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Can Compression Tights Really Make You a Faster Runner?

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Compression gear is a go-to among many weekend warriors and athletes—and for many different reasons. Users tout the ability of compression socks, sleeves, shorts, and leggings to help them go harder, longer, and faster, or recover better. But a new study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting that looked specifically at compression tights found they don't actually reduce muscle fatigue.

Researchers had people run on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 80 percent of their max speed on separate days, once wearing compression tights and once without. The runners' heart rate, exact body positioning, and force of foot landing and push-off were measured throughout the run. Scientists discovered that the compression tights reduced muscle vibration during the run, which they initially thought might be causing muscle fatigue. But when they looked at the data, they found that in fact, reducing muscle vibration didn't have an effect on fatigue at all, and the runners weren't able to go faster or farther while wearing compression tights.

Although runners performed the same with or without compression tights, that doesn't mean you need to toss your compression tights completely, says lead study author Ajit Chaudhari, Ph.D., associate professor of physical therapy, orthopedics, mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

"Distance running has a significant psychological component, so feeling more comfortable could have a real effect on performance," explains Chaudhari. "If you feel better with them, there is nothing we found that suggests anyone should stop wearing them." But if you're not already a compression convert, there's no need to change your running wardrobe, he says. (We'll just be saving up for this fancy designer workout gear instead.)

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