After 15 hours of research evaluating 85 products, we picked Champion Men's Powerflex Compression Short as our top choice.
Men's compression shorts have become hugely popular in the last few years. Compression garments (socks, wraps, arm wraps, etc.) have been used for decades, but only recently have they made their way into sports apparel.
You might be wondering:
Why do people wear compression shorts? Well, let us tell you. Not only do compression shorts control muscle oscillation during exercise, prevent chafing, and reduce the risk of injury, but they also improve circulation and reduce lactic acid in the blood.
Of course, these are the claims made by compression short manufacturers, but are they really true? In short, yes. One study in Germany found that compression socks help to increase speed and run length, though not aerobic capacity. Another Australian study found that compression garments helped to increase leg muscle oxygenation, but offered no enhancement in performance. And a study in Europe found that compression garments reduced muscle recovery time.
What's the bottom line?
So, while science may not agree on exactly what compression garments can do, there have been positive benefits associated with wearing them! Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete decided to test a pair of compression shorts to see if the hype was real. In his conclusion, he found that the compression shorts he tested may be better suited for short speed workouts compared to his longer runs.
Now, onto the list!
Flatlock seams, moisture-wicking material, four-way stretch fabric, natural cup position, unrestricted movement, good ventilation, comfortable, durable, great for martial artists and wrestlers, form-fitting, and offer mid-weight compression.
Not suitable for hockey or MMA.
If you want more protection for your groin during contact sports (football, rugby, martial arts training, etc.) these are a good option to consider. They're not up to the intensity of hockey or MMA, but they will offer good groin protection for other sports. The dual-mesh cup keeps your groin protected without interfering with blood flow or ventilation, making it supremely comfortable to wear for hours.
The shorts provide mid-weight compression, making it perfect for active sports that require a faster recovery time.
The fabric is a synthetic material that offers good flexibility and mobility. The four-way stretch fabric clings to your body as you move, giving you a good range of motion while still providing solid compression for your legs. The material is breathable enough that you won't overheat, and it's both moisture-wicking and quick-drying to prevent sweat build-up and reduce friction. The fabric is durable and can handle a lot of regular use without fading, sagging, or fraying.
The price tag on these bad boys is anywhere between $15 and $25, depending on the size. For the price, you'll find they're the best option to consider for compression shorts that also offer groin protection.
Good compression, great price tag, soft, lightweight, beautiful elasticity, reduces chafing and irritation, comfortable, tight-fitting, makes for a great base layer beneath sports clothing, and breathable.
Quality control issues when it comes to sizing.
These shorts are designed for medium compression, with a fit that is tight enough to apply pressure to your muscles without limiting movement. The 4-way stretch allows for a good range of motion, even though the shorts are a tight fit, like a second skin.
Unfortunately, the fit is where these shorts fail. A number of users have complained of quality control issues, that the three shorts in the packet are different sizes—some too small, others too large. It may take a few tries to get the size just right.
The shorts are made with 85% polyester and 15% Spandex, pairing breathability and durability with good elasticity. The fabric is moisture-wicking and quick drying, making them ideal for sport activity. The material is better suited for a base layer or underwear rather than outerwear. It's soft, comfortable, and reliable overall.
At $23 for a 3-pack, this is one of the best-priced options on our list—just over $7 per pair. You may find the quality control issues are a huge drawback (you may have to return them to get the size right), but once you find your size, they're a very affordable choice!
These half-tights are designed to keep the blood flowing to your muscles, giving you maximum stamina when you're pushing yourself hard. They're flexible enough for any workout - run, walk, cycle, or weightlifting. They even come with UV protection for your skin and a layer of moisture-wicking fabric to keep your "happy parts" nice and cool.
Thin fabric, and they run slightly big. VERY pricey!
These half tights are made using dynamically engineered gradient compression which improves circulation and increases oxygen delivery to active muscles to create more power. Additionally, they support key muscle groups, increasing your power output and reducing muscle vibration, soft tissue damage, and post exercies soreness and swelling. Finally, make sure to adhere to the precision fit chart which uses your height, weight, chest, and limb measurements to ensure you order the correct size.
