What Are Compression Leggings?


What are compression leggings, and why are they so popular? Both male and female athletes love compression leggings, and for good reason.

They can be used both during and after exercise; when used correctly, they can aid in performance and recovery.

The best part is that if you’re uncomfortable running in tights, they’re easy to wear underneath something else.

Let’s look at the many benefits of compression leggings and how to use them properly.

What Are Compression Leggings?

Compression leggings are tight, form-fitting garments that are most often worn as activewear. They have a good amount of stretch to them, so they are comfortable for activities that require you to move through your full range of motion.

They are full-length, from hip to ankle. If you want something with less coverage, consider compression shorts for the upper legs or compression sleeves for the lower legs.

Aside from being comfortable, the compression properties also help increase blood flow, ease muscle fatigue, and help you recover faster.

Many compression leggings now come with a smartphone pocket, and you can choose between hip-height or over-the-hip style.

How Do Compression Leggings Work?

Compression leggings are designed to apply gentle pressure to your legs. Some provide equal pressure across the entire area, while others use graduated compression to offer more pressure in certain areas.

This constant compression helps to stimulate blood flow by “massaging” the tissues and blood vessels. The better your circulation, the more blood reaches the muscles.

During Exercise

If you’re wearing compression tights during exercise, this will help to bring glucose to the muscles to be used as fuel. This could improve your performance, as your muscles won’t fatigue as quickly.

True compression leggings need to have enough compression to hold the muscles in place during exercise, which helps to reduce vibrations through the muscle. This can help to reduce the chance of injury during activity.

During Recovery

While the benefits of using compression leggings during exercise are inconclusive, research suggests they have excellent recovery properties.

Wearing compression leggings during recovery brings oxygen-rich blood and white blood cells to the muscles, healing them faster.

Compression leggings also help to stimulate the movement of lymphatic fluid through the body, which helps drain lactic acid.

This can significantly reduce muscle soreness and get you back to exercising comfortably and safely in as short a time as possible.

They work well when used with other recovery therapies, like foam rolling, gentle stretching, or yoga.

How Tight Should Compression Leggings Be?

Compression leggings should be fairly tight. There should be no extra fabric, loose areas of the tights, or space between your skin and the leggings.

They should feel like a second skin, but they should not be uncomfortable or cause pain, tingling, or numbness. Compression leggings also shouldn’t inhibit your range of motion in any way.

How Do You Put On Compression Leggings?

It may seem obvious, but the truth is putting on compression leggings can be a bit tricky if you’ve never done it before. This is due to the tightness.

The easiest way to do it is to begin by gathering the leggings—scrunching the legs up—at your feet. Slip each foot into the ankle hole so they are gathered around your ankles.

Start pulling them up little by little. Try a few inches on the left leg and then a few on the right leg. If they are very tight, you can try rolling them upward instead.

It may take longer than regular leggings, but this will help you get them up and over your hips as easily as possible.

If you hear a splitting sound the first time you try them on, it shouldn’t be cause for concern. Many pairs have “basting stitches”—extra stitches sewn in during the manufacturing process to keep the fabrics in the right place as they’re being properly stitched together.

Taking compression leggings off is easy. Simply roll them down from the hips to the ankles and step out of them.

What Do You Wear Under Compression Leggings?

Compression leggings can be worn directly against the skin as a base layer. However, some people aren’t comfortable with this.

You can wear underwear underneath compression leggings, but there may be some chafing and discomfort due to their tightness. If you do wear underwear, we suggest a pair of seamless underwear.

What’s the Difference Between Regular Leggings and Compression Leggings?

Regular leggings – more often called running tights – may be tight-fitting, but they don’t quite offer the same support for the muscles and circulation-improving properties as compression leggings do.

While you can run in regular leggings, your muscles won’t be protected from the vibrations of impact. They also may provide some light compression, but they won’t stimulate blood flow and improve recovery the same way compression leggings do.

Can You Sleep In Compression Leggings?

You can sleep in compression leggings. However, sleeping with them may not provide any extra benefits for recovery or performance.

Compression leggings are designed to provide pressure to the legs in a specific pattern and at a particular level of pressure. When you sleep, the way you’re lying changes the pressure placed on your body changes.

This could reduce the effects of the compression. The muscles also don’t need the extra support during sleep, so they may feel restricted instead.

You may find that you wake up a few hours later feeling uncomfortable. Remember that sleep is also an essential part of recovery, so it would be better to get good rest without your compression leggings and use them during or after exercise instead.

Other Uses for Compression Leggings

Aside from helping you perform better at athletic endeavors and recover faster after exercise, compression leggings can be used for various functions.

Reduce Swelling

Compression leggings help to stimulate blood flow, lymphatic fluid, and fluid in the tissues due to the pressure they place on the legs.

Swelling is a build-up of fluid in the tissue, and compression leggings can help the fluid drain more easily. It may also provide some relief from the pain that accompanies the swelling.

You should elevate your legs while using the compression leggings if you’re using them to reduce swelling. This will help the swelling go down faster.

Compression leggings can also help prevent your legs from swelling up on flights. Wearing them while you’re flying can help keep the fluid flowing and prevent it from building up.

Ease Neuropathy Pain

Those who suffer from neuropathy may find benefit in compression leggings. Increased circulation helps keep the legs’ tissues bathed in oxygen and nutrient-rich blood.

The massaging effect of compression leggings can help reduce the symptoms associated with neuropathy and increase the range of motion. It’s also helpful to wear good shoes for neuropathy when running or on your feet.

Increase Proprioception

Proprioception is the ability to feel where your limbs are in the space around you. This is a large component of the mind-muscle connection. It can help you with better balance and more effective movement.

It’s unclear why compression leggings do this, but it may be because they stimulate your sensory receptors.

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Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.