Designed to be worn during and after training, the main aim of compression gear is to increase blood flow – moving oxygen to, and waste away from, tired muscles. During tough sessions, these tight-fitting baselayers also help to support the muscles, cutting the impact vibrations that can cause more of that micro damage that leads to delayed onset muscle soreness. The best compression tights and tops can therefore help fight muscle fatigue, reduce post-workout muscle soreness and speed up recovery between sessions.
While plenty of athletes and trainers swear by compression gear, the scientific jury is still out on whether it actually enhances performance during workouts. However, there’s much more compelling evidence for the positive impact it has on post-workout recovery.
Benefits of compression tops
The best compression tops feature sweat-wicking, quick-drying, breathable technical fabrics that help regulate body temperature in hot and cold conditions. So you can stay dry and comfortable, no matter how intense your session.
When you’re buying compression gear, the first thing to consider is the level of compression it offers. Not all compression training gear offers medical-grade compression – something to look for if your main aim is promoting recovery. Some compression tops are suitable to wear during and after workouts. Others – often the tighter-fitting, more constrictive gear – are better used for recovery alone.
Fit is more important than with regular baselayers, so pay close attention to the sizing. Good compression gear requires more detailed measurements than regular baselayers and workout apparel. So be sure to check the sizing charts and don’t automatically go for your usual size.
Find out how compression clothing works
These are the best compression tops
(Keep scrolling for full reviews)
- 2XU Core Compression Long Sleeve – Best for running and riding
- Kymira Charge IR50 Top – Best for faster recovery
- Skins Series 5 Top – Best for targeted compression
- Under Armour HeatGear Long Sleeve – Best for layering up
- Castore Long Sleeve Base Layer – Best for comfort and durability
- Gymshark Element Base Layer – Best for tight budgets
BEST FOR RUNNING & RIDING
2XU Core Compression Long Sleeve
BUY IT NOW:
$69.95 / £60 / amazon.co.uk
Materials: 80% polyamide, 20% elastane | Sizes: XS to XXL | Features: Circular knit, 360-degree stretch fabric / flatlock seams / raglan sleeves / vent panels / reflective logo | Colour: Black
For high-level compression and a wealth of technical features, look no further than the 2XU Core Compression top. It’s tight, compressive fit supports your muscles during exercise and kickstarts the recovery process afterwards.
Its thick yet lightweight PWX fabric finds the sweet spot between insulation and and ventilation, too, with well-placed vent panels ensuring reliable temperature regulation.
Raglan sleeves help keep movement unrestricted while elasticated sleeves and that second-skin fit keep the top in place, however vigorous your workout. There are six sizes plus short-sleeve and sleeveless versions to choose from too.
Read our full 2XU Core Compression Long Sleeve review
BEST FOR FASTER RECOVERY
Kymira Charge IR50 Top
BUY IT NOW:
$105 / £85 / kymira.com
Materials: 82% polyester, 18% elastane | Sizes: XS to 4XL | Features: Far Infrared technology / flatlock seams | Colour: Black
Kymira’s Charge IR50 top take recovery gear to a new level, using Far Infrared (FIR) technology to reflects your body’s heat back into the muscles to boost recovery.
Minerals embedded in the Celliant-infused fabric reflect your body’s FIR heat ‘energy’ back into the muscles to create deeper warmth, boost blood flow and increases muscle oxygen levels.
The IR 50 has a simple, unfussy design with a second-skin feel and good coverage and flexibility. It can be paired with the matching Kymira Recharge IR50 tights, too, for full-body recovery benefits.
Read our full Kymira Charge IR50 Top review
BEST FOR TARGETED COMPRESSION
Skins Series 5 Top
BUY IT NOW:
$111.26 / £90 / skinscompression.com
Materials: 76% nylon, 24% elastane | Sizes: Small to XXL | Features: Multi-panel design / mesh chest and spine panels / elasticated waist and sleeve cuffs | Colour: Black
The companion top to the Skins Series 5 tights, this baselayer packs Skins’ highest level of compression. Its panelled design uses different fabrics to offer compression, breathability and flexibility where you need it most.
The result is a tight-fitting top that’s hard to wriggle into and out of, but it packs some of the best levels of compression on test, right where you need it.
Sweat-wicking, drying and insulation performance are all impressive and when buying you’ll be asked for your exact chest measurements, ensuring a precise fit.
Read our full Skins Series 5 Top review
BEST FOR LAYERING UP
Under Armour HeatGear Long Sleeve
BUY IT NOW:
£40 / underarmour.co.uk
Materials: 90% polyester, 10% elastane | Sizes: S to XXL | Features: HeatGear fabric / stretch-mesh back and side panels / Anti-odor technology | Colours: Black / downpour grey
It can’t quite match the compression levels of the 2XU Core Compression or the Skins Series 5, but the Under Armour HeatGear Long Sleeve offers a snug, protective and supportive fit without being overly restrictive.
The fabric feels smooth, soft and cool to the touch with no sign of chafing. It has plenty of flex and supports a range of movement, thanks to mesh panels, and is the quickest drying compression top on test.
BEST FOR COMFORT & DURABILITY
Castore Long Sleeve Base Layer
BUY IT NOW:
$35 / £35 / castore.com
Materials: 86% polyester, 14% elastane | Sizes: S to 2XL | Features: Flatlock seams / vented back panels | Colours: Grey / lilac / black
The Castore long-sleeve baselayer is a warm and durable option though it lacks the top-end compression benefits of the likes of the 2XU Core Compression and Skins Series 5. However it features the same fabric and technical design as its pricier Roebus compression alternative so is worth considering.
The high-stretch fabric is soft, shiny and a little more substantial than most. It has a comfortable feel, with excellent fit and support, as well as flatlock seams to avoid chafing.
A good option for layering on warmth on colder training days, its cut is longer than usual, hanging well below the waistline to avoid riding up and exposing your midriff.
Read our full Castore Long Sleeve Base Layer review
BEST FOR TIGHT BUDGETS
Gymshark Element Base Layer
BUY IT NOW:
$30 / £22 / gymshark.com
Materials: 88% recycled polyester, 12% elastane | Sizes: XS to 3XL | Features: Flatlock seams / elasticated waist and cuffs | Colours: Silhouette grey / evening blue / black white / grey print / Tuscan teal / Atlantic blue / blue
The most budget-friendly option on test unsurprisingly can’t compete with the out-and-out compression tops but still punches well above its weight.
The Gymshark Element is a snug-fitting top that offers decent muscle support, flexibility and warmth. It gets kudos for using recycled polyester, which feels smooth, soft and stretchy. We’re impressed with how well it dries and wicks away sweat too – better than some tops that are twice the price.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with seven sizes, as well as eight colour schemes, including a grey camo print.
Read our full Gymshark Element Base Layer review
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