Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Science Daily investigated if compression tights improve runners’ speed or distance compared to when they did not wear them. The theory is that muscles vibrate while people run and this causes muscle contractions which use energy. The researchers’ theory was that the use of compression tights during running should reduce the muscle’s vibration and therefore result in less fatigue for the runner. Fatigue is a concern because a fatigued runner may alter their running form and put more strain on their joints causing overuse injuries.
Participants ran for 30 minutes at 80% of the maximum speed on 2 different days using a treadmill. On one day, they wore compression tights and on the other, they did not. The runners’ leg strength and jump height were tested prior to and after each run. Heart monitors were worn by the runners to measure their exertion during the test. Force sensors in the treadmill deck measured foot contact forces and motion sensors captured joint angles to see if they changed over time or between runs.
The researchers concluded “experienced runners had no more strain on their joints at the end of a training run than at the beginning” with or without tights. They also found “the reduced vibration” in the muscles with the tights did not result in any reduction in fatigue. Nothing in the study showed that it is bad to wear compression tights. They commented “every little bit of perception counts when running long distances, so the tights may help runners in ways we are not yet able to measure”. Future studies on other aspects of compression tights are planned but for now there is no proof that speed or distance is affected.