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Last night, I saw a news on TV. A guy is running from Baltimore to San Francisco. He promotes healthy living style to each hosting family along his way. He said that at night he wears some kind of pants for quicker recovery. I didn't quite catch what he said actually, so wonder what kinds of pants for example can help in recovery? Thanks!

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

There are a couple of different types of pants that aid recovery, but neither of them are really "pants" in the traditional sense. Most of them are compression tights, or you can also get compression socks or compression sleeves that cover from just below the knee to the top of the foot.

There are several brands of compression hose available on the market, a couple of brands are 2XU, Zoot and Beaker Concepts. You can also get the medical version CEP or TED hose, and it's basically the same effect. You can get these anywhere from $20 - $200 depending on brand and size.

There are also large inflatable boots/pants made by a couple of manufacturers (NormaTec and Recovery Pump) that encapsulate the entire leg or just a boot, and they work by inflating and deflating chambers in the pants to massage, improve circulation and reduce swelling and fatigue. There are quite a few elite endurance athletes that use these, Chrissie Wellington (3x IM world champ), Meb Keflizighi (Oly silver in the marathon), and others of that level that can justify the cost. They run $1000-2000 for a set.

The compression in them runs from 10-30mm Hg (For comparison, a blood pressure cuff will generally be pumped up to 140-180 mm Hg at its highest), depending on the style, manufacturer and where on the leg it is.

My n=1 is that I am wearing Zoot compression sleeves on my right calf to control swelling while I am rehabbing a ruptured Achilles, and they work amazing for that. Since this is my first experience with them, I can't speak to how well they recover for long endurance events, although some of my sponsored triathlon friends swear by them.

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Thanks! What is the reasoning behind tight pants aiding recovery? Doesn't it reduce circulation in legs? –  Tim Aug 19 '12 at 2:47
    
Is there any evidence that these work? –  Abe Aug 19 '12 at 4:30
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@Abe There is scant evidence (None, really), that compression clothing aids performance. There is some evidence that it does help recovery, mostly by helping avoid the swelling and fluid accumulation that occurs in the legs post exercise. Joe Friel (Triathlon coach and physiologist) has a good comparison of a lot of the studies on his blog: joefrielsblog.com/2011/02/… Dr. Victor Runco also notes that he has seen positive results in treating chronic conditions such as patellar tendonitis, shin splints, etc. –  JohnP Aug 19 '12 at 15:40

This was covered in a recent article in the British Medical Journal, Mythbusting sports and exercise products. Their summary was:

General public—There is a lack of evidence to support use of compression garments to improve sporting performance. They may reduce muscle soreness if worn for 24 hours after an exercise session

Professional athletes—There is no consistent evidence that compression garments improve sporting performance. Muscle soreness seems to be reduced if garments are worn for 24 hours after exercise, but objective measures of recovery are less consistent, and compression garments seem to work no better than other recovery strategies such as low grade exercise or contrast bathing. Potential adverse effects of these garments may include increased skin temperature, decreased thermoregulation, and reduced range of motion

Required research—Larger studies in individual sports and research generalisable to either highly trained athletes or the general population, with outcomes related to sports performance, and examination of adverse effects and acceptability of compression garments

That article is a very useful summary of the evidence on other myths as well.

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For anything to be useful in recovery, and not snake-oil or a placebo, it would depend on whether you have a circulatory condition. If you're completely healthy, wearing special pants will just cost you extra money. If you're not healthy, then the types of leggings you might wear to sleep would benefit you regardless of whether you run.

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Do you have any evidence to support your claim? –  Abe Aug 19 '12 at 4:29
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Simply the lack of evidence that tights have any effect on post-run recovery, or well, anything. –  Robin Ashe Aug 19 '12 at 6:04

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