Gear Review: CW-X Conditioning Pro-Tights

As the colder days draw in and many of us set out in the dark in near freezing temps of 15 degrees Celsius, many of us guys forgo the ridicule of looking like an extra in The Nut Cracker and don a pair of legging to keep our precious legs from freezing over.

For the most part however, these tights are not necessarily meant to be for that purpose, unless you have a thermal pair. What they are meant for is extra support for the muscles in the legs, as the rather appropriately named conditioning tights from CW-X outline in their name. There are a few different tights under this range but for the sake of this review, we tried out the Pro-Tights. There are ladies versions of these, and Ultra168 Board Member Samantha Gash will be offering up her opinions upon her return from some desert craziness.

Opening up

I’ll say right up front that as far as tights are concerned, I’m pretty sceptical about any of the ‘so-called’ benefits that they bring to you, but do accept that as far as recovery goes, it does seem to have some effect in assisting. As for benefits while running, I always thought it debatable, however maybe this is because I’ve never actually seen or felt the benefit of what it is these tights are actually meant to do? Maybe I haven’t been trying the right ones?

The first thing I noticed about these bad boys as I pulled them out of the pack was just how thick they were. Accordingly to CW-X brand manager Kyle Earnshaw, the compression grade of the tight is  high at 20-22mm/hg, which in plain English means that they’re solid and are not going to rip on the first twig they brush on in the bush, unlike some other brands I’ve tried in the past. One of the first things I do when I get hold of a new pair of compression shorts of tights is look where the seams are. I had a rather unpleasant experience with a well-known brand a few years back that literally scarred me for life! So this is a very important part of the decision-making process.

When I looked inside these pants, I was pretty disappointed to see that the seam ran right underneath the area known by guys as ‘the crown jewels’. Not a great start I thought, as I typically don’t like to wear other stuff underneath the tights.

How do they feel?

The supporting bands of the Pro Tights that wrap around your legs.

With that in mind, on they went and the one thing you notice immediately is just how ‘locked-in’ your legs feel in these things. The conditioning tights have these ‘support bands’ that wrap around your legs akin to the kinesio tape that you see many athletes wearing nowadays. I won’t go into too much detail as the diagram below explains it rather adequately below, but it’s better if I report my experience in wearing them.

If you think those bands are just for show, think again. They really do wrap around your legs and feel like you’re walking with support sticks. I can see how these tights would be fantastic for people doing multi-day events whereby recovery from the day’s running is just as, if not more important than the actual running itself. My proof point is that I suffer regularly from a sore ITB, which has a knock on effect to the inside of my knee as the weakness in the ITB means that the muscles around the knee are not as well supported. Thus I get a caving in effect and the placing of too much pressure on the knee joints.

The other Saturday I knocked off 50 clicks with my buddies Darrel and Marcus and I once again experienced the slight knee pain. This time, I left the tights on for a few hours after the run and by Sunday morning, no soreness at all. I’m not saying these tights completely helped to solve this, but it’s certainly a part of the process, as is doing all the relevant stretching exercises. The thing for me with these is that I felt confident that these kinesio bands of the tights gave me more stability certainly around the core of my ITB and the dodgy area around my right knee. This is not based on any scientific measure, this is just based on my feeling and what I felt the tights did for me.

If you want more background, CW-X has also done some research into this too, which you can find here. But for me, I do feel as though they are doing something and isn’t that what matters?

What I also noticed was the support you get around the lower abdominals and hips too, but with a pair of compression shorts underneath as well it did start to feel a little clunky in there with the various layers. One piece of advice would be to try to find a compression short that is fairly minimal if you’re planning on wearing them.

The view from the ladies – Samantha Gash

“I want to preface that I am a CW-X athlete and have been since the middle of 2010. Before I go into the technical components of CW-X compression gear here is some background. I have been wearing their compression range after competing in my first multi-stage race (Atacama Crossing March 2010). In that race I was wearing “Skins” tights and shorts, thinking they were the only compression brand. Pretty much every other competitor in the Atacama was wearing CW-X tights and they are pretty distinctive. What I initially thought were interesting patterns on the tights I later discovered was their “graded compression”.

