It’s getting time to quit with the reviews before I start writing about my favorite pen and paper (although, one could make a story of that…). There is one more set of running stuff that I have been using for ages, that already had me thinking of minimalism and too many things before, and is worth a review, though – especially given that it was a reader request I do so: CW-X performance tights.
My first encounter with this brand’s “conditioning wear” was in or just before 2004. Since then, I have built up quite a collection of their products and, when it comes to tights, I have not been using any others (except for a Windstopper pair of pants for the worst of conditions) since then.
So, admittedly, I cannot compare them to any other of the many variants of such compression tights that have since been released (and become more widely available here in Europe whereas CW-X, by and large, stayed out of this market). From what I’ve seen, they are still quite unique in the range of targeted support they offer over general compression clothing – and apart from one, I bought the last item of those in 2008, and am still using all of them.
The brand may be even better known for its sports bras – and their advertisements for those made for a very nice contrast to the Chinese advertisement for bras which can be seen here – but anyways… Let’s start at the beginning, though:
My typical admonition is that running requires very little gear, and it is important to be first, and buy later. Don’t go out buying anything in hopes that it will make you do more sports, get more fit. “If I buy it, then I’ll be motivated to change” is a non-starter. Begin by doing.
That said, better things can make the doing better – and as much as running tights may be something that other people laugh at, dedicated runners tend to laugh at people who run in jeans. There is even a blog – http://www.joggingjeans.com/ – for that very purpose.
Running tights are made to wick and dry quickly, moving away sweat and keeping their user more comfortable. Compression tights are supposed to improve blood flow and reduce fatigue by supporting the muscles and dampening their vibration, and – especially in the case of “conditioning wear” with reinforcements at particular muscles/ligaments – to support various muscle group’s proper alignment and motion.
In the case of CW-X, all that has come to be found in quite a range of products. Their main differences, not just as they describe but as I find it, lie in the areas of the body most targeted:
The “original” version, the Expert tights, mainly just support the knee (aside from giving general slight compression). They are a good starting point (including for their not-so-peculiar look), but don’t do too much.
I still use my two pairs of those whenever I just go out for a quick run. The standard version rides rather low on the hip, though, making them a bit problematic for the colder temperatures we’ve started to have. The Insulator version, using a material that keeps warm, is much better in that regard – as one should certainly hope – and is my standard go-to for both runs in cold and dry conditions, and as snowboarding underwear.
The Pro tights, meant to bring “the hips, knees and ankles into proper alignment” are a step up in the support they offer, as are the PerformX (which I think I don’t have any of and which are very similar to the Pros). Both of these types are also available in Insulator versions for cold conditions.
The Stabilyx tights go in a slightly different direction, supporting the knees as well as the lower legs, but also bringing in material to target the midsection, especially the lower back. Depending on person and situation, these could easily feel rather binding (i.e., having the strongest compression effect of the whole lot), but they also feel the most like an exoskeleton moving your legs along with you.
Personally, I own a pair of those in the Insulator version, and they have helped me securely skip over icy patches and plow on over snow drifts in both sleet and temperatures well below freezing.
Stabilyx are also available in a Ventilator version with mesh panels and Coolmax fabric for hot conditions; the general type of Ventilator tights also has such a make, but is more similar to the Pro Tights in terms of the support it offers.
Not being one for shorts (and less so ones for running, given that one would lose the lower leg-support), the Expert tights or the Ventilator are what I’ve been using for summer runs, and I find them not to get too warm for me, but to give the support I’ve come to appreciate.
The latest in the line-up, the Revolution Tights, are a mixed bag if ever there was one.
They certainly make you stand out given their design, they look meant for all-round support and, being made without seams,without the slightest chance of chafing, they certainly are light… but I’m not sure they really give as much support to the muscles and ligaments (as much as I appreciated them on my recent 3/4 around Vienna) as most other versions. And they are rather painfully expensive. So, I’ll be using them for my next marathon and report how it went…
All in all, I’m very satisfied with the CW-X products I got. Like the Suunto t6c/d, they are “long running,” having been providing good to great value for a long time. As to the specialized value, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the good effect one feels such tights (and tops) to have should be due to something of a placebo effect. Still, even if a CW-X top only reminded me to keep an upright posture, it would still be a helpful effect. I can confidently say that it does that, and switching between different types of tights, it’s also clear enough that both material and make do influence both performance and recovery.