SKINS: What's the Deal With Compression?

Aussie brand SKINS recently sent me some beautiful cerulean compression leggings and a matching compression Vest Crop Top from their DNAmic range, which was designed to combine their traditional high-performance compression wear with more fashionable pieces. They also sell DNAmic Thermals for winter (perfect for skiing), the A400 range which has higher compression than the DNAmic, RY400s for recovery, and have a triathlon range TRI400.

How Did I Feel About SKINS?

I love how this activewear looks. The bright colour panels down the leggings are striking and flattering. I surprised myself by also loving the vest top. I usually dislike crops- most I wouldn't wear alone, and most aren't supportive. This one makes me look good. Both items feel wonderful- sleek material, no seams digging in but a supportive hug-like fit. 

The top is firm enough to wear without a sports bra for boxing, climbing, and strength sessions. The fit of both items is designed to wrap around specific muscle groups. The spandex knit material provides compression, aiming to increase muscles' oxygen access and therefore reducing lactic acid build-up (the chemical which makes your muscles feel like they are 'burning'). I found that the material dried quickly as claimed and never felt clammy. They also apparently have factor 50 sun protection... although that doesn't really get tested in Scotland. I didn't love the loop on the waist as it occasionally dug in (it looks like it is designed to hang them up). The waistband also rolls a little if you are leaning forward e.g. hill running or squatting. Lastly, the lettering on the legs peels off over time, although it leaves behind the pattern of letters.

Does Compression Activewear Work?

The runners I know have variable opinions on compression. Personally, I feel like wearing compression socks after hard or long runs helps my recovery. I often wear them overnight following hill races. As I have a science researcher background, I'm impressed that SKINS have featured in published peer-reviewed research articles in some impressive journals (10 to date, some funded by them). Better still, you can access some of the full papers on their site (science papers are often hidden behind a paywall). These studies demonstrate that SKINS promote: 

  • increased blood flow
  • reduced muscle inflammation during hard sprinting
  • reduced muscle damage (thus accelerating recovery) when worn after muscle stress - they observed a reduction in blood markers of muscle damage to the same extent as ice baths or active recovery produced
  • faster flushing of lactic acid
  • increased oxygen available in the muscles
  • improved body temperature regulation

Very interestingly for me, one study showed that SKINS wearing improves hip propulsion when running, without impeding knee movement. These studies do mostly have small subject groups, but this occurs quite a bit in exercise science. Two research articles also show some performance improvement (for example one study found that a netball group wearing SKINS moved faster). These results are harder to interpret - whilst there are clear physiological effects, SKINS could also have a placebic mental effects because they just look cool- who doesn't run faster when they feel like a superhero? 

The jury is still out on the use of compression garments. Some scientific studies show no difference between performance of groups using compression and the control group (for example Duffield et al, 2010; Stickford et al, 2015 in endurance runners). They do however seem to provide performance improvements in plyometric and leap sports (see Born et al's 2013 review). There is more scientific support for the use of compression garments in recovery, rather than for improved performance (Jakeman et al, 2010). The research field in general suffers from low sample sizes, and from the huge variation in the quality of compression garment.

Some of the effects that are observed could well be placebo effects. But then again placebo effects have real impacts on performance. Belief is a huge performance advantage, so as long as an item isn't causing harm it could be worthwhile. As stated, I like compression for recovery. I also like wearing SKINS during activity. I'm not sure they enhance my performance but as a hobby athlete I like the supportive, warm, and comfortable feeling for hill running and boxing.

What is the Brand All About?

SKINS is a brand with values. I became a big fan of theirs when they commissioned an independent investigation into their sponsored athlete Rob Young after concerns arose about his Trans-America run attempt. That investigation concluded that Young cheated. SKINS challenge homophobia in sport through their #RainbowLaces campaign; challenge corruption and failed values in 'big sport' organisations (such as FIFA and the IOC); and campaign heavily for clean sport initiatives. Their chairman's blog also regularly highlights other social causes (men's mental health and organ donation to mention two). Some of the larger brands could take a note from their books regarding company ethics.

