Having explored the key characteristics of compression clothing in my Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear, I decided to hunt down a few pairs of genuine compression tights to trial.
I opted to try two pairs of tights from leading global compression garment brands, 2XU and SKINS. The third pair is from a small, new UK sportswear brand that I came across by chance earlier this year.
Here, I’ve reviewed all three pairs. I’ve taken into account the unique concept offered by each brand, other technical features of the products (you know I love this kind of geekery!) and of course, the fit and sizing of each pair of tights. I hope this helps you learn what to look out for when finding your own perfect pair of pants!
As a lover of the 2XU brand (I’ve previously written about their Heart Not Hype Campaign), I was excited to try their newest tights, the Elite MCS Compression Tights.*
As you may notice from the images, it appears as if the tights have anatomical mapping on them. Although visible from the outside of the tights, these are unique panelling points incorporated into the inside of the leggings. They are what 2XU refer to as Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS).
”MCS is a revolutionary fabric support system traced over key muscle, tendon and fascia groups to focus greater compression power to wrap precise areas and reduce muscle oscillation and damage.”
Technology + Features
In addition to MCS, the Elite Compression Tights differ from 2XU’s Standard Compression Tights, by using specific fabric deniers (see my Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear for a definition of that!) in different areas.
Front panels are engineered with PWX FLEX (70 denier) fabric combined with MCS focused to the quads, while rear panels are engineered with an even more powerful PWX WEIGHT (105 denier) fabric for support to the hamstrings and MCS focused to the calf.
As you’d expect from this calibre of compression sportswear, the fabric is sweat wicking, antibacterial, offers UPF 50+ sun protection, and flatlock seams for comfort.
Fit + Sizing
This was the first time that I’d come across any kind of sport or clothing brand where your recommended size is determined not by regular measurements, but by your height and weight.
As is the case with all compression clothing, 2XU advise that when you fall on a borderline between sizes, you should opt for the smaller of the two.
I fell on the borderline between small and medium, however the team at 2XU sent me over a size M to trial, so I’m unsure how much benefit I’m receiving from them. They are tight, but having tried other compression clothing, I know that they could be tighter, and I’d have loved to have experienced their full benefit (including an extra bum-lifting/sculpting effect!).
These are high waisted and they have a drawstring waistband for adjustability. While I’ve always thought that a drawstring waistband isn’t particularly sleek or flattering on tights, having tried other compression tights, I can say that this is the best way to ensure that the fit is the best that it can be for the optimal performance.
Like 2XU, SKINS specialises in offering well-researched, technical compression garments. I love that they have research summaries available on their website.
I got in touch with the brand to find out more about their research, and consequently decided to trial [SKINS A400 Women’s Tights].*
What sets the A400 range apart from SKINS’ others, is the use of what they call Dynamic Gradient Compression.
”All previous compression measurements have been carried out on athletes standing still. SKINS worked with the scientific and industrial research organisation in Australia to develop a device capable of taking multiple readings of the human body in motion. We hooked up SKINS athletes and for the first time ever, were able to accurately measure compression on muscles in motion – as they change shape with increased levels of oxygen-fuelled blood pumping through them.”
I’d be interested to learn more about how this knowledge is built into the garments.
Technology + Features
As well as the above, SKINS A400 tights have 50+ UV protection, sweat wicking and temperature regulating properties, and 360-degree reflective graphics.
The downside to the fabric? It’s very sheer. SKINS commented,
”With regards to the material, it is designed not only for compression, but also for temperature regulation... we wanted it to be as lightweight as possible. We would recommend that you wear same coloured underwear with your SKINS.”
I wore Lululemon Light as Air Thong in Black with my SKINS. I believe that this underwear really is the gold standard in workout underwear (and actually, underwear in general), being lightweight, smooth, and seam-free. But with my SKINS, it was still visible. When walking, when squatting. Even the SKINS inner label is visible through the tights. Obviously, I could cut it out, but that’s not really the point here.
