(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Many distance runners swear by their compression tights to help them run farther and faster. But a new study at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that, although they greatly reduced muscle vibration, compression tights don’t actually reduce muscle fatigue when compared to running without them.
“When your muscle vibrates, it induces a contraction that uses energy, so the theory was that less muscle vibration would translate to less fatigue,” said Ajit Chaudhari, PhD, who led the study and is an associate professor of physical therapy, orthopedics, mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering. “However, the reduced vibration was not associated with any reduction in fatigue at all. In the study, runners performed the same with and without compression tights.”
Study participants ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 80 percent of their maximum speed on two different days, once with compression tights and once without them. Motion capture technology tracked the runner’s body position within a fraction of a millimeter.
“We also have a specialized treadmill with force sensors embedded in it that measures how hard a runner’s foot is landing, how they’re able to push off and how that changes over time,” Chaudhari said. “The runners also wore a heart rate monitor so we could measure their exertion throughout the run.”
Participants’ leg strength and jump height were tested before and after each run, as well. And although the results showed that the compression tights did not reduce fatigue, Chaudhari says there may be other benefits. He also says that if runners feel better while wearing compression tights, that’s enough to keep using them. “There is nothing in this study that shows that it is bad to wear compression tights,” he said. “Every little bit of perception counts when running long distances, and they may be benefiting runners in ways that we aren’t able to measure.”