Compression sales take off
Forget Spandex. The latest tight-fitting sportswear isn't just a way to decrease drag or show-off a slim physique. More and more athletes are turning to compression garments to boost performance, minimise injuries and reduce recovery time.
'We've seen a huge increase in compression sales,' says Kirsty Hulme, whose 2XU collection includes socks, tights and tops. 'Whether they're 80 or 20, anyone who's getting an elevated heartbeat can benefit from compression.'
Compression garments are not new, with medical-grade stockings, girdles and bodysuits already used extensively to treat swelling and vein disorders and to aid recovery from surgery. But the latest offerings have taken the technology to new heights, promising to prevent muscle fatigue, maintain body temperature and position, improve power and performance, and aid recovery by promoting the flow of lactic acid.
As compression gear becomes more popular in the sports and fitness community, the number of brands specialising in it is also growing. One of the pioneers in the industry, Australia-based Skins, has developed 'engineered gradient compression' to accelerate blood flow. By focusing on key body parts, the garments are said to reduce muscle vibrations and soreness.
2XU, a favourite among triathletes, emphasises high-filament fabrics that are strong, durable and antibacterial. Compressport offers calf guards, armbands and socks for racing and recovery, while Zoot's products feature graduated compression to reduce lactic acid build-up and in-built panels to aid correct body positioning.
While compression garments are often targeted to endurance athletes, they are increasingly being designed for everyone from basketball players (to boost jumping power) to golfers (for a more powerful and controlled swing). The range of items is equally broad, from sleeves to shorts to cycling bibs.
'When you're exercising, it's more about muscle containment, so the shorts, calf guards and socks are really good,' Hulme says. 'For recovery, the best thing is the tights. Put them on right after you finish exercising, after a shower. Keep them on for a minimum of four hours to get the best benefit.'