While some wear them for stylistic purposes, many people will tell you that compression tights aid in their workout. More specifically, some runners insist that donning these tights helps them run longer, faster and recover more quickly with less soreness.

For a new study presented at this year’s American College of Sports Medicine, researchers in turn put the latest compression-wear to the test. Courtesy of a project that was funded by Nike, Ajit Chaudhari, who works in the physical therapy department at Ohio State University, and his colleagues tested two prototype compression tights that were provided by the athletic company.

Roughly 20 experienced runners were chosen to try out the apparel, ultimately wearing three different outfits: running shorts, low-compression tights and high-compression tights.

Compression tights are designed to keep muscles from vibrating too much, as the oscillation is what many experts insist causes muscle fatigue and damage to fibers. In making use of special reflectors that are capable of recording even the smallest of movements, Chaudhari measured how much vibration the runners’ leg muscles experienced. The strength of the leg muscles were also measured by having the participants jump as high as they could before and after a 30-minute run.

In short, whether wearing the running shorts, low-compression or high-compression tights, there were no changes in the runners’ jump height or strength.

“What we found, when we tested them after a 30-minute high intensity run, was that we don’t see any real effects of the compression tights,” Chaudhari informed. “I would say that it’s one strike against expecting improvement in performance from compression tights. We don’t see any evidence that they result in improvement in performance, so for someone who is wearing the tights specifically to try to improve performance, I’d say there isn’t any evidence that they are worth the time or money.”

Following, Nike released a statement saying, “Our goal is to better understand all aspects of human performance. The effect of compression products on performance is one of many areas we study and an area that is often studied by other researchers. The Ohio State University study, which focused on 17 athletes for up to 30 minutes per athlete, produced an interesting data point that delivered an additional perspective on the study of compression tights. Our role is to take athlete feedback and data from studies like this to develop world-class products for athletes at every level.”

On the other hand, however, Chaudhari did document that the compression reduced vibration of the muscles; but it remains unclear as to if the reduction in vibration had any effect on fatigue.

“If they make you comfortable, they could help you run further,” said Chaudhari. “But if somebody is thinking, ‘gosh, I need to set personal records and I’ll use the tights because I believe they will help my performance,’ you have to go in knowing that it’s kind of a shot in the dark.”

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