Sunday, 17 February 2013

Compression Tops

Also love the skins A400 shorts for trail runs!
Hmmm, compression tights. You either love em or hate em. Compression socks, you either swear by them or think they look ridiculous. If your reading this chances are you use either, or both of them in your running or chosen sport.

Compression shirts? That’s a whole other, and scarier area. Why would I want one? What do they do? Do they work? Well this little blurb can hopefully point you in the right direction. I’m hoping you’ve searched for ‘Nike Pro Combat 2.0 ss/ls compression shirt’ or ‘Under Armour Heat Gear compression shirt’ or something similar and ended up here.

I’ll start with the Under Armour top (check it out at wiggle). Bluntly, I love it! It’s Under Armours lightest top and is designed to keep you cool. With mesh construction to wick away the sweat, compression to strengthen the core and increase blood flow to keep your muscles going when you can’t.  I saw it in a local sports store and thought ‘why not?’ I have an older Under Armour Compression tank and a 2XU compression short sleeve tri top that I love.

Being 167cms on a good day and weighing 57-60kg when I’m soaking wet and with a backpack on the only size option was a small. I put it on and it fit like a glove. It was very snug but not at all compressing or restrictive. It felt incredibly light and I could move as free as though I were not wearing a shirt at all. The red colour, I love, it’s me. 
The first run was on a 25 C day. During the run I was certainly sweating from the brow but my chest and back felt great. When a slight breeze blew up it went straight through me and felt awesome, the wicking of the shirt and the breeze was instantly cooling. In fact, any breeze at all is like magic. The second run was 29km at 27 C plus. By the end of the run I’d had it. The shirt, I felt free all the way and it certainly felt like it was keeping me cool. At the end of my run my chest and shoulders were dry. My back, well with the Camel Pak on that was another story. Soaked through, but everything has been with that one on.

The run finished by a river and as lunch was being sorted I went in for a dip. Of course I kept my gear on and anyway, it was a good way to rinse out the shirt. Within about 10-15minutes of being out it was dry again. Perfect.
I’ve since worn it for the Portsea run and the Two Bays run and it’s still as good as new. In all, perhaps I’ve worn it for 20 plus runs and its still as compressive (or as snug) as ever. I have torn the neck collar slightly but that was from being careless. You do need to be fairly flexible to get these things off. Think pulling it up your back then reaching over your shoulder to pull it up and over your head from the bottom.

The Nike Pro Combat Core Compression 2.0 should do a similar job. Mesh construction it’s not. It’s fibrous but still very light. It does have mesh under the arms though. I ordered a small and according to the size charts it was the same as the Heat Gear top. The colour of the Nike compression shirt, a very cool photo blue. Noice… I was a little disappointed with the fit. While it was nice, it’s not quite as tight as the Heat Gear. It is still very snug and the chest and shoulders feel compressed and kept in place so that I can hold my form, the stomach and hips does not have the same tapering as the Heat gear and feels loose, but still comfortable. It is a longer top and I was hoping that it would hold its form and stay in place but when you run it does tend to ride up. I get full range of freedom when running and must admit, after my two runs it is growing on me. It’s almost like it’s not there at all.  

The next question must be does it work?

For the last 2 weeks we have been struck by a heat wave and both mornings I ran with the top have been 20-22 C but 80% plus humidity. Soon into my runs I was again sweating at the brow and could feel the top starting to keep me dry. Once again when even the slightest breeze picked up it instantly felt a lot cooler. From here I need some advice. Either the Nike compression shirt is very effective (and I did feel dry) as at the end of my 40 and 50 minute runs I had the classic runners sweat V down the chest to the abs. I thought it made me look very tough, but that’s just me. I don’t normally sweat too much so I was surprised at how much sweat had been ‘wicked away’ by the top, or the humidity just made me sweat like no tomorrow. 
I was able to pop it on a hanger in the change rooms and when I popped back in an hour or so later it was pretty much dry, so big thumbs up there. Off the record, it also wasn’t too smelly.

To surmise… As a shirt I much prefer the Under Armour Heat Gear top. It feels so much nicer both with the materials and to wear. One of the Nike website reviews states ‘you have to be fit to wear it’. As just the top I would agree, neither top hides very much. Hmmm, can I get away with it? In my mind yes, I look damn good running past those reflective shop windows (remove tongue from check here).

As far as compression shirt goes... I’m not sure that these two are true compression when I compare them to my Skins tights and the 2XU/Sugoi compression socks. They certainly keep me feeling cool and don’t restrict movement at all. At the end of a run and I can take them off and feel pretty dry. In the gym I can do my full range of exercise with no restriction, and no top falling over my head or getting caught in the weights. They are my new go to running top and I’ve got a long sleeve one ready for the winter to wear as my base layer.

Get em, you’ll be a happy runner.


  1. Great post Lachie. I have a whole range of shirts too and I always wear them on long runs under a looser top to avoid, er, chafing :) I'm not sure if you Champion C9 compression gear is available where you are but it's what I buy when I go to the US (Target carries them). It's 50% cheaper than Nike or UA and works just as well.

  2. Thanks Stan,

    I'm heavy into them at the moment, especially with our heat wave. The champion C9 sounds good, I'll have to look it up. Cheaper is always good when it works. We don't have too many suppliers here yet, could be a market filler :) The old chaffing, lucky I've been able to avoid that one...
    It will be interesting to see how they go in the winter here.