25% Nylon and 75% Elastane. The SKINS A200 Men's Compression Half Tights feature SKINS knit fabric that is not only moisture wicking, but also offers 50 + UV protection. What other compression shorts do that?
Depending on the size and color you're looking for, these compression shorts are pretty expensive - up to $80! However, if you're specifically looking for UV protection, they're worth it.
Quick-drying, moisture-wicking, suitable for every type of sports and physical activity, high-performance fabric, serves as a good base layer, enhances circulation, flexible, and reduces chafing and irritation.
Short in the crotch and prone to chafing along the tailbone.
If you're looking for a good pair of compression shorts for any sports activity, give these bad boys a try. They're built to be snug enough to offer good compression, yet not so tight they restrict movement. Their 4-way stretch ensures you have great freedom of movement while you train in CrossFit, HIIT, resistance training, running, cycling, or team sports.
The downside: the crotch area is VERY short, so larger men may find them a bit uncomfortable. The rear top panel of the shorts also features a seam that will rub along your tailbone, above your crack, potentially leading to chafing.
The high performance fabric of these shorts make them excellent for outerwear, as they are durable, flexible, and offer good coverage for your legs and thighs. However, they can also be worn as underwear or a base layer, with fabric that traps heat close to your body—ideal for cold weather use.
The material is both moisture-wicking and quick-drying, made from a synthetic material that is resistant to odors, bacteria, and itching. The flat-lock seam stitching prevents discomfort and keeps these shorts nice and slim.
Starting at $20 per pair, these are a fairly well-priced pair of compression shorts. They deliver durability and comfort at good value, and are worth considering for just about any sport you play.
Good quality material, solid stitching, suitable for base layer and outerwear, good in all seasons, soft material, comfortable, easy to pull on/off, and good compression.
Sizes run small and tight.
These shorts are excellent for those who want medium compression that won't reduce their mobility and movement. The shorts grip your thighs, hips, and buttocks tightly, offering good compression to improve circulation. However, thanks to the elasticity provided by the Spandex, they won't limit your range of motion.
On the downside, the sizes run VERY small and tight. It's recommended you buy at least one size up from your normal shorts, though you may have to buy two sizes if you don't want heavy compression.
For those who want compression shorts built to last, these are an excellent choice. The material—a combination of 87% polyester and 13% Spandex—is durable, thick enough to be used for outerwear yet lightweight enough to serve as a base layer. The quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabric traps heat near your body in the winter, but ensures decent breathability in the summer. The all-season shorts are excellent for anyone who wants a versatile, durable pair of compression shorts.
Starting at just $14, these are an incredibly well-priced option! Absolutely worth the try if durability is a must-have.
These are your go-to shorts when it comes to cycling. The breathable fabric along with the ultra-cushioned padding makes for an extremely comfortable ride.
The sizes run small so make sure to read Amazon's recommended advice and order at least one size up.
These cycling shorts come with a four-way performance stretch and 6-Panel anatomic design which prevents chaffing while supporting your body. Make sure to order one size up as these cycling shorts do run small. They move with your body and the padding on the rear leaves you comfortable and able to cycle for as long as you'd like.
The fabric is ultra cushy with its 80% polyester and 20% spandex. This fabric is also UPF 50+ and has antimicrobial properties. With quick dry technology and breathable fabric, you'll remain comfortable throughout your entire ride.
If you're a cyclist looking for riding shorts, these are for you. They start at $28.99 and are built to last.
These compression shorts are made with copper-infused fabric that will speed up post-workout recovery times. For faster muscle recovery, these durable, comfortable shorts are worth considering.
The compression is lighter than expected/desired.
These compression shorts are designed like any other, with the above-the-knee sizing that makes them perfect for sports, running, and training. You'll find the compression is a bit lighter than you might like, but it will add the pressure on your muscles and joints to keep them warm and encourage better blood flow.
The shorts are made with 88% copper nylon, a synthetic material that is infused with copper. Copper helps to speed up recovery times and promotes better joint health, which is why it is used in so many joint supports. You'll find that the copper nylon in the shorts will help to reduce joint pain and improve mobility during and after training.
