it may be better to assign compression wear to the medical industry where it originated.
Because it is improving performance, maybe not ‘technically’ in a scientific measurable way, but placebo or not, when people slip on compression garments they automatically renew the mind. The mind then asks the body to perform better. And it does. And it feels amazing while the muscles settle down, and recover. Is this not proof enough?
If you have yet to experience the utter satisfaction, the gentle massage, the exhilaration of extra oxygen, the uplifted butt and toned legs, and all the other wonderful benefits which are born out of donning a pair of compression leggings, hurry. Get on board today. They may make you throw your favorite jeans out.