Running tights, running leggings, running pants – whatever you call them, they are essentials for running in colder weather. While running pants have been around for years, the technology has come a particularly long way in the past decade. Compression tights are the most advanced leg clothing on the market today, and will give any cold weather runner a degree of comfort and support that was unknown just a few years ago. Here, we will provide an overview of the compression tights market for runners and provide links to our product reviews.
Getting to the Point
Lots of people tell us “We love your gear overviews, but just tell me which product to buy.” If you aren’t in the mood to read on, our favorite tights are:
- The Opedix tights. Great design that accounts for joints and muscles differently. Order from Opedix with the “CDesign” code, and get free shipping.
- 2XU’s Elite Tights. Thinner than the Opedix, the Elites are a great all around tight if you are simply looking for compression throughout. Great for use under a layer as well.
Compression tights really have a three benefits that runners look for. First, they provide warmth on colder weather runs, especially the thermal type of running tights. Note that some non-thermal tights provide a minimal level of warmth, so if this is your main motivation, go for the thermals. Second, a good pair of compression tights helps aligns the joints and muscles during a run. This can be a huge benefit for those with chronic joint or tendon issues. Finally, the benefits of compression are proven when it comes to reducing recovery times. Helping someone recover faster between workouts can be a big deal. That is why we recommend compression tights for experienced or beginner runners alike.
Compression tights for running borrow technology from other cold weather gear for active lifestyles. They are typically made of a blend of elastane (also branded as Lycra or Spandex), polyester, and sometimes wool. They use a very fine knitting process to be sure they provide strong, graduated levels of compression – the graduated point meaning that they offer different compression at different parts of the leg, giving you pressure where you most need it. A good compression tight will provide a few key benefits for a runner, triathlete, or marathoner:
- Blood Flow. Studies over the past decade have shown that well-designed compression gear helps increase and equalize blood flow. This has a couple key benefits, namely a more even distribution of temperature across the area on which the garment in worn, and an ability to improve muscle recovery due to the increased circulation. For this reason, compression tights are used by many runners during recovery, even in between runs.
- Warmth. While many compression tights are made for warm temperatures, then are often a favorite of runners during colder periods. A good compression tight provides warmth where you need it the most in the winter, particularly on your joints. Specifically, if you look for tights marketed at “thermal”, they should have warming properties built-in. Not all compression pants are meant to be thermal, however, and several are actually quite comfortable in warmer temps and indoors.
- Alignment. The best compression tights on the market allow for excellent range of motion even in nearly every activity, while aligning key joints. The knee and ankle joints, in particular, are hinge joints that benefit from having some guardrails around how they move. While the jury is out on just how much alignment they provide, many sports therapists will say that even wearing compression tights is a constant reminder to a runner to keep the leg well-aligned.
- Dryness. Like many active products today, runners should expect a good tight to wick away moisture instead of holding it in the garment. Technology has improved to a point where this is a standard feature, especially in a price point of $50 or more. This functionality is not only important form a comfort standpoint, but also keeps you safe. Getting chills on a long run could lead to major issues.
- Durability. Needless to say, an investment in cold weather running gear can be best justified if the piece lasts for a long time, without it losing its shape or its warmth. Even in running tights that are mainly used for recovery, you want to look for a garment that has strong, even construction and as few seams as possible.
Compression running tights can be made for either running or cycling (there are even basketball-specific compression tights on the market). Based on the designated activity, they tend to be made slightly differently but we’ve found them to be interchangeable. The fact that many runners are also cyclists means that you don’t need to different stocks of tights. In many temps, a good pair of athletic compression tights fits comfortably over a pair of cycling shorts, providing the padding of the short with the compression of the tight. Some compression tights are made more for downhill skiers, and the can often be heavy enough that we would recommend not using them for running. However, cross-country ski compression tights often work fine for running in colder conditions.
Note that many leggings that fall into the compression tights category are actually intended for different uses than running. Some are purely designed for recovery, usually the ones with very high compression levels. Others are really not as much compression tights as they are yoga pants. While it tends to be a little more straightforward for men, the womens compression pants market is actually a combination of yoga pants, running and workout leggings, and true compression tights.