The fabric is durable and comfortable, and the stitching is flat enough that it won't rub on your body no matter how much you sweat. The copper-infused fabric can make a world of difference when it comes to odors and bacteria. The mineral will do wonders to kill of pathogens that cause bad smells and potential infections.
At $24, these are a very well-priced option for those who want faster recovery times after an intense workout.
The 2XU Compression Shorts are one of the most popular products on the market, but don't just take our word for it. Heavy.com loves these shorts as well. They're great for a variety of activities, including lifting, aerobics, running, walking, cycling, climbing, hiking, and all water sports. So no matter what you're into, we promise you'll love these shorts.
These shorts are pretty expensive and also run slightly small. But if you can manage to get these in a size that fits correctly, man are they comfortable.
They use a drawstring rather than an elastic band to keep them snug around your waist, and they'll feel nice and soft as you wear them to run, cycle, or lift. The 70 Denier knit construction provides 360 degree consistent, yet powerful, pressure. And the optimal compression provides support and protection for glutes, abductors, IT band, quads, and hamstrings.
The Invista LYCRA fabric provides certified gradient compression. The moisture-wicking, antibacterial fabric will keep you dry as you train and is both breathable and lightweight. And, on top of all of that, these compression shorts are machine washable.
Though these are a bit pricier than most of the other options on this list at $35, they're definitely one of the most comfortable. We definitely suggest giving these a try.
These compression shorts are longer than your regular briefs but are good to wear under pants or longer shorts. Ideal for fast pace sports or high intensity workouts.
Like most compression shorts on our list, these too run slightly small. Additionally, the material is very thin and may not last as long as competitor brands.
Features 4-way stretch fabrication which allows greater mobility while still allowing the shorts to maintain shape. The smooth fabric provides extreme comfort and compression without restriction, and the smooth, chafe-free flatlock seam construction decreases chafing significantly.
84% Polyester and 16% Elastane. The Under Armour HeatGear Sonic Compression shorts protect from chafing and feature anti-odor technology, which minimizes sweat and eliminates smell. Also made with the signature moisture transport system which holds the sweat away from the body.
At $27 per pair, these compression shorts fall right inthe middle of the prices featured on this list. And overall, we think these compression shorts are a worth while investment.
These compression shorts are a great choice when it comes to active living. Whether you run, lift, bike, or row, these compression shorts are sure to get the job done for a fraction of the cost of most competitor brands.
These run slightly small, but reviewers say over and over again that the pros well outweigh the cons.
Stretch material makes it easy to move about in, while also keeping all of the important parts in place. And the flatlock seams protect against chafing.
Made of 84% Polyester and 16% Spandex, these compression shorts are quick-drying, moisture wicking, and machine washable. As an added bonus, these compression shorts even come in a variety of colors.
You can get these bad boys for as low as $10 on Amazon, which we think is an amazing deal at 1/3 of the cost of other brands of compression shorts.
Compression gear is all the rage among resistance trainees, athletes, and runners. People are spending a fortune on compression shorts, shirts, socks, even underwear, all without knowing what they really do.
Don't get caught up in the hype! Here is the science explaining what compression gear does:
Create Positive Pressure – Compression garments create positive pressure across the one-way valves in your blood veins, reducing the risk of blood clots and varicose veins. It can prevent blood pooling in your ankles and feet as you run, cycle, or train on the elliptical machine. It will also improve circulation and keep blood flowing efficiently.
Reduce Soreness – A 2007 study found that compression socks used during a 10K run helped to prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Only two of the participants who wore the compression socks were sore after the race, but 13 of those who didn't wear the socks felt the same soreness.
Improve Running Performance – A 2009 study found that using compression stockings improved running performance at both the anaerobic and aerobic thresholds. The improvement may have been slight, but visible enough for it to be important.
Reduced Lactic Acid Levels – A 2014 study found that compression garments could help to reduce blood lactate levels after intense exercise. Though the garments didn't improve performance in this study, it did help to reduce lactate levels within 1 minute after exercise.
