Looking to add the benefits of compression to your running attire but not keen on going the whole way with tights?
You’ve come to the right place!
Compression shorts are a convenient alternative to tights for hot weather or if you want to focus the benefits on your upper leg area.
This article lists the 10 best compression running shorts out there right now and then answers your questions about the why and how.
- Top 10 Best Compression Shorts for Running 2021
- 2XU Men’s MCS Run Compression Shorts
- 2XU Men’s Core Compression Shorts
- Adidas Men’s Alphaskin Shorts
- Under Armour Men’s HeatGear Shorts
- TSLA Men's Compression Shorts
- Silkworld Men’s Compression Shorts
- Neleus Men’s Compression Shorts
- CW-X Women’s Stabilyx Ventilator Shorts
- Baleaf Women’s Compression Shorts
- Nike Women’s Pro Dri-FIT Compression Shorts
- Why Wear Compression Shorts?
- Factors to Look For
- Shorts vs Tights
Top 10 Best Compression Shorts for Running 2021
Why Wear Compression Shorts?
That’s the big question!
And, to be honest, the science isn’t definitive on how much compression actually helps with running.
But, the consensus seems to be that the increased circulation encouraged by compression results in faster return of oxygenated blood and clearing of lactic acid.
The support provided by compression clothing also reduces the intensity of vibrations experienced by high impact sports like running, reducing recovery time for the muscles.
As a result, some claim that wearing compression shorts or leggings while you run will slow muscle fatigue and allow you to run for longer.
This is a big claim and one that isn’t backed up by any science. But, there does seem to be a cumulative effect of wearing compression clothing for running, resulting in improved recovery over time.
And that can only be a good thing, right?
Then you get the other benefits of protection against chafing and the cooling effect of moisture-wicking fabric.
All in all, they seem like a pretty good deal.
Factors to Look For
Not all compression shorts were made equally.
Some are designed with compression as their primary focus with contoured panels designed to target compression on specific muscles. Others are just tight shorts that give a more generalized light squeeze depending on the size you choose.
Have a think about these factors when making your decision:
Level of Compression
In other words – how tight they are.
This decides whether they’re designed to be worn for longer periods of time during recovery, or whether they should only be worn for shorter periods of time while exercising.
Ideally, for optimum benefit, you want your shorts to reach just above the knee so that they can fully enclose and support the full length of your quads and hamstrings.
The shorter the shorts, the less compression you’re getting.
With shorts, this isn’t something you’d immediately think about. But, they’re designed to be stretchy, so unless they’re well designed, they could end up riding up your legs and becoming short-shorts before you’ve even completed the warm-up.
Under vs Outer
That’s right, not all compression shorts are designed to be worn by themselves. Some are best suited to being worn as a base layer underneath your regular running shorts.
If you’re looking for aerodynamics, you’ll need to make sure you choose a pair that are designed to be worn as outerwear.
Shorts vs Tights
This is an interesting question as the answer combines a bit of science, aesthetics and personal preference.
Without over-generalizing, I would go as far as saying that shorts seem to be more popular with men and tights with the ladies… but the preferences extend beyond gender.
The Blood Flow Factor
Since part of the purpose of compression clothing is to support the movement of blood through the muscles, ideally back to the heart, it follows that shorts have the potential to encourage more blood flow downwards towards the feet, while not necessarily helping it to travel back up again.
It’s common to see marathon runners wearing compression socks that reach up to the knee, or sleeves for their calves.
Both provide the benefits of compression while helping to overcome the downward pull of gravity that can result in swelling in the lower limbs.
So, it’s not that there won’t be any benefits to compression shorts, but that you’re restricting the benefits to the muscle groups in your thighs and buttocks without supporting your lower legs, and arguably, it could be the lower legs that need the support more when you’re running.
The Comfort Factor
The main reason people will choose shorts over tights is if they tend to get too hot in tights and prefer to let their legs breathe.
Alternatively, it may be that part of the reason for wearing skin-tight shorts is in order to prevent chafing between the thighs, in which case, tights aren’t necessary.
The Injury Factor
If part of the reason you’re choosing compression clothing is to support an injured muscle, or prevent injury in an injury-prone muscle group, then it makes sense that the style of clothing you choose will match the area needing compression.
If you’re only looking to support the hips, buttocks or thighs, then you only need shorts.
As you can see, there are few things to consider in the shorts versus tights debate, not least the ‘look’ you prefer. But if you think after this that tights might be what you’re after, have a read of our compression tights article before you make any decisions.
On the other hand, if you a lady reading this and you think conventional running shorts might be more your thing rather than compression shorts, check out our list of the best running shorts for women here.
Are Compression Shorts Good for Running?
There isn’t a huge amount of science to back up the benefits of compression shorts for running. But they definitely don’t do any harm, and proponents believe that they experience improved recovery, so, why not?
How Tight are Compression Shorts Supposed to be?
Put it this way, you shouldn’t feel any tingling or numbness in your extremities! They should be tight enough that you can feel a light squeeze and feel nicely contained, but not so tight that you feel any circulation being cut off.
Overall, they should be comfortable.
What are the Best Compression Shorts for Running?
2XU and CW-X make some of the best compression shorts for running, designed specifically with targeted support on the main muscle groups.
How to Wear Compression Shorts for Running?
Men tend to wear compression shorts as underwear, underneath their regular running shorts, unless they’re racing and looking for aerodynamics. Ladies tend to wear shorts as outerwear.
What do Compression Shorts do for Guys?
Compression shorts provide the same benefits of compression to main muscle groups in the buttocks and thighs, with the added benefit of keeping everything in place and supported while you run, reducing friction and chafing.
Is it Bad to Sleep in Compression Shorts?
This depends on how tight they are. If they’re just a light compression, then no it’s not bad, you might even benefit from the recovery.
But generally speaking, it’s better to avoid sleeping in compression shorts and let everything breathe!
So, what do you think? Are you sold on the best compression running shorts?
No pressure! (Pun intended) We have plenty of other options available if compression shorts aren’t your thing, from the best workout shorts for ladies to all the best workout gear for both men and women, there’ll be something that works for you.
And remember, subscribe to our newsletter and NEVER tumble dry your compression clothing!
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