Running in cold weather can be exhilarating. While summer heat tends to drain your energy the longer you run, your body reacts quite differently in the cold – you most likely won’t fatigue as quickly.
But there is a price to pay when running in the cold. If you don’t warm up properly, you will likely be more prone to injury.
Of course, warming up properly is always advised. But if you want a bit of help getting the blood flowing and the muscles ready, wearing some of the best available cold-weather compression gear could be a good idea. In addition, compression gear often doubles as the perfect base layer in cold weather.
The gear you choose is up to you, but a pair of compression tights would be a good first step. Considering your leg muscles are the most used muscles when running, they could do with some extra support.
Our top choice is the 2XU Ignition Shield Compression Tights. Yes, they’re insulating, keeping you warm in the cold. But they also have a layer of waterproof fabric to protect against wind and rain.
It’s not the only great piece of gear out there, though. We’ve reviewed ten different pieces of compression gear to keep you covered when it’s cold. Keep reading!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
2XU Ignition Shield Compression Tights
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Under Armour ColdGear Base 4.0 Crew
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2XU Core Compression S/S
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Best Long Tights
1. 2XU Ignition Shield Compression Tights
If you’re looking for a pair of compression tights that will help you power through the cold and help you recover after your run, these could be your new best friend.
They’re molded from thermal fabric to keep the cold out. Whether you’re running through light rain or heavy snow, these thermal tights should keep you toasty. You can wear them on their own, or as a base layer.
Graduated compression helps keep the blood flowing to your muscles while they’re working. This helps you to warm up more quickly, and keeps your muscles strong in the middle of a workout.
They’re also helpful for recovery. If you don’t like to run in tights, you can change into these after your run to get the benefits of compression on your recovering muscles.
They’re built for comfort as well as compression. An elastic waistband and flatlock seams mean there’s little chance of chafing, as everything lies flat against your skin (without inhibiting movement).
This pair features a waterproof layer on the upper portion of the leg that helps keep rain and wind from penetrating the tights. Reflective details help you be seen while running at night. And a rear zippered pocket adds some storage.
- Graduated compression
- Insulates body heat
- Jacquard waistband
- Waterproof fabric on upper portion of tights
- Some people felt these tights were stiffer than others
Top Long Tights Runner-up
2. CW-X Expert 2.0 Insulator Joint Support Compression Baselayer Tights
If you can’t get hold of our top choice, or you prefer something different, these tights are our second pick.
The Expert 2.0 tights are also a good choice as a base layer, being insulating and comfortable without restricting movement.
Their WarmStretch fabric is temperature-regulating, keeping you warm when you need it most, but without overheating. If the temperature changes while you’re on the move, this material will keep you cozy or cool – whichever is needed.
Graduated compression helps stimulate circulation, keeping your muscles oxygenated and performing optimally. Once again, this is effective while running, but can be used as a recovery helper, too.
A unique, useful feature is their implementation of EXO-WEB bands that snake up the legs and provide extra compression and support. They run up the sides of the legs, stabilizing your muscles, and criss-cross over the knees, providing extra stability to the joint.
The men’s version has a unique horizontal fly design that isn’t seen on other tights. Some men may find this annoying, but others may find it useful.
- EXO-WEB support bands
- Graduated compression
- WarmStretch temperature-regulation fabric
- UV protection material
- Men’s fly design may be annoying to some
Best 3/4 Length Tights
3. CW-X Stabilyx Joint Support 3/4 Compression Tights
If full-length tights aren’t your thing, three-quarters may work better for you. They’re easy to wear under your normal winter running pants, and they are designed to provide extra support around the joints.
Just a quick glance at these tights indicates that they have built-in joint support around the knees, which extends up to the hips and lower back. They combine the benefits of compression with those of kinesiology tape!
The Support Web exoskeleton is bright blue, so it’s impossible to miss on the black tights. The panel runs from the hem of the tights, around mid-calf, in a ring around the knee joints, providing subtle but noticeable compression and support.
From there, it runs up the sides of the thighs and into a thin band around the lower back. An extra panel at the back, plus an abdominal support panel, supports the lower back and core.
These two technologies do similar things. Coolmax helps to wick away moisture, moving it to the surface of the material, away from the skin, to evaporate.
WarmStretch regulates the surface temperature of the tights. Being a tech fabric, it also wicks moisture and dries quickly. Basically, whichever one you’re getting will be quick-drying, and will move moisture away from the skin.
Both feature a small pocket on the inside of the waistband, which has a drawstring to get a comfy fit. UPF 50+ sun protection and reflective elements are other common features.