Protect Muscular Power – A 2011 study found that using compression garments can help to protect muscular power after endurance exercise.
As you can see, there are a few benefits of compression garments, as proven by science. However, be warned: these tests all involved compression SOCKS, not shorts. No studies have been done on the benefits of compression garments worn on the upper legs, thighs, and glutes. While it's possible the above-mentioned benefits remain, there's no science to back it up.
The real use of compression shorts is to reduce chafing. Compression shorts are tight-fitting garments that keep everything securely in place as you run, jump, and play. The moisture-wicking fabric pulls sweat away from your skin and prevents salt crystals from forming. This leads to less friction, ergo less chafing. Compression shorts can also keep your muscles warm, preventing muscle strains.
Are compression shorts better than any other running or cycling shorts/tights? Given the scientific evidence available, it's possible the answer is "yes." If the shorts really can improve performance, reduce soreness, lower lactate levels, and protect your muscle power after endurance training, they're worth it.
Not all compression shorts are the same! Style and fabric aside, there's only one truly important factor to consider: the compression grade.
Medical-grade compression garments are usually recommended to diabetics and people with vascular disorders. Their compression ranges from 30 to 40 mmHg. They are not usually designed for activewear but are made of more delicate materials intended for comfort and greater compression instead of durability. You don't need to buy them at a pharmacy or get a prescription for them, but they're available online and at a number of retailers. However, you need to know they're for treating medical conditions, not to use during sports. The high grade of compression can actually have NEGATIVE effects on athletic performance.
High-grade compression garments don't offer medical-grade compression (above 30 mmHg) but opt for firm compression (20 to 30 mmHg). Though they can be used for varicose veins or other vascular problems, they're manufactured with athletic use in mind. They're made of durable, moisture-wicking materials that provide both comfort and firmness. The lack of stitching will reduce friction as you exercise, and they're intended for professional athletes, regular resistance trainees, and distance runners.
Mid-grade compression garments tend to offer medium compression (15 to 20 mmHg), which is perfect for people who are active but don't spend hours a day engaged in endurance exercise. They can be used by strength trainees, HIITers, CrossFitters, and other people who need flexibility and unimpaired movement from their compression garments. The materials are still moisture-wicking and comfortable, but the price tag is slightly lower than the top-of-the-line, high-grade compression garments.
Support shorts are more underwear than outerwear, meaning they'll be soft, comfortable, and keep your junk secure as you move. The grade of compression is usually much lower (8 to 15 mmHg). The durability of the material is still excellent, but the shorts are more for comfort than for athletic performance.
Did you know that some compression shorts are actually designed to be used as underwear? Just like your Spandex running tights, they're intended to be worn beneath your regular shorts.
So what's the difference? How can you tell compression underwear apart from compression outerwear?
Underwear – Compression underwear will strongly resemble your basic Spandex boxer briefs, though slightly longer in the leg than most underwear. They're more likely to end at mid-thigh, offering good upper leg compression. The fit will be tight around the glutes, thighs, and legs, providing the compression that keeps blood flowing as you work out.
The fabric will usually be soft and incredibly comfortable, but not the most durable. This isn't a problem because they're intended to be worn beneath shorts, pants, or other protective outerwear. The material will receive less wear and tear because they are underwear.
Most compression underwear is made with moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric. This helps to reduce salt crystals forming on your skin and causing chafing as you run or exercise. The compression won't be as firm as outerwear, but they are an excellent "support" option to use if you don't need high-grade compression.
Outerwear – Compression outerwear will look like a pair of bike shorts or running tights that cut off at the knees, and they'll be made with the tight fit and compression that you want. However, the material will usually be a bit thicker than underwear, and with greater durability. This is necessary because the shorts will be exposed to the elements, rub against the seat of your bicycle, and receive more wear and tear than underwear.
Compression outerwear will usually be pricier than underwear. The material will be durable but may not always provide efficient moisture-wicking (you'll use proper sports underwear for that). The fit around the legs will be tight, but you may have more space around the groin area to fit your athletic underwear.
