When you run, you aren’t just using your legs. The arms work actively to counterbalance the movement of the legs, so you do get a bit of an upper-body workout every time you run.
A compression shirt can help the upper body stay strong and reduce sore muscles. It’s also a good tool for recovery, as it helps to keep oxygen and blood flowing through the muscles.
In winter, compression shirts are an ideal base layer when running outside.
The best compression shirt for running depends on your needs. If you’re looking for something to support just your core, then we recommend the sleeveless Under Armour HeatGear Compression shirt for men and the 2XU Compression tank for women. They both have sun protection, mesh panels for breathability, and graduated compression.
If you would prefer something that offers bicep and forearm support, we’ve got those on this list, too. Keep reading to find the perfect compression shirt for you!
Top 4 Best and Favorites
Under Armour HeatGear Armour Sleeveless Compression Shirt
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2XU Compression Tank
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2XU Compression Short Sleeve Top
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2XU Compression Long Sleeve Top
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Best Men’s Sleeveless Compression Shirt
1. Under Armour HeatGear Armour Sleeveless Compression Shirt
A sleeveless compression shirt offers gentle stimulation to the chest, back, and core muscles.
You may not think you use these muscles when you run, but they do get a workout. If you do some form of cross-training that works these muscles more, then you may want to invest in one of these for those times when you have sore muscles but you want to go for a run.
It uses Under Armour’s HeatGear fabric, which offers comfortable compression for the upper body. To prevent overheating in the tight top, panels of stretch mesh under the arms bring the air in right where you need it.
The shirt is made from a four-way stretch material that makes it easy to get on and off without losing its compression properties. If you’re running in the summer sun, it also has UPF 30 sun protection and great wicking properties so you can stay dry.
The material also has anti-odor technology to prevent bacteria that cause a smell. It can be used as a base layer underneath other clothing or by itself. But being a compression shirt, it is designed to be a tight fit.
Because of the tight fit, the shirt may ride up when you’re doing exercises involving a lot of movement, such as weight training.
- HeatGear fabric
- UPF 30 protection
- Mesh panels under the arms
- 4-way stretch construction
- Some may find that the shirt rides up while they’re running or exercising
Best Women’s Sleeveless Compression Shirt
2. 2XU Compression Tank
This compression tank features a medical circular knit PWX FLEX fabric construction reinforced with Invista Lycra for certified-grade graduated compression. It’s made for muscle containment, improving circulation, and maintaining a better posture.
Keeping your posture up using a compression shirt helps you to breathe more effectively when you exercise, as your lungs are open and not cramped like they are when posture is incorrect.
The sleeveless design means your arms are fully mobile and you have an unrestricted range of movement. Mesh sections under the arms, down the back and on the chest ensure that you have optimum airflow along with the compression.
You can wear this shirt on its own if you don’t mind figure-hugging clothing. If you would prefer, you can wear it under any other shirt. Make sure you buy a size that fits snugly, or you’ll lose the benefits of compression.
It is also sweat-wicking and UPF50+. It will provide a certain amount of protection against the sun, but you’ll still need to wear sunscreen.
- PWX FLEX fabric
- UPF50+ sun protection
- Mesh panel on the back and underarms
- Invista LYCRA
- Ladies with a larger bra size may find that it is tight around the top and less compressive around the stomach area
Top Short Sleeve Compression Shirt
3. 2XU Compression Short Sleeve Top
This compression shirt will provide upper body compression to the chest, back, abdomen, and also to the shoulders, biceps and triceps.
The sleeves won’t restrict your movement when running or doing other exercises. The raglan-style sleeves make for comfortable and enhanced movement. Flatlock seams also promote a full range of motion and prevent rubbing and pain.
The shirt uses 2XU’s PWX FLEX material with Invista LYCRA graduated compression. This helps to improve blood flow, increase blood oxygenation, and help the muscles warm up more quickly, leading to less chance of injury.
