Nike-funded study reveals compression apparel does not improve performance
Nike has funded a study that revealed compression apparel does nothing for performance, which could set back competitors in the compression apparel market.
The study was conducted by the Ohio State University's physical therapy department. Data showed no difference in runners' jump height or strength when wearing the compression apparel. The results were recently unveiled to the American College of Sports Medicine.
The project specifically tested 17 athletes for 30 minute intervals wearing both low and high compression tights and shorts made by Nike. The results of the study showed no difference in athletic performance or running times recorded by the test subjects when wearing the compression product compared to when they wore regular running apparel.
Essentially, the project unveiled that compression apparel is a placebo for runners trying to improve their performance. It does nothing as it currently exists on the market.
The premise of compression tights and apparel is that by compressing muscles, athletes experience less vibration which correlates to less energy expended. Compression technology was marketed to not only increase endurance but also improve recovery time by improving circulation.
While muscular vibration was reduced with the compression apparel in the study, the hard numbers showed no difference in running times. Speed and performance were not actually affected by compression fibers.
Ajit Chaudhari from Ohio State said, “We don’t see any evidence that they result in improvement in performance, so for someone who is wearing the tights specifically to try to improve performance, I’d say there isn’t any evidence that they are worth the time or money.”
While this is not a big deal for Nike who has many categories of business and can recover quickly by shifting focus to a different technology and product line, companies like Under Armour, which was founded on compression layers as their core product, will have an uphill battle to explain to consumers why they should still buy compression.
Nike and Under Armour retail partner Dick's Sporting Goods has also been chasing compression apparel with a private label line. The new research begs the question of what will happen to the compression apparel business in light of these findings.
As Chaudhari pointed out, “If somebody is thinking, ‘gosh, I need to set personal records and I’ll use the tights because I believe they will help my performance,’ you have to go in knowing that it’s kind of a shot in the dark.”
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