Compression gear is an apparel trend that's sticking around, so we don't blame you for wanting to get on board. We've selected the best women's compression gear on the market so you can feel fresh from head to toe – check out the list below for tights, shorts, socks and more.
Tons of sportswear brands are selling gear with the word 'compression' whacked in the description, but what does it actually mean?
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It promises an abundance of benefits, from increased oxygen uptake into your muscles to flushing out lactic acid. Sceptics may say that this is too good to be true and simply a marketing tactic, but a number of studies have turned out results on compression wear's side.
Compression clothing is more than just super-tight Lycra (though, we agree, you will indeed feel compressed if you wear spandex two sizes too small). True compression wear is graduated in tightness from your extremities inwards – so tights will be tightest at the ankles and then ease off as they go up your legs – in order to improve blood flow. Here's our pick of the crop.
Best compression leggings
2XU Print Mid-Rise Compression Tights
A big name in compression wear, 2XU moves away from the simple and understated look that's most common in the field and brings a bit of oomph with these printed compression tights. Available in teal and white spots, mesh olive on black and warped black on white patterns, these tights can easily pass for a regular pair of gym leggings but with hidden benefits.
2XU recommends these for high or low impact training as well as recovery due to compression support around the abductors, glute, calf and thigh muscles to reduce muscle damage. The wide waistband and flatlock seams offer a comfy fit with no digging in or chafing, making them ideal for active recovery.
Sizes: XS to L
CEP Recovery Pro Tights
These recovery tights are produced by CEP, the sportswear arm of German medical compression company Medi. The price tag may be steep, but the anatomical design and high grade compression of these tights makes them among the best out there.
The size guide takes into account your ankle, calf and thigh measurements to ensure you get a truly personalised fit – rare in big brand apparel. The tights extend from the waist all the way down to your midfoot, and the semi-sheer appearance means they can almost – aside from the logo – pass for regular tights.
Being a touch on the see-through side, these are best paired with shorts or worn when lounging around the house after a tough training session, and are a worthy investment for anyone who wants to maximise their recovery.
Sizes: XS to XL
Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Metallic Leggings
Stay cosy and power up your recovery with these Under Armour compression leggings. They're made with the brand's HeatGear fabric, which keeps you warm without being overly thick and cumbersome.
They're lightweight and breathable, with sweat-wicking fabric to keep you cool and dry - ideal for avoiding those situations where you layer up for a cold weather run only to start overheating a few miles in!
Their four-way stretch means you aren't too constricted - a risk with close-fitting compression gear - and can move easily whether you're running, lifting or recovering. The metallic detailing adds a touch of flair, plus the high waist provides support around the stomach and waist.
2XU Prenatal Active Tights
These prenatal tights are designed to provide extra support to mums-to-be from the middle of the second trimester onwards. They have 2XU's signature PWX fabric and power mesh at the lower back and a gusset for pelvic floor support, as well as compression along the legs.
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The breathable tummy panel is seam-free for comfort and stretches to an extent as you grow, making these a brilliant addition to your maternity wardrobe. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, so see how they feel and, if you have any discomfort, take them off and talk to your doctor. If they feel fine, though, go forth and rock them at work, around the house and while working out – wherever suits you!
Sizes: XS to XL
Best compression tops
Under Armour Women's Coldgear Rush Shirt
A little less snug-fitting than other compression shirts, this Under Armour top still has the classic features of graduated compression but without squeezing too tight – a good shout for those new to compression wear. Available in pink, black and gray colours, the top has a mock neck construction for added coverage and a back zip to help make getting it on and off easy.
Under Armour has teamed up with textiles company Celliant to produce this top, using fabric which claims to "absorb and re-emit the visible and infrared electromagnetic light energy emitted by the body," making more oxygen available and increasing tissue oxygenation by 7%. The more relaxed fit of this top means it's a great base layer for running or cycling, or alternatively a useful warm-up top for lifting.
Sizes: XS to XL
Best compression shorts
Zone3 Women's RX3 Compression Shorts
Triathlon brand Zone3 is best known for its wetsuits, but these shorts show its technology translates just as well to dry land. The compression begins just above the knee and reaches up to the waist to up the blood flow to your quads, glutes and hamstrings – perfect for runners and cyclists.
The sweat-wicking fabric has built-in UV protection, making them ideal for sunny weather runs, plus they have two pockets: one at the upper back and one inside the front waistband, for all your nutrition and key storage needs.
The high denier material stops these from going see-through mid-squat, plus their flatlock stitching helps avoid chafing – a must when you're wearing shorts that fit this snugly. The wide waistband finishes these shorts off for comfortable fit around the stomach.
These have the potential to dig in a little at the lower thighs, but that's sadly a risk with any tight fitting shorts – we say embrace it and think how much your legs will thank you!
Sizes: XS to XL
Best compression socks and sleeves
Zone3 Full Length Recovery Sleeves
If you're a cyclist you've probably rocked something similar to these with your winter kit. Running from the calves to the upper thighs, these full length leg sleeves add warmth to cycling shorts but also provide a handy alternative to compression tights when you're out and about.
The silicone grip at the top holds them in place, like a sporty garter, while the targeted compression down the legs is said to help increase oxygenation and reduce lactic acid build-up. They also feature Zone3's Muscle Support System, which aims to reduce muscle vibration while you're on the move.
Obviously they're great for triathletes, runners and cyclists, but we also love them for covert compression on the go – pop them on under your jeans or a long dress and make the most of the recovery benefits.
Sizes: XS to XL
CEP Ankle Support Socks
More from medical compression pro CEP, these support socks are a fantastic buy for anyone with unstable ankles. If you're taking part in a trail run or another sport where twisted ankles are a risk, the anatomical fit of these socks is designed to protect the ankle joint and offer more support.
CEP says that the compression helps activate your proprioception – your body's sense of where it is – which, if it does the trick, is mega handy for protecting your feet and ankles. The compressive upper of the sock also increases blood flow to the calves and can help reduce swelling – all very useful for long distance runners.
If you're not keen on the compressed feeling as you train, pop these on after a shower and wear them overnight for refreshed feeling legs the day after.
Sizes: Available for all standard shoe sizes
Main image credit: Under Armour