The men’s has Powermesh panels on the chest and running down the back. The ladies has the same, with extra sections under the arms. Using high-filament yarn has created a moisture-wicking effect so you’ll stay dry as well as cool, and you’ll be protected from the sun on your upper body with UPF50+.
Runners who have muscular arms may find that the sleeve hem is painful on their biceps, or in some cases the sleeve may actually roll up into the armpit instead of staying on the bicep.
- Antibacterial material
- UPF50+ sun protection
- Powermesh panels
- Raglan sleeve construction
- If you have muscular arms, the sleeves may tend to roll up into the armpits or may be painful around the biceps
Best Nike Compression Top
4. Nike Pro
For the Nike fans, this is their best compression shirt. The short sleeve design provides moderate compression for the core, upper torso, and shoulders.
It is tight but stretchy, using a four-way stretch material so you can get it on and off easily and it also isn’t likely to rip very easily. Reduced seams mean that there’s less to rub and chafe, and the seams that are there are flatlock for enhanced comfort.
So you can stay cool while wearing it, the fabric is enhanced with Dri-FIT quick-dry technology, and the mesh-like material is breathable and allows good airflow. There are also extra mesh sections under the arms to allow heat to escape.
The athlete’s cut at the bottom features a split hem. This keeps the bottom from riding up as you exercise. Along with this, the extra sleeve length makes the shirt more comfortable and ensures that it won’t roll or bunch up.
- Dri-FIT Technology
- Mesh fabric
- Four-way stretch material
- Flat seams
- The sleeves may be slightly too tight around the biceps
Top Long Sleeve Compression Shirt
5. 2XU Compression Long Sleeve Top
A long-sleeve compression shirt is the right choice if you want to run in colder weather or if you need extra support and blood flow to your forearms. The tight material helps to improve posture along with muscle oxygenation, and can even help to improve your breathing.
The shirt is lightweight, but the compression is noticeable. It comes from a combination of PWX FLEX fabric and Invista LYCRA technology, which make it supportive and stimulating for the muscles. It also promotes good muscle alignment and reduces muscle fatigue and soreness.
Something else that the compression can do is to increase limb proprioception, which is our brain’s understanding of where exactly our limb is in relation to the rest of our body. This can improve performance as the mind-muscle connection is strengthened.
Just like the other 2XU shirts, these have mesh on the front and back for thorough airflow, raglan sleeves for easier movement, flatlock seams for less chafing, sweat-wicking, anti-bacterial properties and sun protection of UPF50+.
- PWX FLEX fabric supports major upper body muscle groups
- Graduated compression
- Moisture-wicking fabric
- Flatlock seams
- The hem may ride up
Best Wicking Long Sleeves Compression Top
6. Under Armour HeatGear Armour Long Sleeve Compression Shirt
Under Armour has created their HeatGear Armour range to be the perfect compression gear for summer. Long sleeves might not be an obvious choice for summer heat, but there are benefits.
The shirt incorporates a Moisture Transport System to take sweat from the surface of your skin to the surface of the shirt, where it can evaporate and leave you cool and dry. This is combined with antimicrobial treatment to stop odor-causing microbes.
The pinhole mesh material makes the shirt very breathable, which helps to prevent overheating. It also offers sun protection. Four-way stretch material increases comfort and helps the fabric to dry extra quickly.
For comfort, this design is tagless or tearaway, so you won’t have an irritating tag chafing the back of your neck. Flatlock seams prevent chafing in other areas as well.
The women’s shirt is designed to be figure-hugging, but leaves room for movement. It’s a fine line that divides comfort and compression, and this shirt may err on the side of comfort.
- HeatGear Armour fabric
- UPF 30 sun protection
- Pinhole mesh
- Four-way stretch
- The women’s shirt doesn’t provide as much compression
Top Value Long Sleeve Compression Top
7. New Balance Long Sleeve Compression Top
Compression gear will never be the cheapest item in your running wardrobe, but there are values to be found. Most runners know New Balance as a running shoe manufacturer, but they make some great apparel as well. We have chosen their compression shirt as the top value option.
