Compression gear has become increasingly popular in the sports and fitness world in recent years. It has been observed to reduce lactic acid levels, increase muscle stability, improve recovery time, reduce cramping, and improve speed and strength results in athletes of all levels.
Compression pants are one of the key pieces of gear that athletes and fitness enthusiasts use to boost their performance and prevent injuries.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a pair of compression pants, including how they fit, the quality of the material, the activity you plan to use them for, and the price.
With that in mind, we made our top picks in five different categories of compression pants.
- Best Overall: 2XU Men’s Elite MCS Compression Tights
- Best Value: CompressionZ Men’s Compression Pants
- Best for Running: CW-X Men’s Stabilyx Running Tights
- Best for Cross Training: Sub Sports Elite RX Mens Graduated Compression Base Layer Tights/Pants
- Best for Recovery: Zensah Men’s Recovery Tights
Best Overall: 2XU Men’s Elite MCS Compression Tights
Why they’re great:
2XU is a reliable brand for all compression clothing needs, and their compression pants are no exception. Started by a professional triathlete, 2XU was created to offer high quality, scientifically-backed compression gear to optimize performance, prevent injury, and improve recovery.
These tights feature 2XU’s Muscle Containment Stamping technology, which provides targeted support to certain muscle groups, as well as strong (20-30 mmHg) graduated compression. Lightweight, comfortable, and breathable, they are a great option for athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking for a quality pair of compression pants for high-intensity activities. They come in sizes XS to XXL, which are designed to fit 25”-45” waists.
Drawbacks: Reviews for 2XU’s compression pants are overwhelmingly positive, but as with most compression gear, some people have trouble finding a perfect fit.
- 80% Nylon and 20% Elastane (Invista LYCRA)
- Graduated compression (20-30 mmHg)
- Moisture-wicking, antibacterial fabric
Best Value: CompressionZ Men’s Compression Pants
Why they’re great: While they are priced considerably lower than most other options on the market, CompressionZ’s pants still offer high-performing compression for a wide variety of activities. Whether you are looking for workout gear or something to relax in, these pants can get the job done without breaking the bank.
They are made with a 4-way stretch, moisture-wicking, anti-odor fabric that can help keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Available in sizes S to XXXL, these pants can accommodate many different body types, with most customers reporting that they fit as expected.
Drawbacks: Some customers reported issues with the waist of the pants sliding down, while others felt that the compression fit wasn’t as good as some other brands.
- 85% Nylon, 15% Spandex
- 4-way stretch fabric
- Moisture-wicking material
Best for Running: CW-X Men’s Stabilyx Running Tights
Why they’re great: CW-X was developed at the Human Science Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan in 1991. The company specializes in producing high-quality compression gear designed specifically for running and other endurance activities. Their Stabilyx pants are engineered with CW-X’s patented EXO-WEB technology to support your hip and knee joints, mimicking the effect of kinesiology tape while also delivering the benefits of compression on the muscles.
They’re made with a breathable, moisture-wicking, antibacterial fabric and flat seams to maximize comfort, and they feature an abdominal panel to provide extra support. There is also a small pocket on the waistband to hold keys. They come in sizes S to XL, including tall sizes for L and XL.
Drawbacks: Reviews for these pants are overwhelmingly positive. While not exactly a drawback, one customer did mention that the company’s insulated pants would probably be more appropriate if being used in very cold weather.
- CW-X EXO-WEB: 80% Nylon, 20% Lycra® Spandex
- Body Fabric: 80% Coolmax® Polyester, 20% Lycra® Spandex
- Graduated joint compression
- Key pocket
Best for Cross Training: Sub Sports Elite RX Mens Graduated Compression Base Layer Tights/Pants
Why they’re great: Sub Sports is a British company that has been making base layer apparel since 2008. Their Elite RX model pants feature graduated compression and are designed to be worn while participating in a variety of activities, including cycling, running, lifting weights, and playing other sports.
They are made with a moisture-wicking, 4-way stretch fabric and mesh inserts to improve ventilation so you can stay cool and comfortable while working out. Sizes XS to XXL are available, and they have an elastic waistband that accommodates a wide range of body types.
Drawbacks: One of the most common complaints from customers about these pants is that there is no drawstring in the waistband.
- 82% Nylon, 18% Elastane
- Graduated compression
- Mesh ventilation panels
Best for Recovery: Zensah Men’s Recovery Tights
Why they’re great: Zensah is a Florida-based company founded in 2004 that specializes in compression gear and other athletic apparel. Their recovery tights are made from a lightweight, ribbed, ultra-breathable fabric and provide graduated compression from your hips to your ankles. They are designed specifically to promote muscle recovery following a variety of activities, including running, cycling, weight lifting, basketball, and other sports.
The moisture-wicking material is infused with silver in the threads to help combat bacteria and odor, and the seamless construction prevents chafing. There are three sizes available, and the waistband includes a drawstring.
Drawbacks: Since they only come in three sizes, some people have complained about the fit, especially if looking for a true XL size.
- 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane
- Graduated compression
- Seamless construction
How did we choose these pants?
With the enormous number of options available in the compression gear category, choosing the best products can be extremely challenging. To put together this list, we looked at a number of important factors including the type of compression, the quality of the material, the specific use and associated benefits, and the cost.
Beyond those criteria, we also researched brands, their approach to compression wear, and their reputation with customers. We looked not only at how the product was designed and marketed, but how it performs for real people. We analyzed product reviews from across the web to find both positive and negative trends until we were confident that each product selected will effectively serve the needs of our readers.
What to consider when choosing compression pants for yourself
Our recommendations will hopefully serve as a useful jumping off point for you in your search for the perfect compression gear. Since each person’s wants and needs will vary, you’ll need to find what’s best for you. To this end, there are a few things to consider. Most important, is how you’ll be using your compression pants. Ask yourself:
- Do you mostly do cardio or strength training?
- If you are a runner, how often and how far do you typically run?
- For sports like basketball or soccer, how often do you play and at what level?
- Do you generally perform your activities inside or outside?
- Do you workout or play in cold weather or warm weather?
The answers to these questions will help you determine what type of compression pants are best for you. For runners, graduated compression, more durable material, and compartments to store keys or cell phones are useful components. Those who prefer strength training may benefit more from targeted compression that supports the muscle groups being used most.
What are the benefits of compression pants?
Compression pants offer a number of benefits both during and after workouts. While the direct performance benefits of compression in general have been difficult to definitively prove, several studies have shown excellent results when it comes to muscle recovery.
The recovery benefits of compression work in two ways – short-term and long-term – both of which also indirectly impact performance. These benefits are the result of the improved circulation and increased blood flow provided by compression clothing.
- When worn during workouts, compression produces short-term results by more efficiently removing lactic acid from the muscles. Lactic acid build up is what causes you to feel that familiar burn when stretching your muscles to their limit. By speeding the movement of oxygen to the muscles and lactic acid away from them, compression allows you to bounce back more quickly between sets and reach your goals faster.
- When worn during and after a workout, compression eliminates or reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the result of inflammation caused by tiny tears in our muscles. While the repair of these tears is, in part, responsible for muscle growth, DOMS can leave us immobilized in the days following a tough workout. By enhancing the movement of oxygen and other anti-inflammatory agents to the muscles, compression helps muscles heal faster, reducing pain so you can get back to the gym or on the road sooner.