Best Compression Tights: top three

Compression-Sportswear-Guide

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!

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2XU-MCS-Elite-Compression-Tights

2XU MCS

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.*

The Concept

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.

The 2XU Elite MCS Compression Tights are available on the 2XU website for £110, as well as on amazon at a cheaper price of £98.99.

Skins-A400-Womens-Compression-Tights
Skins-A400-Compression-Tights

SKINS A400

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].*

The Concept

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.

The SKINS A400 Women's Long Compression Tights are available from the SKINS website for £100. They can also be found on amazon for as little as £78.79 depending on the size.

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Boom-Boom-Athletica-Compression-Waistband

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 Concept

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!

Sweaty Betty Sports Luxe SS'15

SWEATY-BETTY-DELUXE-STUDIO-BAG

It’s no secret that I adore Sweaty Betty, and especially their sports luxe pieces. I still remember my excitement when Sweaty Betty announced the launch of their sports luxe range at their AW’14 preview (link) and I’m just as excited about their second stunning collection for SS’15. What sets SB apart from other designers of sports luxe style apparel is that they always always maintain ultra-functionality alongside the gorgeous designs.

Deluxe Studio Holdall

I’m forever getting compliments on this bag wherever I am; from the gym to at job interviews (no, seriously!). It comes with me almost everywhere because it is everything that I need in a bag.

Being black, on black, on black, the Deluxe Studio Holdall looks super-sleek. The main structure itself is neoprene, with all-black hardware and straps.

I love it because it fits my lifestyle perfectly. I typically hop between gyms and classes, to university and coffee shops, so as well as holding my workout kit (between the main compartment, shoe pocket and yoga mat straps), it’s ideal that it has a padded laptop sleeve for my Mac. I’ve also used it on numerous occasions as an overnight bag.

My only complaint is that when using the shoulder strap, the poppers aren’t strong enough to hold the bag in the boxy shape that I love. Aside from that though, I can’t get enough of this bag.

SWEATY-BETTY-SPORTS-LUXE

Tesselate Luxe Leggings

The monochrome tesselate print is another highlight of the collection. I opted to incorporate the print into my wardrobe with the Tesselate Luxe Leggings*. While there are aspects of the leggings that I really like, in hindsight, I should have probably opted for the Honeycomb Luxe Pants instead.

The leggings are impossibly soft with a luxurious feeling ribbed waistband that feels like you’re being hugged. That, I love.

However, because of the knitted style of the leggings, the stretchiness isn’t as generous as other SB styles. For me, this meant that they were hard to pull over my muscular thighs and bum, while still being a little looser than I would like on the waist. Also, because of the knit, I’ve experience a few loose threads and fraying after a few wears.

I still think that they’re beautiful leggings, but just not right for me.

SWEATY-BETTY-SPORTS-LUXE-JACKET-FEATURE

Time Out Luxe Jacket

The Time Out Luxe Jacket* is another of my current favourite pieces and perfect for transitioning from winter, through spring, and onto summer.

I love the anatomy of this jacket. As with all Sweaty Betty pieces, there are so many features and a lot of attention to detail. My favourite elements are the storm cuffs with thumbholes and the external zip pockets (honestly, even the feel and quality of the zips makes such a difference).

The jacket is a jersey cotton with a neoprene feel, which gives it a unique look and structure. I’m always a fan of a flattering dropped back hem too.

It’s also worth noting that although the faux sleeves fit snug, they are soft and stretchy enough that it’s possible to fit a jumper underneath very comfortably. Perfect!

SWEATY-BETTY-SPORTS-LUXE

Steady Luxe Knitted Jumper

As soon as I saw the collection, I fell for the beautiful honeycomb knit of the Steady Luxe Jumper*.

The shape of this jumper and it’s super-flattering, waistband-skimming length makes it perfect for layering. I usually pair it with a black vest, leggings and some black wedge trainers for a relaxed, sporty vibe.


I’ve really nothing left to say about Sweaty Betty’s sports luxe collection. Simply, they pieces are versatile, functional and stylish, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the cards for AW’15!

If you haven’t already, check out my thoughts on the SB x Richard Nicoll collaboration, and shop the collection here.

2XU #HEARTNOTHYPE Campaign

2XU-HEARTNOTHYPE-STATE-OF-THE-HEART

#HeartNotHype is the new and innovative global campaign from 2XU. In case you aren’t familiar with the brand, the name, 'two times you’, represents their mission to multiply human performance. The campaign officially launched at the end of February, and a variety of activity is running across multiple channels, making the campaign hugely engaging and informative.

There are some really great sports and fitness brand campaigns emerging at the moment - I recently wrote about Reebok’s fantastic Be More Human campaign here - and this is is another of my favourites.

HEART NOT HYPE - WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

2XU’s products are all designed using science and compression technology, considering the importance of the blood and the heart in performance and recovery. However, this campaign isn’t just about physiology of the heart, it’s about passion.

The heart is our engine. It drives our blood and feeds our muscles. It shapes our recovery and optimises our performance. 2XU Compression supports our engine and shapes how we recover, train and perform. It’s about heart, not hype.

The campaign is about putting heart into your performance, whatever and however that may be. It may be about expressing yourself through dance, or pushing yourself to your limits in the weights room, but ultimately it’s about doing what you do for the love of it (heart) and not just performing in anticipation of rewards and success (hype).

HEART FILM

The emotive heart film for the campaign features athletes across various sports talking about wanting to be famous for their hearts, not their faces. The film captures the athletes' journeys as they train and put their heart into their workout.

The film makes it clear that it’s not about seeking fame or glory through performance, but putting heart into their performance and how the physiological benefits of wearing 2XU enables them to perform better.

HEARTNOTHYPE SUMMIT

To kickstart the campaign, 2XU hosted a #heartnothype summit in New York, with a panel of experts from across the world of sports performance discussing whether the heart can be trained to perform from both a physiological and an emotional perspective.

I tuned in to the live streaming and was fascinated by everything that they had to say. The abundance of research behind the 2XU products is incredible, and because they are so genuinely effective, they are used not only by athletes but by the military and by people simply looking to optimise wellbeing and recovery.

If you get chance, I highly recommend watching the on demand version of the #heartnothype summit (there’s also a shorter video of the summit highlights) to hear what the experts have to say.

HEARTNOTHYPE-2XU-SUMMIT

ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE TRAINING CAMP COMPETITION

Alongside the campaign, 2XU have also launched a competition to win a trip to an Ultimate Performance Training Camp in California, which includes:
+ Return flights to California, USA
+ 3 nights aoccommodation, meals + transfers
+ Extreme cross-training sessions
+ Strength, movement + mobility training
+ Recovery sessions
+ Speed + agility training
+ Sports nutrition, insights + advice
+ Training alongside + under the guise of world leading sports instructors, athlete + psychologists!

Simply head over to website and follow the instructions to enter, and be ready to share what putting heart into performance means to you.

2XU COMPRESSION PRODUCTS

I’m currently in the process of trialling some of the incredible 2XU gear, so look forward to another post soon detailing the specifics of how the products work, as well as my thoughts on the kit. In the meantime, get inspired by #heartnothype!