With your outwear compression shorts, you'll want to find a pair of slim-fit athletic underwear made with thinner fabrics. Thick fabrics will increase the risk of bunching underneath the tight-fitting compression shorts. This is one time when it's better to wear briefs rather than boxers or boxer briefs. The high cut of briefs makes them perfect for keeping everything comfortable underneath the compression shorts.
As with any other item of clothing, you have to know what you're looking for when buying compression shorts. Every brand offers its own unique features, styles, and sizes. It's worth taking the time to shop around to find the right pair of compression shorts.
If you're in the market for great compression shorts, here are a few factors to consider:
Compression – This may sound silly; after all, of course, your compression shorts will have compression! Well, remember that Spandex shorts, running shorts, and cycling shorts may all look identical to compression garments. The styles, fabrics, and designs are very similar, but unless the garments actually state that they provide compression, you may walk away with a pair of form-fitting shorts that are more form than function. Always make sure you're buying shorts labeled "compression shorts," rather than just athletic underwear or active tights/leggings!
Compression Grade – The grade of compression is very important to consider. Too firm, and you reduce mobility and potentially impair performance. Too loose, and you don't get the benefits of the compression gear. Endurance athletes (marathon runners, for example) need a higher compression grade (between 15 and 30 mmHg). Resistance trainees, CrossFitters, and joggers can benefit from a lower grade of compression (between 8 and 20 mmHg). The garments will help with endurance and reducing muscle soreness, not enhancing muscular power or strength.
Size – Funny that the size of your compression shorts is the third most important factor to consider! Waist size is obviously important, but you need to think about leg size (both length and fit). If you have large legs, a too-tight elastic leg band can cut off circulation. Inseam length determines where on your thigh the shorts end. Closer to the knee may be better if you have bigger legs.
Materials – Most compression shorts are made with Lycra, Spandex, polyester, and other synthetic materials. These materials offer good elasticity for all grades of compression, as well as better freedom of movement. They're also fairly durable (more so than cotton or wool) and comfortable. The thickness of the material will usually depend on their use (outerwear or underwear).
Moisture-Wicking – As an athlete, chafing is one of your primary reasons for buying athletic shorts and underwear. The material of your compression shorts should be moisture-wicking, as that will pull sweat away from your body and prevent salt crystals from forming on your skin. Quick-drying material isn't as important for underwear, as the moisture-wicking fabric will pull the sweat away from your skin and transfer them to your shorts. However, for outerwear, you may want to consider a material that dries quickly to avoid excessive friction with your skin.
Fit – Like any item of clothing, you need to think about how well the shorts fit you. Some people need more room for their junk to move and breathe, while others prefer everything tight and securely trapped in place. Compression shorts are designed to remain firmly in place, but some will bunch up around the groin if they're not the right fit. This can be highly uncomfortable and often difficult to adjust the mid-run/cycle/race.
Compression outerwear may need to be a bit roomier to fit your athletic underwear, while compression underwear can be more form-fitting.
Mobility – Have you ever tried to perform a high-intensity CrossFit or HIIT workout in a too-tight pair of shorts? Mobility is a must if you're going to be doing vigorous activity. Remember that compression garments are meant to enhance endurance, making them a garment primarily useful for marathon and distance runners. They're less useful for CrossFit or workouts that require a lot of lateral/forward/backward movement. You may want to find a pair of shorts with less compression, as that will mean a better range of motion for your exercise.
Use – Compression shorts are designed for a broad range of activities, but there are specific shorts designed with certain sports in mind. For example, compression shorts for cyclists may come with extra padding built into the seat. Shorts for runners may be longer to provide more compression across the entire leg, while compression shorts for ball sports may have a shorter inseam to allow a broader range of motion.
Warmth – Some compression garments are designed to be worn beneath winter athletic apparel, such as snowboarding or skiing clothes. They're not only compression shorts, but they serve as a base layer to keep you warm. The synthetic fabrics are usually effective at keeping heat trapped close to the body, making them an excellent base layer.
Seam – The seams of your compression shorts MUST be designed to reduce chafing. Flat seams prevent the material from rubbing against your legs as you run, preventing friction and irritation. Closely examine the seams of your compression shorts before buying!