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What Are Compression Shorts And Do They Actually Work?

When I first got back into running, one of my friends recommended I purchase 2-in-1 shorts: compression shorts underneath, and standard shorts on top.

My friend was a more experienced runner than I was, and I trusted her opinions. I decided to purchase those shorts, and have used them regularly for over a year. I love them because they give me the benefits of compression shorts as well as the flexibility and breathing room of regular shorts.

In this article, we’ll be covering compression shorts. We’ll discuss what they are, the differences between compression shorts and compression underwear, and their benefits.

By the end of this article, there’s a good chance that you too will be as enthusiastic as I am about compression shorts!

What are Compression Shorts?

Compression shorts are like spandex shorts. They stick to your body due to their stretchy fabric, providing pressure in the areas that they cover (your butt and thighs).

The evidence is mixed. Some scientists believe that compression shorts don’t help at all during a workout. Other research does suggest that compression gear helps in recovery. 

Don’t discount the placebo effect: if you believe compression shorts help when you’re running, then they just might. One way or the other, compression shorts don’t have any negative effects. So they might be worth the price if you seem to run faster with them.

What is the Difference Between Compression Shorts and Compression Underwear?

Quite simply, it is whether the compression gear is designed to be outerwear or underwear. Compression shorts are designed like running tights and cycling shorts. Compression underwear is often designed by companies that manufacture other underwear, and might not be suitable as a top layer.

A great place to start is looking at the tag. If it says underwear, put on a pair of shorts overtop to stay modest. If they are shorts, you should be okay to wear them by themselves, but they are going to be wicked tight if modesty is a concern.

I personally like my 2-in-1 shorts because the compression shorts underneath are a little bit shorter than the traditional athletic shorts overtop. I don’t have to remember multiple garments, but can just grab these.

Men often find compression underwear more comfortable than regular underwear when running. It helps to keep everything in place and can reduce the possibility of getting injuries in an uncomfortable place.

What are Compression Shorts Made Out Of?

Compression shorts are made of a high-grade fabric that provides compression to the user. Typically, the fabric is made from a combination of materials like spandex, nylon, polyester, and Lycra. 

Compression shorts are designed to wick away sweat, compress the designated area, and allow your skin to breathe. Any of the listed fabrics meet this goal.

Why Do Compression Shorts Cost More Than Regular Running Shorts?

Compression shorts cost more than regular running shorts because of how they are made. Because compression shorts have to provide compression, they have to be designed more carefully than your typical running shorts.

In other words, compression shorts have to meet two goals. They have to be breathable and also provide compression. Regular running shorts don’t have to meet that second goal and thus are cheaper to produce (and purchase). 

What are the Benefits of Compression Shorts?

Many people have studied compression shorts. The findings? In general, they are helpful in improving athletic performance and preventing injuries. What runner doesn’t want that? In particular, they provide a good number of specific benefits.

Reduce Muscle Soreness

As a runner, you’re always going to have sore muscles. But compression shorts can greatly reduce soreness, or even make it non-existent. Compression shorts (this also applies to compression tights) can even help with reducing fatigue during workouts, too. You can run longer and harder without feeling as much of an impact.

If you want to perform better for a longer period of time, compression shorts will help extend your workout without extra stress on your muscles.

Increase Oxygen to Muscles

Getting oxygen to your muscles during a workout is key. Compression shorts are designed to increase the oxygen that different parts of your body receive.

By promoting blood flow and increased oxygen, compression shorts will boost your athletic performance and help your muscles function better.

Improve Post-Run Recovery

I regularly use compression calf sleeves both during and after my runs. I can tell a big difference in muscle recovery. 

Compression shorts work the same way. They are especially helpful if you’ve just finished a hard and strenuous workout. You want your muscles to recover as quickly as possible.

In fact, compression shorts will even help during your cross-training and strength days. They can help promote strength recovery after you’ve done resistance training.

Because compression shorts increase blood pressure, they assist in rebuilding muscles and healing broken tissue in addition to easing swelling more quickly.

Provide Muscle Support for Injuries

If you’re prone to injuries, you might want to consider compression shorts. They will help you in reducing your risk for strains, and can aid in strain recovery. If you need some extra support, compression shorts are the way to go.

Comfortable to Wear

There is definitely some pressure applied to your butt and thighs, but it’s not bothersome at all. Compression shorts also reduce wind resistance. And they won’t ride up on you when you’re running or doing any other physical activity.

I know I definitely find it annoying when my clothing is moving all around when I’m exercising. I appreciate compression gear because everything stays where it should be. 

Plus, they are warmer. The tight fit helps you get warm and stay warm if you happen to be running while it’s a little colder outside.

Figure Flattering

While this might be less of a concern for the men out there, compression shorts are a great way to show off your figure. Because compression shorts are form-fitting, they will accentuate your butt and thighs. 

If you’ve been wanting some visual evidence of your progress (for example, if you’re working toward a beach body for the summer), compression shorts will give you a good idea of how successful your running and workouts are!

Helps to Prevent Chafing 

Similarly, because compression shorts fit tightly against your body, you’ll experience less friction. Less friction means less chafing than with your typical running shorts. If you tend to have a lot of chafing problems, compression shorts might be the way to fix this problem!

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day, I love my compression shorts because they are comfortable and don’t ride up when I’m running. Even if they don’t technically help my performance during a workout, that’s okay because being comfortable helps me run better.

If you haven’t tried a pair of compression shorts before, it’s definitely worth getting a pair and seeing what you think. I’m guessing that you’ll feel much like I do: that compression shorts are worth the extra money. 

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner