I first came across 2XU at the triathlon/cycling/running show at Sandown Park last year and have been interested in their wetsuits and have a very well made “Assos-quality” cycling jacket of theirs which I wear all the time, one of my best purchases (http://www.athleteservice.com/proddetail.asp?prod=UC1203a). After reading various reviews of compression clothes in magazines recently (220, etc al) I took the plunge and bought some of their compression range. I bought a pair of the 2XU High Performance compression tights, a pair of shorts and long and short sleeve tops. I’ve worn the items pretty much non stop the last couple of weeks so thought would write a review if helpful for others.
I’m very impressed by the quality of the garments, particularly the materials used seem to be superior to other leggings which I tend to wear (mainly Adidas and Nike running leggings plus JL and other brand leggings from my rowing days). The fit of all the garments is great, all medium in my case, although the medium short sleeve top seems a little tighter than the medium long sleeve (perhaps by design).
I have done a few long runs wearing the 2XU compression tights, this morning a hilly half marathon run in the Cotswolds which was the best test so far; a windy, wet day and a run mainly on roads from Uley up and down hills to Nailsworth and up a big hill for a couple of miles – normally my legs are in a mess by the time I get back…
The main selling points of the compression wear are supposed to be improved circulation, increased blood flow and helping to clear lactic acid. In the real world it is pretty difficult to test these claims however I did notice particularly today how well they work for recovery after hills. Typically my calf muscles get really sore and tight during long runs, particularly when hilly and on the road and I think the leggings help the legs recover more quickly after steep climbs, being able to keep running hard at the tops of hills. Also, I’m not sure whether psychological or not but I seem to be able to relax the lower part of my legs more when running in the compression tights and I think this may help stride length but for me seems to help with soreness – though hard to know if it is the compression effect alone. It may be due to the fact that with the compression tights the muscles are held firmer by the material (not wobbling about when not under load) but it’s hard to tell (sorry that’s not very technical-sounding!).
In any case if you are are after a new pair of leggings for running (or cycling/rowing or any outdoor activity really) I think these are worth the £10 or so premium over a standar pair of leggings. I haven’t had a chance to try compression socks but I would imagine these would have the same effect (perhaps more), and other reviews I have read say that those are the item of compression clothing that has most benefit for the cost, which I can see makes sense (however I’m not sure about the “look” of the compression socks (think Paula Radcliffe), the leggings are quite good looking though!)
I have worn the 2XU compression shorts mostly in the gym so far and these are excellent, particularly well made, nice seams and good fit. I’m not sure about the compression benefits compared to the tights, it must be more limited, however on the treadmill they seemed very good. Perhaps partly psychological but they seem to help the recovery leg to come back down into position when running, something I noticed straight away on the treadmill, and perhaps this improves leg speed though that needs more testing! The shorts are great for general workouts (on the ergos, weights, spin bike, etc etc) so many uses.
I have worn the compression tops a few times and they are very nice, great fit and well made with good seams and high quality material. I’m not so convinced about the compression benefits of the tops compared to leggings, although perhaps I’m not training hard enough at the moment to notice the improved bloodflow and so on! It seems to me that you would have to have a very tight top to improve bloodflow to the heart although thinking about it maybe this is why the arms on the sleeves are quite tight, that would make sense (am just editing this later and having read a bit more this is indeed the case, graduated compression from the sleeves is supposed to increase bloodflow back to the heart, apparently).
Again, if you are after a new pair of tights or short sleeve top though these are very well made so can’t really go wrong. These are ideal rowing tops (though I don’t row any more) I can see how they could be of possibly more benefit to rowers than triathletes. I’ll mainly wear these tops for training and recovery, cycling time trial races (quite aerodynamic!) and as a base-layer for running and cycling. The compression shorts will definitely be my first choice for running races.
In summary if you are after tight-fitting leggings or tops, even if you are unconvinced by the claims about compression clothing, these are extremely well made and on a similar price to Adidas/Nike clothing. They are better made (at least so far, in my opinion) than most of the other major brands, fit very well, and if some of the claims are true about improved performance and quicker recovery (and I think at least some of it is true) then that’s a bonus!
If you would like to buy 2XU Compression clothing the best price I found on www.athleteservice.com where they have a 10% off promotion on 2XU and free delivery. I had to return the top as I ordered the wrong size to start with but was all dealt with very promptly so would definitely recommend them. http://www.athleteservice.com/2xu-compression-range.asp?cat=14
October 2008 Update - I have now been using the compression clothing over the summer and start of Autumn/Winter training and am even more impressed with the compression range. I have recently bought a pair of the Elite Compression Tights which are defnintely a step up from the High Performance (standard) tights, although those are now Male and Female specific rather than unisex so I think slightly better fit. I would recommend spending the extra £10 for the Elite leggings especially for recovery use.
More info on the compression technology is on this site here