“After deciding to do the Grandslam that year I began to think more seriously about what would help me “recover”. It makes sense to me to wear compression post running as it is a means to increase circulation and reduce muscle oscillation. However what stands out about CW-X compression is how they target their compression in the areas that you need it the most, being the major muscle groups – quads, ITB band, hips and calves (and differing products have differed targeted compression).

“Like Dan, I was initially unsure whether compression would benefit me whilst racing. From experience I have found that the full length tights or ¾ tights have decreased pain in my knees by reducing the impact through the support of the compression. When I wear other shorts or even shorter CW-X shorts I notice pain reoccurring, particularly when I am running over 50kms. I guess you could alternatively use kinesiology tape as the compression around the knee is designed along similar lines.”

Other benefits:

  • The tights are snug yet not too heavy so movement isn’t impinged in the slightest.
  • I have felt that my stability and balance is increased which is especially important on technical trails.  
  • I particularly rate the tights for multistage events, longer distance events and for recovery after racing/training.
  • The quality is great (never had a hole/rip in any of my tights & only after wearing my revolution tights solidly for 18months can I notice them getting slightly thinner).
  • I don’t know if Dan received any chaffing due to that mid-seam but I have heard that it has caused “discomfort” for one of my other male friends who wears the tights. For memory the female tights don’t have that seam but I wear underwear under mine anyway.

The verdict

So would I buy them? Yes I would, and I know of others who wear this brand who have given the thumbs up too. It’s the supporting bands that really set these tights apart from others and one of the reasons why I think they work. You get this sense of your legs being ‘locked in’ and ‘secure’ and I like that. I’m sure many other broken runners would feel the same too!

The downside I did feel about them was that due to the thickness I did feel slightly ‘clunky’ in them and then having to don a pair of compression shorts underneath. It did make me feel as though I was layering up somewhat. One final point is that more reflective stripes are needed for night running. If these are to be aimed/worn by ultra runners, then during races with road sections, more reflective stripes would be considered important.

If you’re interested in knowing more, have a look at these three Sydney retailers:

Footpoint, Northside Runners Crows Nest and Runnulla or visit the website (02)9938 4220.

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Dan on Twitter
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

6 thoughts on “Gear Review: CW-X Conditioning Pro-Tights

  1. Interesting to read your thoughts on compression tights in general, Dan.
    I work 28 days on, 7 off in the WA mines, and thus some of my training runs include 40 plus km’s before a 10 hour shift on my feet all day. I don’t run in compression tights as, like you, i never really felt any noticeable difference, but i recently took up the practise of wearing them under my uniform at work after my long runs, and sometimes sleeping in them that night too.
    I’ve noticed quite a dramatic reduction in leg soreness since starting this, and would definately recommend the practise to others.
    Interesting to see if wearing these tights with their supporting bands during runs, coupled with the practise of wearing a pair after runs could improve recovery even more?
    Thanks for the review!

  2. I’ve been using CW-X running shorts for about 3 years and they’re the only make that have never caused me any chafing over any distance. As far as the tights go, I’d agree with everyone here that running in heavy tights in Australian conditions is pretty hard to justify, but after the run these certainly help backing up for next day. We’re also using the tights for the 4 Deserts Grand Slam with Team Born to Run to sleep in overnight rather than actually run in and they seem a valuable part of the mix for recovery and backing up. The Ventilator model is lighter and much more breathable and works ideally running in winter in Australian bush, as it doesn’t give that heavy slow feeling in the legs but also just gives some protection from spiky stinging plants and cold morning mists.

  3. Hi there, I just bought also some tights, the CW-X Pro Tights, as you mentioned I was shocked to see the mid-seam on this one, and sorry to ask you: which undies are you meant to wear?! 😛 i never ran with underwear with tights, so no idea which type are you meant to get, CW-X seems to sell them too (sports briefs they call them) but not sure if it will be to much to have with the tights and the underwear for free movement.

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