Celebrate 2017 with SKINS Competition

Would you like a gift from SKINS this holiday season? They kindly agreed to give one set of DNAmic Thermal gear away to a reader. Competition is open to men (thermal range) or women (thermal range) in the UK. All you have to do is enter using the widget below. It starts tonight at midnight (20th) then ends on the stroke of midnight as we enter 2017.

To enter, tell me in the comments below what you think of compression clothing for your sport performance and recovery! Comments are screened, so don't worry if it doesn't show up immediately.

SKINS provided me with the leggings and the vest top in exchange for an honest review. I really like these pieces and will continue using them. I am always honest and would not recommend products I did not love. 

Post written by Scallywag and published on Scallywag Sprints on 20/12/16


  1. I think compression wear is amazing for performance! I compete in triathlon at uni so am often pressed for time and struggle to find the hours in the day to get in a good stretching routine. This is where compression wear saves training and recovering in a good set of compression gear I can recover my legs better and prevent getting injured! Love the photos on this post, good luck everyone :)

  2. I remain unconvinced by claims of any performance benefits I might experience through wearing compression garments (i've never felt any different), but I really appreciate that SKINS is one of few (if not the only) who back up the claims with peer reviewed science.

    I don't buy compression tops because my boobs are too big and nothing on this planet made of lyrca can restrain and compress several kilos of bouncing fat comfortably. I do own several pairs of compression calf sleeves though, and like them a lot because if allows me to have calf coverage whilst still retaining my preferred choice of sock.

  3. Ooh, the leggings are pretty! I'm a big fan of compression leggings but more just because I prefer the feel rather than feeling that they're doing anything beneficial. Verrry cynical that their tops would have enough compression to mean I could do without a sports bra even for low impact activity!

  4. I'm a biiiiig fan of compression wear for recovery after long runs or speed sessions. At the moment I only use calf sleeves but I'm really keen to try leggings. I would be interested to find out how they feel to run in, as I find compression sleeves slightly restrictive!

  5. Used compression on recovering from injured, and certainly helped. Run with it now for extra muscle support.

  6. I've definitely noticed the benefits of compression gear, both for recovery post-workout and keeping muscles warm/less achey during a long session. Whether some of that is a placebo effect I don't know, but if it works for you don't change it! 😊👍

  7. Huge fan of a compression legging and they have helped me so much in the past. Not just for running but great as a ski base layer too!

  8. Since starting to wear compression socks I would not go back. Especially in hot weather - seems to stop my feet swelling. Compression shorts/leggings also good for training the day after a hard session.

  9. I've been using compression socks to aid recovery after long hikes and I find they definitely help my ankles and calves - I don't currently use them during exercise but have come to rely on them afterwards.

  10. I do find that compression does make a difference after a longer run, as I have a substantial calf I also find that sleeves make a difference when worn when running. Works for me!

  11. As you say the jury is out on performance related improvements through compression gear. If it were otherwise there would be a lot more of it being worn at elite level. Most folk I ask say they like the feel of it but doubt it does as much as it claims. I refuse to wear daft compression socks until there's solid evidence they help. Even then... However I have a pair of Skins tights and often wear them on the train home from a long run, as damage limitation.

    Great photos, keep up the good work, Season's best! x

  12. I have never tried compression clothing as I wasn't sure if it would provide any benefits but I'd love to find out!

  13. Love my compression leggings, even if it just helps me feel better at this time of year when I've maybe over indulged! Skins tights always look beaut as well!

  14. I'd not thought of wearing compression wear as part of my racing gear before. I race dinghies and could see a use for compression leggings for hiking on the windier days. Keeping the boat flat is often dependent on muscle stamina and anything that might help is at least worth trying. Having previously had knee surgery through overuse in racing any support would be a bonus.