It’s a full-length sleeve, so you’ll be getting compression benefits across the entire upper body. The fit is snug, as it should be for a compression shirt, and mesh panels placed strategically in hotspots keep the air flowing through it.
Flat seams reduce irritation, and the moisture-wicking material dries quickly and eliminates odor using NB Dry moisture management technology and NB Fresh antimicrobial treatment.
The women’s shirt features a slightly lower back hem for enhanced coverage and comfort.
- Drop-tail hem
- Flatlock seams
- Strategic mesh paneling
- Moisture-wicking and odor-reducing material
- The forearm compression may be slightly tight
Best for Back Support
8. CEP Wingtech Long Sleeve Shirt
A weak or sore back can really hamper your running and leave you in pain. This compression shirt is designed to provide extra support to the back so that you remain strong and can keep your form while running.
Both the men’s and the women’s shirts have Smart Wingtech stripes across each shoulder. They run from the top of the shoulder, over the shoulder blade and down under the arm, providing support to help you maintain a good posture. Better posture equals reduced risk of injury.
Keeping your posture correct also helps you to keep your running form right, and it makes it easier to breathe comfortably and effectively while you’re running.
The Toray polyester/spandex blend is light, breathable, and soft. It wicks moisture away to keep you dry. HeiQ Smart Temp also assists in keeping your body temperature regulated.
If you have weak back muscles, you may find that wearing this shirt increases your back muscle fatigue the first few times you wear it. The more you wear it, the more your back will strengthen, and you won’t feel that fatigue anymore.
- Smart Wingtech stripes down the back
- Better posture and breathing
- Breathable material
- HeiQ Smart Temp
- If you have a weak back you may find that this shirt increases fatigue the first few times you wear it
Top Cool Weather Long Sleeve
9. Under Armour ColdGear Fitted Crew
If you’re looking for a shirt that will keep you warm in cool weather and provide light compression too, this could be the one for you.
Not everyone who want compression wants strong, or even moderate compression. Sometimes a light touch is all that’s wanted. This fitted crew does just that. And it’s made for cold weather, with UA’s ColdGear fabric for warmth and comfort.
The material is brushed on the inside to deliver exceptional warmth and comfort against the skin. On the outside, the fabric is smooth to ward off sharp winds and icy cold. The women’s shirt also features thumb holes to keep your hands extra warm.
The four-way stretch fabric means you won’t fight with the shirt to get it on or off. It also wicks away moisture and dries extremely fast so that you don’t get chilled. We all definitely do still sweat in winter, and so the built-in anti-odor technology will prevent odor microbes from growing.
Some may find this to be not compressive enough, and it also may be too short and ride up at the back.
- ColdGear construction
- 4-way stretch construction
- Anti-odor technology
- Rolled-forward side seams
- It may be too short and ride up at the back
- Some may find that it doesn’t have enough compression
What are compression shirts?
Compression shirts are form-hugging garments that help your lymphatic and blood flow. They’re designed to be lightweight, and are made from synthetic materials like nylon, neoprene or Lycra.
Compression shirts are also designed to be breathable, draw moisture away from your skin, and move with your body.
What are the general benefits of compression shirts?
There are a number of benefits to wearing compression shirts aside from keeping the muscles warm. Compression shirts help to stabilize soft tissue, prevent muscle strain, reduce the risk of injury, and improve performance.
Due to the way that the compression shirts alter the intramuscular pressure, they help to increase blood flow and oxygen, which helps with muscle recovery after an intense workout.
What size should I choose and how will it feel?
Sizing will differ between brands. Check their specific sizing charts before ordering a compression shirt. A compression shirt should be a tight fit, but it shouldn’t feel like it’s constricting you.
If you’ve never worn a compression shirt before, you may want one that’s got more of a snug fit so that you can get used to wearing it. If you’re between sizes then go for the size that’s smaller. It will give you a squeezing sensation, but you’ll get all the benefits of the compression shirt.