Compression tights or socks do not appear to help runners go faster or farther, according to new research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The research was presented in June at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting.
By the numbers — Researchers asked 20 experienced runners to run at 80 percent of the maximum speed for 30 minutes on two separate days, one wearing running shorts and one wearing compression tights. Motion capture technology tracked each runner’s body position within a fraction of a millimeter, and the research team measured the runner’s leg strength and jump height after each run. The runners wore heart rate monitors to measure exertion. Although the compression tights reduced muscle vibration, there was no significant difference in energy exertion or the strain on joints with or without compression.
Bottom line — Compression tights and socks are thought to work by reducing muscle vibration and therefore prevent fatigue. But the researchers could find no difference in running performance or energy expenditure when runners wore compression tights. The study was relatively small and may not reflect individual experiences. It’s also possible compression tights had other benefits that the researchers couldn’t measure. As the researchers noted, if runners feel they are getting a benefit from compression tights or socks, there was nothing in the study to suggest runners shouldn’t wear them. Among the more surprising aspects of the study was that the sponsor, Nike, which sells compression garments, didn’t suppress results when they didn’t show a benefit.