There are certain benefits to wearing compression shorts or other compression gear, but an article of clothing, even highly specialized athletic attire, is unlikely to make you run faster. Nevertheless, NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade wear them, and track records have been set by athletes wearing compression shorts, tights or socks. Research indicates that compression shorts might help speed recovery time and thereby enhance your next-day workout. If you are a serious athlete, compression shorts or other compression garments might be useful addition to your workout ensemble.
Hype or Hope?
Compression garments have been used in the medical field since the mid-1900s, alleviating symptoms related to diabetes, swelling and vein problems. The garments, which are made with a tight elastic weave to hold their shape, definitely improve leg circulation for some medical patients. But the Deadspin sports website says that sport industry companies make some overly extravagant claims for compression gear. One company claims it produces "maximum explosive power, acceleration and long-term endurance." Another company claims compression apparel can "deliver increased power and stamina."
Although there is no evidence that compression shorts or other garments will make you run faster, studies cited at the Australian website Sports Coach indicate that runners and other athletes might experience less muscle soreness after competing or training in compression gear. And the ability to train harder and longer can result in better long-term running results.
Running Ability and Injuries
A 2010 University of Indiana study, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, studied lower leg compression garments and found they had no effect on the running efficiency or mechanics of distance runners, In short, the compression garments didn't make the athletes run better or faster. A 2003 study published in the "Journal of Sports Sciences" found that while elite college track athletes didn't runner any faster in compression shorts, the garments appeared to reduce impact force and have other potential benefits that might help reduce injuries. A 2005 study published in the "Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research" tested compression shorts and also concluded that they might help prevent injuries.
As of 2013, the bottom line seemed reasonably clear. Compression shorts and other compression garments won't miraculously make you run faster, but they might speed up your recovery time after a race or workout, Of course, a quicker recovery is tremendously beneficial for any athlete, so it can't hurt to give compression gear a try, because there are no negative effects associated with the apparel.
- Deadspin: What Compression Gear Will and Won't -- Mostly Won't -- Do For You
- Sports Coach: Compression Garments: Do They Influence Sports Performance and Recovery
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Response: Influence of Moderate Prophylactic Compression on Sport Performance
- Journal of Sports Sciences: Evaluation of a Lower-Body Compression Garment