Essentially, despite loving the fit of these tights, I’m never 100% confident in them, and I don’t want anything standing between me and a kickass workout.
Fit + Sizing
It’s a shame that the fabric is a little too ‘lightweight’ because the fit is great. As well as a wide, thick waistband (which sits a little lower than the tights by 2XU), the leggings generally fit brilliantly. The style is flattering and I feel held in.
Boom Boom Athletica 26.2 Leggings
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of modelling some sportswear for Boom Boom Athletica. They are a relatively new brand to the sportswear market, launching with a limited edition run of their high performance collection. I’ve been trialling the 26.2 Leggings.*
The brand was founded by Ann Johansson who is an ultra-marathon runner, keen to infuse style with functionality.
I’ve been a fan of cut-outs and mesh inserts on garments for more years than I can count, so I’m pleased that developments in technology have enabled them to become more widely used, especially in performance sportswear.
The mesh panelling on the Boom Boom Athletica garments are strategically placed to not only look gorgeous, but to ensure breathability where you need it. In the leggings, the mesh is focused at the back of the knees.
Technology + Features
The fabrics used by Boom Boom Athletica possess all the technical features expected of performance sportswear, such as breathability and moisture-wicking properties.
While I’m not an endurance athlete by any means, I can totally appreciate that these pieces would be great for a triathlete. They are chlorine, sunscreen and oil resistant, as well as UPF50+ rated.
Finally, my favourite part, they are high-compression garments. The fabric boasts 35% elastane, which is the highest percentage that I have seen in sportswear. As well as providing the benefits associated with compression, the garments retain their shape really well.
Although I haven’t tried them myself, I can’t not mention the Front Row Spin Leggings, which are truly unique to the sportswear market. The leggings have a custom insert in the ‘underneath’ area for added comfort when on a bike or in spin class.
The insert is manufactured by a specialist supplier more typically associated with £200+ cycling shorts. However, this insert is super discreet and, in fact, took me a while to spot; nothing like the visible heavily padding characteristic of cycling gear.
Fit + Sizing
Being super high-compression, these leggings fit tight. This is obviously intentional. They are a little hard to pull on initially, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to jump up a size.
I think it’s pretty important to mention that these leggings are low rise. A hypoallergenic silicone ‘seal’ around the inner waistband has been applied for ‘safeguarding’.
If you are a lover of the low-rise, I would highly recommend these because I haven’t seen any other genuine compression leggings with such a low-rise waist.
I personally graduated from low-rise pants (leggings, jeans, or otherwise) a few years ago, so this is the only thing that lets the leggings down slightly for me. I think this is partly because I’m used to a higher rise legging, but also due to my body shape.
Whether it’s because the waistband is a little loose or the legs can’t cope with the extreme stretch required to accommodate my quads, I don’t know, but they don’t seem to settle in a very comfortable place for me.
There are only so many times that I can lunge around the room and replicate The Ministry of Silly Walks to encourage them into a comfortable position.
The Boom Boom Athletica 26.2 Leggings can be found on the Boom Boom Athletica website for £98.
##My Verdict In case you hadn't already guessed, my favourite tights were the 2XU Elite Compression Tights. I love the sleek design, anatomical mapping included, as well as how high rise they are, how flattering they are, and how well they stay in place.
As I mentioned, I'd like to try a smaller size in these to see how they compare and whether I notice greater performance benefits.
The 2XU tights are my go-to compression tights. I very rarely reach for either of the others as I don't feel 100% confident in them, but this is purely a personal thing and is no reflection on their compression capabilities.
It is also worth mentioning that the tights discussed here are also available in different colourways and/or lengths.
However, a little word of advice: I always opt for a full-length tight for compression to avoid a 'cankle' effect!
Have you used compression sportswear before? Please let me know your favourite pieces by commenting below or tweeting me @_nataliejohanna!