What Are Compression Leggings?


If you’re shopping for leggings, you’ll probably encounter the term “compression”. Sounds uncomfortable, right? But it really isn’t. Indeed many of us love some compression in our leggings and athletic gear for that lovely “held in” feeling.

Don’t think of it as constrictive, circulation-cutting tightness. It’s almost like the feeling a safety belt gives you. Snug but not tight, and definitely secure.

Compression is often added to athletic gear (including leggings) to help control unwanted movement and provide a sense of sleek security. Some of us also like that it can provide some gentle shaping. 

So how do compression leggings differ from regular leggings? Let’s look:

Compression Leggings Versus Regular Leggings

Regular Leggings

Regular leggings are usually a simple garment made of cotton with some lycra or spandex added to give them stretch and ensure they mold to your body. These leggings are usually worn and sold as everyday clothing items, ideal for layering under dresses and sweaters. 

While regular leggings are form-fitting they don’t have that “second-skin” feeling you’ll get from athletic leggings. They also often become baggy over time as the elastic wears out.

Compression Leggings (aka Compression Pants or Compression Tights)

The term “compression” in clothing is not regulated, so it can fall on a spectrum. Compression clothing includes socks, leggings, shorts and sleeves. Compression materials put pressure on different parts of the body (the amount of pressure can vary). Some compression garments are all-over compression and some (like Knix leggings) have compression zones.

The purpose of the compression pressure is to improve blood circulation, which can help with athletic performance, reduce fatigue and even aid with muscle recovery. Compression leggings usually look “sportier” than regular leggings. They will usually have a thicker waist band and are often high rise. You may notice more panels on the legs. Materials will look less like 100% cotton and you’ll probably notice greater elasticity, which may make these items look much smaller on the hanger.

The Best of Both Worlds: Compression Zones

It may sound like leggings are all-or-nothing when it comes to compression, but that isn’t the case. Many styles (like Knix) offer compression zones without being overall compressing. This has the benefit of helping customers feel controlled where they most want it while still giving maximum comfort and freedom to move. 

Some people find compression leggings a little too rigid or tight to move in. And this can especially be the case considering how much a woman’s body changed over the course of a month. One day, compression garments can be ideal and the next it can feel like you should have gone up a size

Compression zones offer the best of both worlds. You get that snug, secure feeling where it matters, but never have the feeling of being squeezed like a sausage into your apparel. Compression zones in Knix leggings include the thigh, glute and calf, plus the wide, highrise waistband will help you feel maximum support and comfort.

6 Advantages Compression 

So why would you opt for leggings with compression? There are lots of compelling reasons:

1. Gentle Shaping

While the primary purpose of compression is not shaping, it has that benefit. You will feel more ‘contained’ in items with a degree of compression. For many of us, this helps with body confidence when working out.

2. Feeling Snug & Secure

There’s something very reassuring about being snug in your clothing. It’s almost like wearing a gravity blanket! Compression clothing tends to stay put giving you a true second skin feeling. This minimizes distraction when you’re working out (no tugging and adjusting clothing as you move). Surprisingly, this can also help with balance as the increased stimulation can improve your proprioceptive function, which helps you balance; so your tree pose will be next level ;)

3. Increase Blood Flow

Compression leggings (or leggings with compression zones) help increase the blood flow from the legs back to the heart when you’re working out. Increased blood flow can help your muscles stay oxygenated and decrease muscle fatigue and cramping.

4. Helps Treat Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) & Varicose Veins

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot (or thrombus) forms in your body—most often in the legs. DVT can cause leg pain or swelling.

Varicose veins may form whenever blood pressure increases inside your veins. Varicose veins are most common in those who are pregnant, elderly and overweight. 23% of people in the US are affected by varicose veins. They can result in:

  • Continuous pain and swelling in the legs. 
  • A dull, achy feeling in the legs after physical activity.

Compression leggings may help treat both DVT and varicose veins because they encourage blood circulation.

5. Compression Leggings Alleviates Muscle Soreness Post Workout

Wearing compression gear after your workout can also help accelerate muscle recovery, which may minimize the aches and pains many of us associate with a good workout. This is because compression will help reduce inflammation and assist your lymphatic system draining the lactic acid you may have built up from exercising. So you'll recover faster from a gruelling workout.

6. Beyond Exercise: Circulation When You’re Sitting a Long Time

While compression clothing is used by professional athletes, you don’t need to be exercising at that level to benefit from some compression. Compression can help many people in different situations. Some examples:

  • You’re on a long haul flight
  • Sitting at a desk for prolonged periods
  • You have circulation problems

Notes on Shopping for Compression Leggings 

Compression Leggings May Look Impossibly Small on the Hanger

Don’t freak out when you see leggings on the hanger - they may look impossibly small. Remember they have a lot of stretch to get that snug, second-skin feeling. Go by your regular size and read the manufacturer’s sizing charts, but don’t let your eye deceive you!

Too Much Compression Can Feel Uncomfortable at First

We’re big fans of compression zones because they give you all the benefits of compression without teetering into discomfort. Full compression leggings can feel too tight (especially for transitioning to leisure). Unless you’re a pro athlete, zoned compression is probably right for you.

Comfort Is Always Key

You know the outdated exercise mantra “no pain, no gain”. Well it doesn’t at all apply to leggings (or bras or any other clothing). If it’s not comfortable, you either won’t wear it, or you won’t enjoy your activity. So, if you try something on and notice right away it’s digging into your skin or feels too tight, either try a different size or move on!

Look for Other Features, Like Moisture-Wicking

The benefits of compression can be offset if you get hot and sweaty and the material doesn’t also wick away that moisture. So look for moisture wicking (or sweat wicking) fabrics too. That way, you’re not just compressed but will stay cool and dry a well, which will help prevent chafing.

Pay Attention to Seams

Speaking of chafing, leggings are great for preventing inner thigh chafing as the material creates a physical barrier to prevent friction, However, seams can sometimes cause chafing too. So pay attention to how seams are cut and look for seams that are offset on the inner leg so they don’t constantly rub together.

Check Out Knix Leggings!

At Knix, we take our cues from our customers. So when we made added leggings to our collections, we listened to how customers *really* wear leggings and what they’re looking for.

Our leggings come in seasonal colors, but basic black is by far the most popular and versatile. Our seamless leggings put comfort first. They’re made with 360-knit BlissFit™ Fabric for body-hugging smoothness that moves with your body.

Plus, when it comes to compression, we’re here to support (yep, pun intended). A ribbed waistband for gentle compression that smooths and holds your tummy. 

Finally, they’re as versatile as they come. Perfect for lounging, for layering with whatever ensemble you’re putting together and, of course, as activewear. The flattering high rise silhouette is easy to style and easy to wear inside and outside.

Check out all our leggings here.

But don’t take our work for it. Just hear what our customers have to say:

“These are my go-to leggings. They are the perfect rise and have the right amount of stretch.” - Ashley S.

“I had little expectation that these leggings would be any better than the dozens I’ve tried. Again, Knix exceeds my expectations. Flattering and comfortable, these leggings are amazing. Their high waist is the first that doesn’t fold down when I bend over. Awesome.” - Gayle M.

“These are one of my fav Knix products and certainly the one I wear the most. They have some compression and shaping while stretchy and soft. I wear them with a dress shirt and shoes, to the gym, to yoga and for lounging.” - Tammy R.