If you’ve been to a race over the last few years you’ve no doubt noticed that more and more runners are sporting knee-high socks, super-tight tights or arm warmers… when it’s not cold outside.
The reason for this is the commonly held belief that compression gear will help during running. A group of scientists in Germany decided to break down the pre-existing literature surrounding compression gear and running. What they found was that it works best after you’ve crossed the finish line.
Researchers at the University of Wuppertal gathered together the litany of pre-existing studies on constrictive training and recovery apparel and found that there is a “small to moderate effect” to using compression gear after a workout or race.
And although many products do market themselves as useful in gaining a racing or training edge by wearing the gear during a run, the analysis of a wide variety of studies suggests there is minimal benefit. They did suggest that there was a tiny bump when it came to time trial and effort-to-exhaustion oriented tests, but that the benefits had only a “small effect” at best.
This seems to fall in line with a prominent study from 2009 at Indiana University. That study measured the effect of lower leg compression sleeves on a runner’s economy and mechanics. The findings suggested that there was little to no positive effect on performance in the trained athletes that they analyzed.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that no study has clearly proven a total lack of effectiveness of compression gear. Also, it does seem that the products do have a benefit to runners after running. These products have also not been shown to have any negative effects on performance or recovery.