If you’ve ever wondered about compression gear, you’re not alone. Compression garments have long been used in medicine, to improve circulation and venous return (the rate of bloodflow back to the heart). More recently they have become very popular among athletes, since compression is believed to contribute to better performance and recovery. The 2XU brand out of Australia/NewZealand delivers on style, comfort, and wearability, makes bold claims about what its products can deliver, and enjoys a certain celebrity cachet.
2XU tights claim to offer more than twice the compression of other brands, resulting in gains of up to 10.6 seconds over a 5K run, reduced heartrate, 18 per cent increased bloodflow to the quads, and up to 47 per cent less muscle soreness “when worn between repeated maximal running bouts.” The tights also offered nine per cent greater endurance in field tests consisting of a series of runs with incremental speed changes over 1,200m.
Compression is also helpful during recovery. The brand claims a 4.8 per cent increase in blood lactate removal in a 60-minute recovery period. It also says that wearing the tights results in less muscle damage, faster recovery and less muscle soreness, thanks to the muscle-wrapping effect of the compression technology built into the tights.
MCS stands for ‘muscle containment stamping,’ which describes the way the technology is built into the tight, with specific muscle groups targeted to specific sports. In the running tight, the compression is in the quads and calves.
How compression works
The theory is that compression produces better performance by increasing blood flow. Imagine squeezing a tube of paint. The paint moves faster when the tube is squeezed. Compression garments work the same way. The squeezing improves blood flow to the heart, which in turn pumps out oxygenated blood to the muscles, which is then returned to the heart via the veins (venous return), clearing lactate in the process. Compression garments speed up the process, thus boosting performance as well as recovery.
Compression also reduces muscle oscillation, or the vibration that occurs with the impact of every footfall, by holding the muscles more firmly during exertion. Reduced muscle oscillation results in reduced ground reaction forces on the calf and muscle strain, especially during the toe-off phase of running.
How does it achieve all this? The more force needed to stretch the fabric, the better the compression it provides, though fabric weight also plays a role. 2XU has developed a proprietary fabric with the ideal power-to-weight ratio. The fabric also wicks moisture, and features Polygiene® permanent odour control.
Research on 2XU’s products is undertaken by the Australian Institute of Sport, which trains Olympic athletes at its Canberra, Australia facility. At least 15 research papers on 2XU’s products have been accepted for publication in various journals.
(One study on compression socks published last year in Vol. 12, No. 5, reported that the placebo effect, i.e. athletes’ level of belief in the performance and recovery benefits of the product, may play a role in its efficacy, but that the physiological benefits were nonetheless significant. The study concluded that “athletes should use compression garments between exercise bouts to improve recovery and enhance subsequent performance.”)
Note that the tights also use silver technology to eliminate odour. (And yes, it works.)
The 2XU’s MCS compression run tight has not one, but three pockets in the rear waistband (one with a zipper). It retails for CDN $150.00. We found it fit well and felt supportive without being uncomfortably tight (though, appropriately, it was more challenging to pull on over your feet than regular tights).
2XU also has a line of heat compression called Reflective MCS Run Thermal Tights, which keep you warm during the colder months and are highly reflective for safety while running on dark roads.