By now, we all know about compression socks, right? They look a little goofy, but damn, do they deliver when it comes to keeping your lower legs comfortable. I mean, it’s borderline miraculous.
But what about compression shorts?I must admit that when CEP asked me if I’d like to try a pair of their compression shorts, I’d never even heard of compression shorts for running. For wearing under your gym shorts in middle school to look freaking awesome, sure. But never for running.
Since then, though, I’ve seen them everywhere. The compression craze is on. But what are compression shorts actually supposed to do, and do they work?
A quick Wikipedia scan reveals that compression shorts “keep the muscles warm to prevent muscle strain and fatigue, and wick sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes.”
Wiki continues, “They are also used as a way to keep the male genitalia in place.” Very nice.
Actually, I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I shimmied my way into these shorts for the first time, there was a lot of compression around the thighs, but that the tightness didn’t extend so far north as to lessen the chances of producing another baby NMA.
But inarguably, male genitalia were held in place. Check.
Road-testing Compression Shorts
As for the purported performance benefits of compression shorts, I was a little skeptical, and here’s why—when I run really long and start to hurt, it’s never my quads. My feet get sore first and the pain moves slowly to my shins and knees.
Compression socks prevent blood from pooling down there, and the problem is solved. So why do I need compression around my quads?
This carried through to my actual experience with CEP compression shorts. The compression felt great, very snug but comfortable and somehow energizing. And the shorts made me feel kind of like a badass, like I could give Usain Bolt a run for some tiny portion of his money.
But when I wore them on a few seven- or eight-mile runs of moderate-to-high intensity, I really didn’t notice anything different about how I ran or how I recovered. After an hour or so of running in them, I found myself wishing my shorts would just chill out a little.
So much of distance running is about comfort and being able to relax, and I found that having my thighs squeezed like vegan sausages made that tough.
But realize that this is more a knock on compression shorts for this type of run and is probably not specific to CEP’s product. It’s clear that the CEP shorts are really well-made: As I said, CEP’s “Medi”-brand graduated compression felt really good, almost as if I could feel it working.
And the shorts are more comfortable than I had imagined anything with a name as sadistic as “compression shorts” could be. Besides not strangling the old frank and beans, they wicked moisture well and stayed cool even when I ran in the heat.
My one complaint about CEP’s shorts is the placement of a thick seam that runs from front to back at the bottom of the crotch (if there’s a technical term for crotch, I apologize; I don’t know it). That seam forced me to abandon one run early and carry some lube with me on the next. CEP compression shorts are designed to be worn without anything underneath, but this seam might make another layer necessary. [Update: CEP told me that this seam was NOT part of the final model that went to market, so it shouldn't a problem if you buy CEP shorts.]
Better for Short Speed Workouts?
Having decided that compression shorts aren’t for longer runs (for me, at least), I think they’d be great for a short speed workout. I missed my track workout this week because I got sick after the 50-miler, so I didn’t get the chance to wear compression shorts for speedwork yet. But since it’s this type of run where I find that my quads work hardest, and because most speed workouts don’t last longer than about 45 minutes, I’m looking forward to wearing compression shorts for one of them. (And I’ll update this post with those results.)
Thanks to CEP for supplying me with a pair of these shorts to try out.
Interview with the “Mayor of Running”
I’m thrilled to announce that NMA-contributor Susan Lacke interviewed Bart Yasso, running’s most famous ambassador, inventor of those damn Yasso 800’s that we all hate to love, and sort-of-secret vegetarian. I’ll post it tomorrow, so be sure to check back for that one.
See you then!