You're a fitness enthusiast, an athlete... someone who practically lives in workout gear, so how do you choose one piece of workout apparel from another? When there are thousands of black leggings and tops on the market, you want to choose the ones that stand out for being exceptional, both in performance and visual appeal. Colleen Kratofil, the Girls Gone Sporty Lifestyle Intern, and I both had the opportunity to put 2XU compression gear to the test. Here's what we discovered.
About the 2XU brand
Since 2009, 2XU compression garments have been the official choice of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), and they're the only brand the AIS selected to become the Official Compression Partner for its athletes and associated Research + Development program. Not only that, but the AIS has performed independent research proving the effectiveness of the garments. That's pretty significant, don't you think? Here are just a few of the proven performance and recovery benefits:
- Better muscle stability during exercise that helps reduce muscle damage
- Improved proprioception and movement awareness, which can help enhance agility
- Reduced muscle oscillation during exercise which also helps reduce muscle fatigue and improve endurance, strength and power
- Heightened recovery post-exercise
- Reduced muscle soreness
- Improved performance when performing multiple bouts of exercise without much rest between sessions
- Improved circulation
In addition to the compression benefits, 2XU garments are moisture wicking and breathable for temperature control, they offer UPF 50+ sun protection to protect you from UV rays and they offer antibacterial odor resistance to reduce workout-related stink.
We all know, though, that performance is what performance does, so Colleen and I went ahead and put the garments to the test. Colleen took the tops while I took the bottoms. After a week of hard workouts, we reconvened to share our results.
Compression leggings and socks: Reviewed by Laura Williams
Performance revolves around fit. If clothes are too tight, too loose, too long, too short or just plain awkward, they're going to affect your workout. As a 6'0" woman who lives in a world of athletic apparel built for the 5'6" athlete, fit is an issue I regularly struggle with. I was thrilled to discover that 2XU offers tights designed for women up to 6'1". For the first time in my life, I was wearing a pair of tights that actually started at my ankle and fit properly through the thigh, crotch and waist. With this type of fit, I didn't have to pull at my waistband to keep the tights from sagging or yank at the bottom of them to keep them in place. Essentially, I wasn't distracted by my clothing, and that's a huge deal for someone who's trying to focus on a workout!
I will say that I was surprised that someone who wears a size 11 shoe could get away with wearing a size medium compression sock, but it worked! The socks were tough to get on (I suggest clipping your toenails first to prevent catching your nails on the fabric), but once I got them over my foot, they fit perfectly! They were super supportive and comfortable, with extra woven support through the mid-foot and arch.
Check out the video review on 2XU's fit >>
During my workouts I felt comfortable and strong. I regularly run late at night, frequently on roads without sidewalks, so the oversized reflective Xs along the sides of the tights gave me extra peace of mind. Plus, unlike some compression gear that's extra thick and heavy, these tights were lightweight, breathable and non-restrictive, making them perfect for running in cooler weather. Most of my runs incorporate a number of hills, and the compression socks, in particular, seemed to cut down on the lactic acid buildup in my calves on the steeper sections, making it possible to get up the hills with ease.
After my workouts I continued to wear the tights for several hours to see whether my recovery time might be affected. I'm usually pretty sweaty, so it was nice that these were breathable enough to dry out quickly, making them dry and comfortable for extended wear.
Despite pushing myself harder and lifting more than usual during my week of testing, my soreness was minimal - much less than I expected. Overall, I had no complaints about the apparel and a lot of really positive experiences. They're attractive, fit perfectly, are great for late night workouts and help with performance and recovery. There's really not much more that you could ask from compression gear!
The only issue I noticed was that because these are thinner than most compression garments, they were a tiny bit see-through in the butt when bending over or doing squats. If you're wearing the right undergarments or a top that's long enough to cover cover the band of your underwear, no one would ever notice. I didn't hesitate to workout in these at the gym because I made sure nothing could show before I headed out the door.
Note: This isn't an issue at all for running or other standing activities -- it's only in the bending/squating motions that it becomes apparent.
Compression tops: Reviewed by Colleen Kratofil
I normally don’t work out in compression gear, in fact the only time I run in tight fitting tops at all is racing in school uniforms. That being said, I wasn’t sure what my workout would feel like wearing the 2XU tops.
At first look the tops seemed pretty tiny, but they actually slid right on and I really did feel compressed and not cramped. My underarms weren’t restricted, plus the stitching along the bodice made a nice, slimming effect.
I started a four mile run and immediately noticed that the tightness around my midsection really made me want to engage my abs more and pull them in. It definitely enhanced my posture throughout the entire run.
I ran in both the short sleeve and tank top styles, and preferred the sleeveless because it kept me feeling cooler, longer. The tops do have a bit of a collar and I tend to dislike feeling anything around my neck when I run, but I was surprised to see that the neckline wasn’t too restricting. I found the tank top had less pull around the neck than the short-sleeved top, but I barely noticed it at all once I got running.
The only downside I found was that the bottom hemline of the tops would slowly creep up and sit right below my bellybutton. This is a pet peeve of mine, so I kept pulling it down throughout the run. Some people may not mind having shirts sit above the hip, but that was one thing that made it uncomfortable for me.
Next, I wore the short-sleeved top to the gym and went through my usual routine of leg and arm work. That day I did series of push-up workouts, which are not my strong suite. During the exercise the top did make me feel like I could do a few more push-ups than usual and the next day I my chest wasn’t as sore as I can typically expect it to be.
My favorite feature of the 2XU tops was the way it made me feel more powerful. It reminded me to pull in my abs and I felt that I could push myself to do that extra rep or two. I was very pleased with the tops overall and will definitely wear them to the gym again!