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I am not easy to please when it comes to workout gear. But, then again, I don’t think most people are.
When you’re covered in sweat and tired and a little hungry in the 7:45 PM yoga class you signed up for a week ago, the thickness of your leggings takes on a heightened importance that you’re not likely to miss (or forget… or forgive).
Unlike most areas of your closet, workout gear cannot rely on the benevolent ambiguity of what’s “in” or the clout of brand recognition. Workouts are meant to be challenging and in part uncomfortable, and no one wants their clothes to augment these aspects of the experience. If possible, they should minimize them.
And if you’re looking for something to do more than simply not add hurdles to your exercise routine — but actually remove some — you may want to look into 2XU‘s MCS compression gear. The company recently sent their new MCS Run Tight for me to try (an update on an older design I’ve also tried), and I’ve been consistently impressed by their breathability, stretch, and comfort given their compression. The company itself is best-known for award-winning compression gear.
2XU’s MCS line uses anatomical mapping (Muscle Containment Stamping) to target the muscles, tendons, and fascia groups used most during specific activities. The Run Compression Tight (from $119), for instance, uses a pattern developed specifically for the impact that running has on the leg. By honing in on specific muscles rather than a universal application, you’ll experience greater overall mobility with the benefits of compression: reduced muscle soreness and fatigue, improved performance, and decreased recovery time and risk of injury.
For running, that mainly means thigh and calf mapping. The design is meant to reduce the impact on your thighs and quadriceps and dissipate the load transfer to your knee joint. The mapping on your calf is meant to reduce muscle strain, especially during the toe-off phase of running, as well as help to mitigate ground reaction forces by reducing your muscle movement. But while the mapping helps target these areas that come under the most strain during your chosen activity (running, for this pair) the PWX material lends all-over compression.
The MCS Run Tight is made from lightweight but strong PWX fabrics and moisture-wicking, durable yarns that keep you dry and are meant to provide a longer-than-average lifespan. It’s UPF50+ for sun protection, antibacterial, has reflective logos for nighttime visibility, and — most important to me during my workouts — has multi-directional stretch and breathability. And if you’re planning on taking them on a trial, it’s nice to know there’s a rear zip pocket for essentials.
And I have to say, even after taking them on more than a few runs (and out of their intended scope to many kickboxing classes), 2XU’s compression tights continue to impress me. I wish they were less expensive (with most pairs landing in the $90 – $120 range), but they’re competitively priced if you’re currently shopping at other big-name brands (like Lululemon), which deliver on fit but not exactly on technical bonuses like the advantage of compression stamping.
Unlike many compressive tights I’ve worn in the past, this pair has always felt breathable and non-restrictive, even when I used them beyond their original purpose for moves like roundhouses in kickboxing. And even after a long break from distance running, I felt less sore after runs wearing these than I probably should have. Recovery times were shorter and I felt less fatigue in my muscles on the runs themselves.
The MCS Run Tights fit the bill for me on great workout gear: they seem to improve my performance and cut down on recovery time, but, most importantly, they stay out of my way while I’m working out. They’re lightweight, breathable, flexible, don’t chafe, and I can forget that I’m wearing them. Of the many, many leggings I own, I gravitate towards them routinely as a consistent favorite. And while not the most important factor for performance, they also happen to look great on.
In the past, there have been complaints that 2XU’s tights are see-through, and I believe their updates to aspects of this latest MCS Run Tight is in part to address those concerns. They even have this note on their site: “2XU has recently upgraded all the back panels of its women’s tights to a higher denier and denser fabric to help with any possible sheerness issues. A fitness compression tight, that offers milder compression with an interlock fabric for greater coverage, is also available.”
I never experienced this sheerness myself, but I also relied on the leggings primarily for runs rather than for weightlifting, where sheerness is a greater concern. Since that’s my primary use, I prioritized their breathability. If you’re concerned about opacity but still want to try them, you should stay away from lighter colors. And if you’re okay with giving up some breathability in exchange for greater security, you can check out the company’s fitness compression tight ($90) as mentioned. If you grab a pair and hate them, you’ve got 30 days to return or exchange them (depending on where you buy them from), as well as the company’s 1-year performance guarantee to fall back on.
All in all, if you’re willing to spend about $120 on a pair of run tights that target compression to your calves and thighs for better runs, recoveries, and hopefully fewer injuries, 2XU’s MSC Run Tights are, so far, my go-tos. You’ll get a flattering fit, stellar breathability, and no chafing. For me, one pair that does that is worth skipping three cheaper pairs that I’ll only wind up hating by the end of that 7:45 PM yoga class.