Might compression tights actually accelerate leg fatigue?

edited December 2012 in Running Science
Hi all,

Google and Google Scholar searches on this subject come up empty.

With the onset of colder weather here in MN over the past few weeks, I picked up some Nike Element Shield full length compression tights from my local running store a few weeks back. I had been using some loose fitting Nike running pants until the temps dropped below 40F. I had not worn compression tights at all previously. When the temps get below freezing, I add an additional layer of outer loose fitting running pants as well, for more insulation. So far, I have been good down to about 18F.

I am not sure if it is the cold weather and my legs not staying warm enough or if it is the compression tights themselves, but I have experienced a notable reduction in endurance since wearing the compression tights. My legs just get tired more quickly now and I need to stop much sooner to walk, before then continuing on with run/walk intervals.

From searches, the data on the value of compression tights, due to improved venous return, seems to be mixed to negative in terms of supporting any benefit while running, albeit, there appears to be some data regarding improving recovery post-run.

I am wondering if there is any data or even anecdotal experience regarding the use of compression tights actually being detrimental to performance, perhaps due to reduced blood flow, especially for someone with low normal blood pressure. My BP at rest is typically 105/55.

I spoke to the guy at my running store that I work with, who is a world class runner himself and recently retired after being sponsored by Mizuno for a number of years. He suggested that there might be a transition period for me, as my legs accomodate the compression tights and get stronger. If that is the case, I will keep at it for a few more weeks to see if there is any improvement.

However, if there is any data to suggest that continuing in this manner would be futile, I would stop using the compression tights now and just use a thermal base layer under the looser fitting running pants.

Thanks for any feedback!


  • From personal experiences only some brands worked for me and some didnt. for example I enjoy wearing Skins (full tights) and CEP(calf sleeves). The way the compression around my legs feel good. I set my PR in those compression gears

    where as Underarmour, 2xu and CW-X didnt work for me. I think that the way they stiched their ankle end rubbed my tendons just above the ankle and i feel the sore sensation at about 5 k?

    I recently bought the compressport (fore-quad and the calf sleeve). still trying to figure out if i like it or not

    not sure if that helped
  • I'm not aware of any data suggesting that compression increases fatigue. Anecdotally, I actually find compression to make me feel better - at one point both my half marathon and marathon PR's were set in full length compression tights, and I usually do wear calf sleeves in longer races. The evidence of benefit I have seen suggested is reduction of muscle vibration, ties in with Benno Nigg's muscle tuning theories.

    Here's a post by Steve Magness about the topic: http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010/07/compression-socks.html
  • Thanks to both of you and Pete, thanks for the link. That seems to be generally consistent with what I have seen elsewhere.

    The pants that I have are not uncomfortable and there does seem to be a progression of tightness, greater at the ankles/calves and less as they go up the leg.

    I will keep at it for another couple of weeks or so and see if I can get through any accommodation that might be taking place. It might be reasonable to expect something along the lines of a logistic curve in this process, so hopefully I will begin to experience some quantitative improvement soon.

    Thanks again.

  • You think like a true statistician :)
  • LOL, thanks Pete! :-)

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