Do Compression Leggings Actually Do Anything? We Asked Physical Therapists

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After giving it your all on your at-home spin bike or after running a 5K around your neighborhood, you may be looking out for anything that can help you recover faster and give you a slight edge in your next athletic feat. As post-workout soreness hits, you might want to look into purchasing a pair or two of compression pants. 

Different types of compression gear like socks, shorts, and sleeves have gained popularity in recent years (you’ve probably seen elite runners and olympians like Shalene Flanagan wearing them) but what do compression pants do, exactly?

Here’s what the experts had to say about the benefits of compression pants, if they are safe for you to try, and some top brands you might want to add to your holiday wishlist.

Benefits of Compression Pants 

We asked experts Chad Beauchamp, DPT and founder of REPAIR Sports Institute in Huntington Beach, CA and Dody Deavours, PT at AICA Orthopedics in Atlanta, about the benefits of compression pants. Here’s what they had to say. 

  • They improve blood flow: Compression pants can help increase the amount of blood that flows back to the heart from the legs when you are working out. This may help give your muscles a little boost when you are running or cycling, for example. As a result, you might notice less cramping in your legs or less fatigue toward the end of your workout when you wear them.
  • They help with balance: Looking to stay upright in your yogi tree pose? Compression pants may give a boost to your proprioceptive function (which helps with your ability to balance). That’s because the compression may continuously stimulate sensory receptors and help increase your awareness, helping to keep you upright. 
  • They help reduce soreness: After your workout is done, compression pants can help reduce inflammation and assist the lymphatic system to drain lactic acid built up from exercising. You may feel less sore the next day and experience less delayed onset muscle soreness as a result. 
  • They help with a variety of ailments: Compression pants can be especially helpful for seniors or anyone experiencing swollen legs or ankles, nerve pain, or circulation issues.

Who Should Wear Compression Pants? 

Compression pants are generally considered safe for most people, Beauchamp says. “In my opinion, everyone who is active, travels a lot, and or is on their feet or sitting all day should wear them,” he says. “Stagnation (aka sitting at your work desk for hours at a time) causes the lymphatic system to not work efficiently and fluid can be retained in the lower extremities. Compression pants can help aid in draining.” He also recommends compression pants if you are coming back from an injury to help with your circulation as you recover. 

Seniors experiencing nerve pain, muscle weakness, or with reduced circulation are also prime candidates to wear compression pants, socks, or leggings. Just take care if you are wearing compression pants at a physician’s recommendation, Deavours adds. Follow their instructions carefully for which type to wear and for how long it’s safe to keep them on.

How Long Should You Wear Compression Pants? 

You may find compression pants extremely comfortable and have no problem working out or hanging out in them watching Netflix all day. Or you may find them tight and restricting and not want to wear them for long. 

There’s no real limit in how long you can wear your compression pants (you can even sleep in them if you’re comfortable!). Just take care if you’re susceptible to certain medical conditions or if your doctor recommended you wear them. “There are some medical grade compression pants that you do need to limit due to the intensity of the compression,” Beauchamp warns.

Compression Pants to Try 

There are two types of compression garments, Deavours notes: therapeutic and supportive. ”Therapeutic is used for workouts," he explains. "They aren't really made to be worn when you're not active,” he says “Supportive wear like socks and some types of pants are designated for less active time.” Choose supportive wear when you’re recovering from an injury or taking a long flight, for example.

Lululemon Zoned In Tight 27” Envelope Pocket Online Only

Lululemon Compression pants

Made specifically for running, the Zoned in Tight line offers compression support in targeted areas in the legs while still allowing for maximum movement as you take on the treadmill, road, or trail.

Under Armour HeatGear Armour Leggings

UA Heatgear

 Under Armor

If you plan to work up a serious sweat, but don’t like that most compression leggings stick to your legs, you’ll appreciate that the compression technology from UA wicks away sweat and moisture while still giving you an athletic boost.

Dragon Fit Compression Yoga Pants

Dragon Fit compression leggings

Yoga pants that can give you a boost during balance poses and sweat-wicking to keep you comfortable throughout any hot class? Yes, please. These have over 2,300 five star reviews on Amazon and are budget-friendly to boot.

Terramed Advanced Graduated Compression Leggings

Terramed Compression Leggings

When your workout is done, it’s time to recover. These graduated compression leggings can help reduce swelling and pain in your legs. Try them post-workout, on a flight, or when you’ll be sitting in a long work meeting (from home). 

Absolute Support Medical Compression Leggings

Absolute Support Compression Leggings

For medical-grade compression, try these leggings from Absolute Support. They are made specifically to wear after vein procedures, to help reduce swelling, and to improve blood flow to the legs. You can wear them on their own or layer them under dresses, too.

Élastique Athletics L'Original Leggings

Elastqiue Athletics

Byrdie's senior social media manager, Kelly Gallagher, says these leggings are great for working from home: "These leggings keep blood flow happening while I work, and they're super flattering." Small micromassage beads are placed throughout the fabric to boost your body's natural lymphatic flow and decrease the buildup of fat tissue, so you're improving the look of your legs without having to do much at all.

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