Tighter Tights – A look at Compression Pants
You’ve seen them before. Admit it. You probably laughed out loud watching some sweaty guy run past you in a pair of spandex pants.
** Guys only though – No one laughs at girls in spandex. Actually… we guys encourage it **
Now I confess that yes, I run in tights. But no, not just any tights. My tights are actually tighter than your average tights and much tighter than that guy you laughed at. What I am talking about are “Compression Pants”.
Compression pants are very tight pants made to reinforce/support your legs and increase circulation while doing activities. I can believe the increased circulation part as my biology courses taught me that as your muscles contract around your arteries and veins, they dilate. With the pants, your muscles are squeezing those arteries and veins even more.
The companies that market them have nice fancy brochures, technical jargon and patentable materials all claiming better performance simply by wearing their stuff (which comes in more than just pants btw). I’m not going to get into the marketing hype here. Instead, I’m just going to give you my take on them.
The pants I wear are the CW-X Insulator pants (for colder conditions, pictured above) and the CW-X Ventilator (for warm conditions). The main difference between the two is the Insulator fabric is a little thicker, for warmth of course, whereas the Ventilator’s have patches where the fabric is very thin and more like a screen, seemingly to let hot air out. The overall pants are made of a type of spandex like material that compresses your legs and keep all your muscles… well… tight. Common between the two are the long thin stretches of extra less stretchable fabric that forms a web around your legs made to support your joints and muscles. When you put them on, if you’ve never worn any type of tights before, you’re going to feel like your naked. Especially when you start running. Don’t worry, you’ll get over it and you’ll actually want to feel like your running naked more often.
Just a note, although they market Ventilator’s as suitable for hot or summer environments, I’d say they would still be too hot to be running in the summer with. Although I haven’t tried them in 30 degree weather, I’d probably just move to shorts (and maybe compression socks) just so I wouldn’t overheat. More to follow on that one when summer comes around in full force.
So, how do they stack up? Well, I’ve been running with compression pants for the last 7 months and I can honestly say they really really help with recovery. If I run 25 km with the pants and keep them on for an hour or so afterwards, I am not sore whatsoever the next day. That’s a pretty amazing feat.
Do they increase performance or make you faster? I’m really not sure. I seem to be running just as fast or slow as before, so if it does make a difference I’d say it would be minimal for a normal runner. Extra support for the joints and muscles? Again, I didn’t notice a real positive nor negative effect. You definitely know you’re wearing compression pants when you first start running, but after your warm up, it feels pretty much normal.
The pants themselves across the various brands are around $100 – $160 depending on what you get and where you get them from. If you want to try compression clothes but not willing to spend that kind of money, compression socks (which go up to just below your knee) will run you around $30. I find the socks just ok+ as they don’t compress as much as the pants (not as tight) and they don’t cover the important quads. The socks will cradle your feet though. Something the pants won’t do. However, I’d say pants are the way to go if you can afford it.
That being said, I’d definitely recommend compression pants for training. The recovery aspect alone makes me wear these pants every time I train outdoors. Not knowing whether my performance goes up or down for a competition leaves me going without them for the moment. I don’t race enough that I want to gamble on that yet. I probably will in the future though.