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 most of us think of "compression clothing," our mind typically jumps to the tight shirts football players wear, or those form-fitting arm sleeves that athletes claim reduce muscle pain. In other words, it's not necessarily the type of clothing you'd casually wear to the gym. Although compression clothing looks intense, there are a few benefits that us mortals can also take advantage of.
Last month, Adidas launched a new line of base layers that utilize compression technology, called Alphaskin. The pieces are designed to help with muscle stabilization and improve blood flow to muscles, according to Javier Macias of Adidas Global Training. Ultimately, the goal of these special features is to eliminate unwanted distractions and remove friction between the fabric and your skin while you work out. So, we tried them in a few workouts to see if these claims are actually legit.
Alphaskin comes in three levels of compression that you can choose based on your personal preference: Alphaskin 360, the highest level; Alphaskin Tech, the middle level; and Alphaskin Sport, the lightest compression. Surprisingly, my favorite level to wear running and lifting weights was the Alphaskin 360. The fabric on the 360 leggings is thick and tight, so it felt secure, and I didn't have to fidget with the waistband at all throughout my workout.
When Adidas was creating these base layers, they used a motion-capture system to determine the areas of the body that typically are the most susceptible to friction, and they found that the waistband was a big culprit, Macias says. The Alphaskin feature an invisible waistband that "maintains the comfortable fit and feel of the rest of the tights," he says. The waistband is also cut with a "V" in the front, which is surprisingly cool-looking (and it looks good on everyone). On top of that, Adidas developed a "kinetic wrapped design" that is supposed to follow your body's natural movement, so the leggings fit like a second skin and didn't chafe at all. But the shirt was a different story.
The Alphaskin 360 longsleeve tops felt tight and loose in the wrong places, Rebecca Adams, health and wellness director at Refinery29, told me. The shoulders and arms were loose while the torso was uncomfortably tight on her, she said. Lately, I've been on a kick of working out in big longsleeve shirts, because it's cold, but also because I noticed the Kardashians always work out in long sleeves — have you noticed this? But sadly, I felt like these tops were too tight on the arms and stomach, but billowing on the shoulders. On a run, I had to adjust the hem of the shirt every few steps because it was folding up and felt like it was squeezing my innards.
I was into the Alphaskin Sport sports bra for running; it actually reminded me of my favorite Under Armour bra. The Alphaskin Sport leggings were also nice, but not standout. Another thing to consider if you're choosing a level of compression is the price: The Alphaskin 360 leggings go for $150, while the Alphaskin Tech leggings are only $70, and still feel nice. Compared to the other non-compression leggings out there (like the Lululemon Everlux leggings, for example), they're a bargain.
So, would we recommend buying these?
If you do lots of high-intensity workouts, or are into compression technology, the Alphaskin 360 leggings are worth a splurge. The fashionable cut and highly technical fabric make make them stand out to other competitors' compression wear — plus, they really feel great. But if you mostly do yoga or low-impact exercise programs (or just want leggings to wear for athleisure purposes), you may want to skip the Alphaskin altogether. That said, if your favorite color is royal blue, you can get a sleek head-to-toe Alphaskin gym look, so go for it.