- Support Web exoskeleton
- Gender-specific anatomic construction
- WarmStretch temperature-regulation
- Coolmax fabric
- Some men may not like that there’s no built-in fly
Top Long Sleeve Compression Top
4. Under Armour ColdGear Base 4.0 Crew
Your legs aren’t the only body part that can benefit from compression gear. A compression shirt could be a good idea to keep the blood flowing and the muscles oxygenated in your upper body.
This shirt was created to keep you warm in cold weather. It has a unique compressed grid pattern that uses UA tech to get rid of excess heat, without letting the cold in.
UA Base 4.0 material uses thermal fleece to trap heat in small pockets away from your skin and moves excess moisture to the surface to dry. It also uses UA Scent Control technology, which keeps you (or at least your shirt) smelling fresh for hours.
The amount of compression is not extreme in this shirt, but you should find that if you get the right size, it provides some circulation-stimulating benefits. The four-way stretch fabric allows you to be flexible and free no matter what exercise you’re doing.
It’s comfortable too, with raglan sleeves, a thumb hole, and a tagless design. It’s worth noting that the properties of this shirt lean more towards warmth than compression.
- UA Scent Control Technology
- UA Base 4.0 fabric
- 4-way stretch construction
- Tagless design
- Some may feel that the compression is not enough
Best Short Sleeve for Men
5. 2XU Core Compression S/S
If a long-sleeved shirt is too warm or bulky for you to wear as a base layer, consider a short-sleeved shirt. You’ll still get the benefits of compression on your upper body muscles, but your arms will be open, which keeps you a little cooler.
The men’s shirt has sleeves that end mid-bicep that features graduated compression to improve circulation to the muscles of the chest, shoulders, back, and core.
The compression is apparent in the PWX Flex fabric, and you’ll definitely notice the difference when you put the shirt on. Other benefits of wearing a compression shirt such as this include muscle containment (less unnecessary movement of muscles as you train), better posture, and improved breathing.
It uses Powermesh paneling to increase airflow, so even if you’re layering, you won’t overheat underneath this shirt.
Comfort is clearly a priority. Flatlock seams reduce the chance of chafing and discomfort. The Lycra material makes for a tight fit that’s supportive without being restricting.
The fabric uses high-filament yarn to increase moisture-wicking properties.
- Mesh panels for breathability
- PWX Flex Fabric
- Flat seamless design
- Invista LYCRA material
- The material may ride up slightly when moving
Top Arm Sleeves
6. 2XU MCS Elite Compression Arm Guards
Arm muscles are also important for runners! Your arms support and help propel you forwards as you run, and keep your balance. Sometimes, they need extra support, and in those cases, a compression arm sleeve could be the answer.
The PWX Flex fabric offers graduated compression, providing a stimulating effect for the arm muscles, from the bicep to the wrist. 2XU uses a technology called Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS), which maps and provides support for muscles, tendons, and fascia groups.
This offers well-rounded protection and support, as well as helping muscles to keep in proper alignment, reducing the chance of injury.
When purchasing these sleeves, you’ll get anatomically-designed left and right arm guards. Make sure you put them on the right arms to get the full benefit of targeted compression.
They’re available in a variety of sizes. For additional comfort, the material is moisture-wicking, protects from the sun’s rays, and doesn’t allow bacteria to grow.
- Graduated compression
- UPF50+ sun protection
- Anatomical left and right arm guard
- Engineered with PWX FLEX
- Depending on the length of the arm, the sleeve may be too long or too short, leading to discomfort
Best Calf Sleeves
7. CW-X Unisex CW-X Speed Model Calf Compression Sleeves
Tight calves can make for a painful run, and can also increase the chances of injury to the knee, Achilles tendon, and even hip flexors.
A calf compression sleeve can make all the difference if you tend to struggle with tight calves. Providing targeted compression as you run ensures that your calf and shin are well-supported, extra stabilized, and have adequate blood flow to keep the muscles oxygenated and performing at their best.
These calf sleeves offer a fair amount of stretch, using Flex Move technology, which makes them easy to get on and off. They’re also made from the company’s lightest fabric, so they won’t feel restrictive or heavy when you’re wearing them.
Don’t think that the stretchiness takes away from the compression, though. Viscomagic tech provides compression of varying levels, in bands that run across the shin and down the sides of the calves, stabilizing and supporting.
If you prefer to run in shorts even in the coolest of weather, these shin and calf coverings won’t cause you to overheat. They’re breathable and remove moisture to be evaporated, keeping you cool.
