Trendy compression tights for athletes 'do NOT improve performance'
The study shows that the leggings greatly reduce muscle vibration, but that does not translate into better times.
Despite the fact that most distance runners swear by them, the latest American research found they do not help runners go further or faster.
The study, supported by a research grant from Nike, shows the tights do not reduce muscle fatigue when compared to running without the tights.
Study leader Dr Ajit Chaudhari of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre, said: “When your muscle vibrates, it induces a contraction that uses energy, so the theory was that less muscle vibration would translate to less fatigue.
“However, the reduced vibration was not associated with any reduction in fatigue at all.
“In our study, runners performed the same with and without compression tights.”
Participants in the study ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at 80 per cent of their maximum speed on two different days, once with compression tights and once without them.
Motion capture technology tracked each runner’s body position within a fraction of a millimetre.
The participants’ leg strength and jump height were tested before and after each run.
Dr Chaudhari said: “We have a specialised 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.
“The runners also wore a heart rate monitor so we could measure their exertion throughout the run.”
One reason for trying to slow fatigue with compression tights, aside from running faster for longer, is the theory that tired runners alter their form and put more strain on their joints, which may increase overuse injury risk.
But further research showed that experienced runners had no more strain on their joints at the end of a training run than at the beginning.
Although the results showed that the compression tights didn’t reduce fatigue in runners, Dr Chaudhari says there may be other benefits.
He said if runners feel better while wearing compression tights, that’s enough to keep using them.
He added: “There is nothing in this study that shows it’s bad to wear compression tights.
“Every little bit of perception counts when running long distances, so they may help runners in ways we aren’t able to measure.”
The findings were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting.