Monday, 8 June 2015

Skins A400 Compression Tights - 2015 Range

Mrs Fish and I were super excited when Skins Australia sent us out each a pair of the new A400 compression tights to run in, and review. Mrs Fish in particular loves her Skins compression tights and I was hoping they’d be my go to pair for the Great Ocean Road half marathon in early May.

In my compression wear test last year, the Skins A400 had a great feel to them, but for me they were just not right. Everything about them should have worked, but for my build they just didn’t have the compression, or perhaps the girth allowance was a fraction too big for my legs. They also felt the most likely to catch or tear of the three, so they were relegated to cycling (nothing against cycling here guys, I just love my trail running).

In 2015 Skins took it to the field and changed the game. The new range is just about spot on perfect. They still come in the same great (although updated) box. We love the drawer, so easy to use.

I love the new gold 2015 Skins A400 compression colour
Great low light reflective glass on the 2015 Skins range

The new gold colour way looks fantastic. It’s got just enough bling with their new Japanese glass beading to catch the eye, but it remains Skins subtle. Throw them on at night or in low light however and it’s a whole new story. 

When viewed in the lowlight conditions of dawn, dusk or a gloomy day the glass beading reflects light like no other compression range and allows you to be seen a mile away. They even catch the light in a standard room. I kid you not, so as we head into winter this is an absolutely essential safety feature.

An important feature of any piece of equipment is how it feels in the hands and to wear. Mrs Fish has always loved the Skins feel and I agree, the 2015 range have a wonderful feel to them. They finally feel nearly $200Aud premium. They are soft but strong. While last year’s felt the weaker of my compression tights, I feel much more assured that the 2015 Skins range will handle whatever I throw at them. They are also made out of 24 individual panels, so they should fit like a glove.

This year, I also discovered the ‘S’ Small range. I don’t know how I missed it in the past. For me this was what I was waiting for, the ‘SS’ range. S for short! While the previous XS range catered for heights from 5’3 to 5’11, the new S range is capped at 5’ to 5’7 while still being designed for the same weight range. According to all the charts, this made them the perfect pair for me. The new S range is also built into the M, L, and XL sizes. Short guys all over the world can sing happy. They also have continued with their ‘L’ for long leg options if you're a taller guy.

See the panels on the Skins A400 tights
So, the important part, how well do they fit? Will my chicken legs finally get the famed Skins A400 compression? Last year I had the XS skins and they were too long and slipped. I even got a pair of XXS in from Europe, but these were also too big!

The new gold Skins A400 tights are almost the perfect pair. Pulling them, on they feel just right. Not too compressive that you have to do all sorts of dancing to get them on, but as soon as they are on you get that tingle in the legs. I feel like this is their patented Dynamic Gradient Compression technology at work, increasing my circulation to deliver more oxygen to my working muscles. I also like that the graduated compression through the calves and ankles slips over my foot easily.
Once they’re on, they fit true for weight (even my scrawny legs) and height. I think this is where the 2014 range missed the mark – too much variance from 5’3 – 5’11.

I instantly get the compression that I want around my thighs and hamstrings, and this is due to the 210D Memory MX fabric that gives it the weight and strength to really compress. This same material is used around the glutes and below the knees to correctly compress your calves. What I love about the new A400 ranges is that it’s actually a double density (dual layering) material around legs from the waistband down to the knees, and then from the knees to the ankles. This allows Skins to achieve greater compression, and for Mrs Fish and I the key to the A400 tights, the two segments are joined by a 70D Memory MX fabric around the knee. This gives a superior range of movement and flexibility through the knee, essential for running and riding.

So, how do they perform?

In a word, perfect! I finally have a pair of compression tights that compress in all the right areas. From long slow 20km + runs to high intensity 700m interval sessions the A400s have not slipped or dropped through my quads. For the duration of the 2015 Great Ocean Road 23km Half Marathon the new A400s did everything I wanted them to do. They reduced the muscle oscillation that you get from road and hill running to reduce fatigue and after my final 5km push I still felt strong. The lighter 70D material around the knees let me run freely, without any hindrance.

The duel layering of the 210D material across the Quads, ITB and hamstrings and the calves breathes extremely well.  Skins quote that the included ADAPTIVE Technology it there to ‘take care of temperature control and moisture management. When it’s cool, the unique polymer binds moisture in to keep you feeling warm. Then when you heat up it releases stored moisture to the surface where it can evaporate, helping your body cool down.’ I can say it does. I’ve run in 25+ degrees doing my interval training and felt just right. I’ve used them at 3 degrees in the morning and not felt at all cold. This indicates that the ADAPTIVE Technology works, and works well. It also gives a nice little bonus in the wet. The top layer rejects moisture quite well which means you stay dryer for longer. This is a great feature in the trails where the scrub along the trail very quickly soaks you if it’s been raining. The new A400 tights seem to have the water bead and then run off, a little like polish on a car.

If I have one gripe, it’s that the compression in the ankles is not quite tight enough for me. I was wondering if this was my pair, but I also did a recent run with the new Essentials Unisex Compression Calf Tights MX, which were amazing around my calves, but again loose around my ankles. I have another pair of Calf sleeves which have stronger compression and are a tighter band around my ankles. Am I losing a little of that venous return with them not quite compressing at their lowest level?

So are they worth the money? Will they last? I've been wearing the new Skins A400 Compression tights for nearly 3 months now and they are still as good as new. The Skins products are warp knitted which ensures controlled compression and superior durability compared to other circular knit brands. The Japanese glass beading of the Logos has been through the wash many times, and not once has it stuck or crumpled like a recent pair of 2XU tights. 

So to conclude another review, if you’re after that one pair of compression tights for the year, the new A400 have to be on the top of your list. I feel like the level of compression is spot on. I love the flexibility through the knees and the new glass beading makes them an essential in low light running or riding. For us shorter gentlemen (now that I’ve discovered it), the new ‘S’ short is a winner, and for me, the key change in 2015.

Skins A400 Tights and Active top
I’ve since gone out and picked up a pair of the new A400 power shorts and they are incredible, and the Essentials Tech vest is a new cool, wet weather favourite.

Happy running!

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