Increasingly, makers are introducing compression tights that are specifically designed for recovery. They are not intended for use on runs or rides as often as they are meant to be worn after hard workouts. Some of the best evidence of compression benefits suggest that the most significant benefit they provide is to accelerate recovery in between workouts by improving blood flow.
There are several major brands of compression tights. Below are a few leading brands, along with some notes as well as links to our reviews of each.
Opedix: High-end running tights with prices approaching $200 per pair, but doesn’t cut any corners. Perhaps the gold standard when it comes to compression running tights. Made with high quality and excellent engineering, and claims to actually take pressure off of a runner’s knees. Decidedly in the upper end of the market, but perhaps worth a try if you are a serious runner who will use the tights often. One thing we like about Opedix is that they are not trying to be all things to all people. They make running compression gear — we like that. Note that Opedix gives our readers free shipping on all purchases. Just use code Cdesign at checkout when buying directly at www.opedix.com.
CW-X: Increasingly popular maker of compression tights (as well as socks and shorts) geared toward both runners and cyclists. Makes a few different weights so you can match the tight to the season. Priced at between $60-$200 per pair with high quality. You can find their lineup here, and they feature both full-length tights as well as 3/4 length which are becoming quite popular.
Louis Garneau: Although originally made for cyclists, we’ve found their tights to be an excellent cold weather option for runners as well. Less expensive, often as low at $75, and the popular LG Oslo tights are a big hit in our circles.. We still think that the area where they excel is probably in the cycling tights category, as the company was originally founded by a Canadian bike racer and is a cycling company at heart. Still, they are worth a look for runners, since their tights are not built with a seat cushion or cycling-specific geometry, so are quite versatile. You can find the LG lineup here.
Sugoi: This versatile maker of triathlon, cycling, and running gear makes a variety of compression apparel, and is priced below $100 for most products. Perhaps the best value pick of the bunch, Sugoi has gained a reputation for very good gear while maintaining an ability to keep their prices reasonable. We talk to triathletes, runners, and crossfitters who swear by them for both warm and cold weather conditions. We are in particular big fans of the Evolution line, which can be had for the value price of $50.
Pearl Izumi: The well-regarded and highly visible maker of triathlon and other gear has a line of compression capris and tights, at a price point that is palatable to many ($75 and below). Pearl Izumi has been one of the leading makers of tri and running gear since their inception in Japan decades ago and subsequent move to the USA.
2XU: We have watched 2XU improve their offering of tights, as well as shorts and socks in addition to triathlon wetsuits. They have a solid line of well-made and attractive garments, with smooth seam construction as well as good compression paneling. We particularly like their Elite line of products, which is a nice high-end option. The Elites run about $90, which is a competitive price based on what you get. 2XU is a reliable maker of all types of compression gear — we like their shorts, socks, and long compression shirts as well.
Tommie Copper: Tommie Copper does not have the extensive lineup that the others do when it comes to fitness tights, but they do a good job with the limited array that they make. The Vitality tights are the main running and workout tights for men, while their 3/4 female tights are popular choices for yoga wear. Overall, while they don’t have the array of models the others do, the Tommie Copper compression tights are worth a peek.
Recovery Benefits of Compression Tights
The benefits of compression gear are both anecdotal and backed-up by research. Anecdotally, many runners and cyclists swear by them as an aide to their workouts, keeping muscles and ligaments firm and aligned. Many suggest that using compression wear helps their joints feel better after cold weather runs, making them a critical part of a cold weather running apparel wardrobe.
The more firm benefits are on the recovery side. Studies on marathoners over the past decade show that compression wear helps speed up recovery in athletes, especially in runners. Other studies have shown an even more pronounced effect in the reduction of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in athletes after hard workouts.
We hope that our reviews and discussion of various compression running tight brands and models will help you find the perfect pair. Remember, you often get what you pay for, and a good pair of compression tights can last you for many, many workouts. If you are taking your health and fitness seriously, you will be thankful if you do not skimp. Plus, it is likely that your gear will last longer. This not only goes for compression tights, but for all other compression gear — socks, shirts, compression sleeves — you name it. Follow the care instructions will help you maximize your investment.
We would love to hear from you! If you have used compression tights for running that we have not mentioned here, tell us about it. We just might test them out and mention them in our next round of reviews.