Although the calf is not generally a sweat area, these leg sleeves have an antibacterial factor. UPF 50+ prevents accidental sunburn on your legs while you’re out on the road.
It’s important to note that these come in a left and right sleeve. Wearing them on the wrong legs will reduce the compression benefits, so make sure they’re on the right way.
- Flex Move and Viscomagic technology
- Left and right sleeves
- Targeted compression
- Patented support panel
- They may be difficult to remove, especially if you’ve sweated
Top Long Compression Socks
8. CEP Tall Compression Socks 3.0
Runners who want calf, ankle, and foot compression will benefit from these compression socks.
The compressive properties on the foot provide ankle support, keeping your foot stable and solid with every step. Arch support is another benefit, working with your shoe.
20 to 30 mmHg of graduated compression helps blood to circulate efficiently through the foot and calf. The technology is said to increase blood flow by up to 40%, improving performance and helping your muscles to go for longer without feeling fatigued.
The compression features may even be helpful to prevent calf tightness and shin splints if you’re prone to them.
Beyond their compression features, these socks are built for comfort. Performance-enhancing padding along the footbed adds a bit of extra cushion. The natural-fit toe boxes mean there won’t be any leftover material to irritate you at the tip of the sock.
Built-in temperature regulation is facilitated by the ribbed pattern on the front of the sock. This draws air in as you’re running, which helps moisture to evaporate as it flows through – that keeps your warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Built-in temperature regulation
- 20-30 mmHg graduated compression
- Performance padding along the footbed
- Natural-fit toe boxes
- Depending on the size and shape of your calf, the top hem may be too tight for some runners, causing discomfort
Best Merino Wool Compression Socks
9. Icebreaker Run+ Compression Over The Calf Socks
Merino wool is a fantastic fabric for winter. Its best property is that it regulates temperature, keeping you cool when you need to be, but warm enough to run without noticing the cold.
These socks provide that temperature regulation, along with merino’s typical softness and breathability. On top of that, they feature graduated compression to keep blood flowing and improve your performance on the road, trail, or track.
You’ll see the compression bands around the socks before even putting them on. The compression works in a circular, spiral motion, supporting the calf and shin.
These socks are also created to be comfortable on your feet. Apart from their signature softness, there’s a reinforced heel and seamless toe for extra cushioning and durability.
The upper cuff is wider than average, so there’s less chance of it cutting into your leg and causing pain or discomfort.
A “breathe zone” on top of the foot allows for airflow to the foot. For an extra comfortable fit, these socks are made specifically for left/right feet, so make sure you put the right sock on the right foot!
- Anatomical toe box for left/right fit
- Half-cushioned graduated compression
- Reinforced heel
- Breathe zone on the upper foot
- Sizing can be inconsistent
Top Low Compression Socks
10. CEP Low Cut Compression Socks
Compression socks don’t have to be knee-high. If you’re more comfortable in ankle-length socks, CEP’s low-cut version provide all the compression you’ll need with no extra material.
They’re lightly padded for a bit of comfort, and have targeted compression over the instep and midfoot. This gets the circulation going, and helps reduce or even prevent swelling. Another thing this compression band can help with is pain from things like plantar fasciitis.
Left/right anatomic padding prevents blisters and hot spots. A seamless toe also helps with this and hugs your foot comfortably.
They’re super easy to wear and wash, being machine washable. The company is so confident in their product that they offer a 6-month guarantee on these socks (150 to 200 wears)!
It doesn’t hurt that they’re available in a wide variety of funky colors, either.
- Anatomically padded cushioning
- Seamless elastic toe-closure
- Targeted dynamic compression
- High-tech fibers regulate temperature
- Some runners may feel that the compression strip is too narrow
If you aren’t sure whether to add a piece of the best cold weather compression gear to your collection, here are some of the most common questions we get to help you decide.
Why is compression gear beneficial?
Compression gear may sound like a money-making scheme, but in reality it has some real and noticeable benefits. Here are some of them:
- Stimulates blood flow
- Improves circulation
- Increases muscle oxygenation
- Reduces muscular fatigue
- Keeps muscles properly aligned
- Lowers chance of muscle soreness
- Quickens recovery
- Added support to joints
You’ll need to commit to using your compression gear for at least a month before you begin to notice results. Like everything, it takes time to reap the rewards!
What is compression fabric made of?
Compression gear isn’t a fancy fabric. It’s usually made from the same or similar materials as other athletic wear. Generally, they consist of a blend of fibers, one of which is a material that’s stretchy to provide a tight fit.
For example, a compression shirt is likely to be made of polyester and an elastic-type fabric, like Lycra or Spandex.