The Real Difference Between Recovery and Compression Tights!

Tights are tights, right? Recovery and compression tights can be worn during your workout and solve all sorts of problems, right? No, that’s not correct. They’re similar in some ways but have some pretty significant differences.

So what’s the difference between recovery and compression tights? Recovery tights help the body to repair after a strenuous workout, while compression tights can be worn during the exercise to prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and prepare the body for healing.

We’ve discussed many ways to recover from an event, from correct stretching to ice baths, but compression gear is a legitimate alternative.

Once again, I’m not a medical professional; these are just my opinions that many other runners and athletes share. Always check with a doctor before using any product that can impact body functions like blood flow.

What Do Recovery Tights Do?

Like the name suggests, recovery tights assist with healing any damaged or overworked muscles used during a workout. Sore and tired muscles require oxygen-rich blood to begin the healing process. Blood moves faster through narrow veins, so recovery tights compress the veins to allow this to happen.

Lactic acid build-up is a common complaint from many athletes, and recovery tights also assist here. Targeted compression over the affected areas gets the removal happening quite rapidly.

Recovery pants are tightest at the bottom and looser at the top. This design stimulates blood flow to the areas that need it.

When Can You Start Wearing Recovery Tights?

You should wear compression tights during a workout, and recovery tights work best once the exercise is completely done. Ideally, you should wear them as soon as possible, but after a shower works best as they’re more comfortable on clean, dry skin.

How Long Should You Wear Recovery Tights For?

Recovery tights can be worn for long periods; in fact, the longer, the better.  Wear them right after the workout for at least 3–4 hours; the ideal window is 12. However, some studies have found benefits after 96. (Source)

Can You Sleep in Recovery Tights?

Consider this. What do hospitals dress patients with limb injuries in? That’s right, recovery and compression gear. If it’s good enough for seriously injured people, it’s absolutely ok for those repairing damaged muscles due to a workout. (Source)

The only consideration is that they raise the skin’s temperature, which might be uncomfortable if you live and sleep in a hot and humid environment. For everyone else, go ahead and give it a try.

What Do Compression Tights Do?

The main benefit of compression tights is that they reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The fatigue and heaviness in the muscles usually appear a day after the exercise and are caused by tissue inflammation. Compression tights assist with correct blood flow to these areas, helping to reduce DOMS, in some cases, significantly. (Source)

Less soreness generated during the workout means less recovery is required in the following days. This act of reduction aids the recovery tights’ process.

Unlike recovery tights, which are primarily just a black print, compression tights are designed to make you look hip and trendy. They come in an astonishing range of colors and patterns, so if you really want to stand out in a running event, be sure to shop smartly.

Are Compression Tights the Same as Compression Leggings?

Compression tights and leggings are very similar except for one main factor, their thickness. Tights are skin-tight and feel light, and leggings are thicker and do feel heavier. Most compression tights cover the foot as well, although some are toe-less, and leggings always end at the ankle.

Can You Wear Compression Tights All Day?

Yes, compression tights can and are often worn all day, and they’re actually designed for long periods of wear. Naturally, they need regular washing, so consider replacing them daily. You may do damage to your skin if they’re unclean.

Do Compression Tights Work for Recovery?

This is the area where people need clarification. They act in similar ways, but they’re not the same. Compression tights can reduce DOMS and prepare the muscles for repair, but the recovery tights’ sole purpose is to get to work fixing the issues.

Where compression tights can aid recovery is that they reduce the risk of inflammation and muscle soreness by helping blood flow get where it needs to during the activity. The perfect scenario would be to have a pair of each. One for your workout and the other to hasten recovery.

Are Recovery or Compression Tights Worth It?

Anything that can aid with athletic performance and speed up recovery, with little to no side effects, is absolutely worth it. Apart from heating the skin faster than without them, both compression and recovery boxes tick all the right boxes.

Compression tights, worn during a workout, won’t affect performance but can limit DOMS and prepare the body for a faster recovery. Recovery tights take over from there, and get to work applying compression to areas of the body to reduce lactic acid buildup. They also help narrow the veins for faster transportation of oxygen-rich blood to aid muscle repair.

Recovery and Compression Tights Dos and Dont’s

To get the most out of recovery and compression tights, there are a few things to keep in mind.


  • Buy the right size: measure your legs correctly to ensure a comfortable fit.
  • Wash them daily: for maximum hygiene, you need to keep them clean; this also helps them return to their shape after being stretched out all day.
  • Put them on first thing in the morning: if you’re not wearing them to bed, the morning is the best time, as your feet can swell during the day.
  • Replace them every 3–6 months: depending on how much you wear them. Over time, the elastic fibers break down. If you notice some sagging, it’s time for a new pair.


  • Refrain from rolling them to put them on or take them off: this could cut off circulation in your legs or possibly cause sores.
  • Never wash with bleach: cold water with soft soap is the best way to take care of your tights.
  • Don’t wring them dry: putting excess force on the delicate fabric will hasten the fibers breaking down.
  • Avoid alterations: the tights have been specifically designed for a purpose. Cutting off any part will immediately reduce their usefulness. If the tip of your foot feels too restricted, consider toe-less options.

If you don’t have compression or recovery tights as part of your athletic wardrobe, now might be the time to get some. Your leg muscles will thank you for it.

Stephen Christopher

began running at the age of 50 and 2 years later ran his first marathon in just over 5 hours. He continues to join events all over Thailand and South East Asia with Berlin and London on the list for the future.

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