Best Compression Shirts for Running: Enhance Performance and Recover Faster

Runners have been on the forefront of the recent upsurge in the popularity of compression clothing. Runners are always looking for an edge that can make them better competitors, or help them recover quicker before the next race. However some people question whether the running compression tees are effective. Let’s see what the science says about the performance enhancing effects of the best compression shirts for running. What do you need to look out for when choosing the best running compression shirts?

The sudden popularity of compression shirts

The best compression shirts for running are among the most popular upper body compression clothing items. Outdoor athletes can use them as base layer clothing during the autumn months or as complementary items under running compression jackets. They are great for wicking moisture and warming up the body when the weather gets colder. They are very comfortable, since they are woven from soft materials that fit perfectly to your skin. Nowadays NFL players wear copper compression shirts during and after games. You can read more about the effects of running compression socks here.

One of the best features of compression shirts is that they give you consistency in upper body temperature. When it is hot outside, they let the skin cool off. When it is cold, they keep you warm. This also helps if you stop and start during running. When you stop for a while to walk and breathe a little bit, you muscles cool down. If you start suddenly running again, there is a greater risk of injury. The best compression shirts for running can keep your muscles warm and lower the risk of injury.

How do the best compression shirts for running work?

Compression garments achieve their health benefits by speeding up blood flow. They pressure the skin, and that pressure in turn reduces the diameter of the veins. The veins are responsible for carrying the blood lacking oxygen and nutrients back to the heart from the muscles. The quicker the blood flows in the veins, the quicker the waste materials are washed out of the muscles, and the quicker the muscles get nutrients.

The empirical evidence is clear, compression shirts are effective in enhancing running performance, helping recovery and preventing circulatory diseases.  However still some people consider them an unnecessary, ineffective item. But what does the science say?

There was a study done in 2013 about the effects and application of compression clothing in sports performance. After exercise running compression shirts had moderate to significant effects of maximum power recovery. Muscle swelling and perceived muscle pain was reduced. Blood lactate removal was increased. Also the best running compression shirts increased performance over short duration sprints and extended the time to exhaustion.

What should you look for in the best compression shirts for running?

There is no one model that we could categorically call the best compression shirts for running for all occasions. However there are certain things we can look at to determine which model will suit you the best.

Price: There are models for as much as a 100 dollars. Those are the premium products with all the recent developments featured on them. However you can get a perfectly good running compression shirt for as little as 15 dollars.

Materials: Most compression shirts for running are made of a combination of spandex, latex and Lyra. Sometimes silicon or mesh pads are added. The key is that the material has to be breathable. It has to let your skin breathe. While you are running, it is best if the sweat evaporates from your skin.

Anti-bacterial: The sweat is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. The best compression shirts for running have antibacterial materials like copper or silver woven into them.

Machine washable: If you want to save time and energy, go for machine washable compression shirts. Otherwise you will spend more time cleaning your shirts than on the running track.

Hot or cold weather: Although most lower priced and mid ranged models are good for both cold and warm weather, the best and most expansive models are grouped based on whether they are best for the summer or the winter months. UnderArmour divides their models into the groups HotGear and ColdGear. Pay attention which one you are getting.

Seams: Make sure the compression shirts have as few seams as possible. Also the seams must be well designed. The best compression shirts for running use flat lock stitching. This makes the seams completely hidden. There is nothing more irritating than poorly designed seams. They rub against your skin, causing skinburn and chaffing. Irritating tags are similar. They can easily destroy the skin on your back.

Long sleeves vs short sleeve: Some models end around the elbow. These are the short sleeve models. Other models reach down to your wrists. These are long sleeve running compression shirts. Short sleeve models are great undergarments for hot weather. Long sleeve compression shirts are better for running in cold weather.

Strength of compression: You can find compression shirts anywhere between 5 mm Hg and 30 mm Hg. We measure the strength of compression in mm Hg, or millimetres of mercury. 5 -10 mm Hg is considered low strength. Compression between 10-20 mm Hg is medium strength. 20 – 30 mm Hg is high strength compression. Models between 25-30 mm Hg are used when there is some serious trouble with upper body blood circulation. Lower level compression is best to slightly increase circulation, or prevent circulatory problems. Mid or higher strength compression shirts are also used for treating gynecomastisa.

Graduated compression: All the best compression shirts for running are graduated compression models. Such shirts put the most amount of pressure on the areas further from the heart, where the veins have to work the hardest to circulate the blood. The pressure then increases as it gets closer to the heart.


I hope this article made it more clear which are the best compression shirts for running. The best graduated running compression shirts can enhance your running performance and help recover. Do you use any compression gear in your workouts? Leave a comment below!


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