To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
When Kim Kardashian West was in Japan last month, she posted a photo of herself wearing a pair of leggings that I recognized immediately as the 2XU MCS Compression Tights. These workout leggings have a distinct "muscle containment stamping" pattern on the inside fabric, which outlines the shapes of your leg muscles. Kim's pair in this photo had the stamping on the outside, but otherwise looked exactly like 2XU leggings. So, as someone who has tried Khloé Kardashian's vaginal skincare routine and Kim's butt workout, obviously I had to test these leggings.
According to the 2XU team, the particular leggings that Kim has been repping in the past few months are part of an exclusive release of YEEZY product that will be available in limited supply in May. "The inside out stamping was a specific design request by the YEEZY team," a 2XU rep told me in an email. (Can't you just picture Kanye making this request?) However, you can get leggings with the same technology on the inside of the fabric on their website now.
While Kim may have worn these leggings as a fashion statement, the compression technology is actually meant to be worn during workouts. Like other compression clothing, the fabric is supposed to boost blood flow to your muscles, reduce muscle fatigue, increase power, and facilitate faster recovery, the 2XU brand rep said.
But, 2XU takes compression a step further with their muscle containment stamping, which is designed to add an additional layer of support and pressure to key muscle groups, according to the brand rep. The leggings target your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves to reduce strain and bring awareness to your posture during strength training. With these leggings on, you may pay more attention to your form, and therefore make fewer mistakes that could lead to an injury, the 2XU brand rep said.
Don't get too excited just yet, though: Despite these promising claims, the research on compression clothing is pretty wishy-washy at the moment, and studies have shown that compression sleeves don't actually provide statistically significant benefits. A 2013 review of studies about compression clothing suggests that compression clothing might be helpful during certain types of workouts (like those that involve jumping or leaping). And other experts say that compression clothing provides a placebo effect, which makes you think it's helping your muscles.
So, the question is: Does the fancy 2XU compression technology actually make a difference during workouts?
I took a method approach to testing these leggings, and wore them to do Kim's butt workout. The compression felt nice and tight on my legs during squats, but they weren't restricting. I also ran a few miles on the treadmill, and swear my muscles didn't feel as sore as they usually do. Patia Braithwaite, health editor at Refinery29, told me she usually suffers from knee pain during runs, but it felt like the leggings supported her thighs, knees, and legs. Rebecca Adams, health director at Refinery29, agreed that she felt very stabilized during strength training. "But I'm really not sure how much they actually helped," she says.
Most compression clothing can feel uncomfortably tight at first, but the 2XU fabric still allows for a lot of movement. When Sara Coughlin, health and spirit writer at Refinery29, wore the leggings rock climbing, she said she felt a "teeny bit of resistance" because of the compression, but they weren't restricting.
Kim Kardashian's butt workout involves lots of deadlifts and glute bridges, and the leggings fit securely, thanks to the drawstring in the waistband. Sara told me the legs fit great, but the waist was a little loose. (Compression pieces tend to fit snugly, so it's a good idea to consider that when you're choosing a size.) "I fidget a lot with leggings, and these basically stayed glued in place, but in a comfortable way," Rebecca said.
The thing about compression clothing is that, while it's considered great for workouts, it's not always the most comfortable to wear out running errands. Still, I turned the leggings inside out in order to get the full Kim experience (as you can see in my Insta above). According to 2XU, the compression technology still "works" when the leggings are inside out. "While we love the aesthetic it brings to the garment, our first and foremost concern is that the product continues to perform to our standards," the 2XU rep said. "In this case, the reverse stamping brings the exact same benefits as the internal stamping and causes zero compromises to the garments structural integrity." I may have looked like a YEEZY knockoff, but that's good enough for me.
So, would we recommend buying these?
At $129, these are definitely a Kardashian-level investment. But, if you're someone who exercises often (because you play a sport or are training for a race, for example), then the compression may help speed along your muscle recovery. The jury may still be out on compression technology, but we all liked the 2XU leggings a lot, even if they might just be another pair of black leggings (albeit a Kim K.-approved pair).
*2XU provided Refinery29 with the product for testing purposes.