Despite the ever-increasing number of runners at races in all manners of compression gear, evidence continues to point toward such apparel being most effective when worn after exercise, according to a research review published in theInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance.
A research team from the University of Wuppertal in Germany analysed existing original research on how and whether compression gear improves athletic performance and recovery. They found a consensus that compression gear worn after a workout has what they call “small to moderate effect sizes” on several measures of recovery. In terms of measures relevant to distance running, those included reduced muscle swelling and muscular pain. (For what it’s worth, they also found compression gear can lessen post-workout time for regaining peak vertical-jumping ability, so keep that in mind the next time you have a netball game scheduled soon after your weekly long run.)
The evidence for compression gear aiding on-the-run performance is less than for recovery; the research team found a consensus of “small effect sizes” for measures such as extending time to exhaustion and performance in time trials.
Then again, even a small effect is an effect. And, to date, there’s no evidence that running in compression gear decreases performance.