Well, times have changed. Under Armour came along and introduced us to the world of spandex sports underwear. It was breathable. It was functional. And it was fashionable. Heck, some triathletes will even just wear under armour spandex shorts to swim triathlons in (as if there was anything worse than a guy in a speedo).
Now, everyone that produces sportswear is spitting out spandex and compression undergarments. How’s the newbie triathlete to the affluent triathlete to know what’s the right gear to buy. Will it rub me in the wrong spots? Will the tags chafe my rear end? Does the leg openings have gripper tread that will annoy me for 140.6 miles? Will the seams rub me raw? Is it too long for my running shorts, gym shorts and triathlon shorts? Will it look cool? These are all serious questions that MUST be answered.
When you think of spandex / compression / athletic gear these days, who do you think about?
Any triathletes around Facebook and Twitter have surely heard of Skins Compression . Well, they want to get their name and gear out there, so they have reached beyond the compression recovery gear world into the “mainstream” athletic apparel, and spandex workout gear. They have also reached out to us to give some of their gear a test run. Specifically, we ran around in their A200 men’s compression half tights.
After running around in them for a few weeks, we collected our thoughts and jotted them down to share with the internet. Read on for our thoughts.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing
When shipped, they are folded neatly and packed well in a little box with appealing graphics. This is probably the same packaging someone would find the product in on the shelf at their sporting goods store or where Skins would be sold in person. Their logo and graphics are very appealing in addition to their color combination of black and yellow being attention grabbing. For University of Kansas alumni, black and yellow may not be as appealing, but not all of their products are restricted to those two colors.
The packaging is very professional and can match quality with the likes of Nike and Reebok.
Upon initial inspection and groping of the compression half tights, they appear to be very sturdy and well constructed. The stitching and seams are connected tightly with no frays or gaps in the stitches.
One issue with the half tights is the length. This kind of hits the appearance list as well, but the length of the tights are a function of construction purpose. They are appropriate for knee length athletic shorts and long biking shorts, but do not go well with short running shorts or triathlon shorts. They are lengthy and go down to the knee and would stick out like a bad eighties aerobic workout ensemble with running shorts. They look better than what came out of the 80’s, but usually spandex (and by spandex, realize that Skins tights are 76% nylon microfiber - 24% spandex) workout shorts are meant to be worn and not seen.
The fabric stretches and returns back to its original form instantly with no issues. You could put bowling balls into these tights and they would bounce back to form with no problem. The waistband is comfortable with no annoying tags sticking out to rub on sensitive waistline areas. The logo in the waistline is rather unique raised rubber lettering that is very tactile. Its a soothing feeling to rub a finger over the letters, but no so much protrusion that it would cause functionality issues with the tights.
The edge at the end of the tights that goes right above the knee is a soft doubled over layer sewn into the tights with such precision, that a wearer would not even notice the seam. Nothings worse than having to hike up your running undergarments at the knee to keep that nasty indention from forming, cutting of circulation and causing irritation.
The tights have a hidden pocket on the interior for those items that need to be stashed for a run. It might not be the best place for your keys, but it’s ideal for a few energy bites or energy gel shot.
The logo on the side of the tights appears to be quality as well. Over the duration of using these tights, the logo did not peel or fade in any way. We all have had those shorts, jammers or other workout gear where the logo starts peeling off and makes the whole thing look trashy. Not the case with Skins.
The tights are also anatomically correct. Nothing is worse than a droopy crotch panel or the pair that hugs the hips, but bunches at the midsection. Skins succeeded in making the A200’s appropriate for the right amount of give in the right places. Very few people will have to worry about sagging or bunching with these tights.
Fashion / Appearance
These tights are eye catching. The seam lines, the highlighted seams and the logo angles and placement all come together to create a well thought out visual effect. When you put them on, you just feel faster. That had to count for something during workouts. If you feel fast, surely that will make your brain and your body want to go faster.
We happened to try out the white tights, but they come in many color combinations, so buyers are restricted to one color palette. It’s always nice to have a choice.
As mentioned before, these tights are on the long side. For triathletes looking to wear triathlon shorts or shorter running shorts, these won’t look right peaking out from under those types of shorts. They will be hidden with regular cycling shorts and knee length athletic shorts, but that’s about it. They are not really meant to be worn as an outer garment, so don’t even think about going out in just your A200’s. Spare your spouse and neighbor from that sight.
When we wore the A200’s for workouts ranging from short high intensity runs to bike rides of similar nature, you would forget you were wearing the tights, and that’s a good thing. Nothing is worse than having to break concentration for a wedgie tug or legging adjustment. What’s worse is getting home and finding unusual hot spot locations from friction chafing. Tights are suppose to mitigate rubbing issues, not propagate them. And, that’s exactly what the A200 tights did.
They fit just right, did not pull, bunch or sag and had no useless tag to stick in your back and annoy you for 18 miles. We did use a generous amount of anti-chafing cream for longer workouts to make sure nothing happened to sensitive areas, but our Skins we test drove did not cause any issues
They move and breathe on the hottest days and offer an added layer for the more chilly morning runs. They shed moisture with ease (but you’re shorts will be soaked) to eliminate chafing from wet fabric in direct contact with skin.
From a workout perspective, the A200’s proved to be as good as any other under-short athletic apparel on the market. They supported the right areas and kept things in places that athletes want them to stay after running 18 miles or biking 50.
This may be the catch. Skins are not cheap. Directly from the site, our A200’s ran $79.99. That’s a hefty price tag for a piece of clothing meant to go under your shorts for the most part. Sure, you have all of the benefits from the Skins research and development on compression technology and recovery, but it may be hard to find triathletes willing to shell out that much dough.
They do offer more aggressive styling than you would find at your local sporting goods store, and are more specifically built for endurance sports and recovery. Shoppers would have to weigh whether they are looking for quality or a bargain.
But don’t despair, the Skin sight isn’t the only seller of Skins compression garments. A savvy internet shopper could probably find Skins at a more affordable rate, but then you won’t be dealing with Skins directly.
After spending some time becoming intimately familiar with these tights, we have come to enjoy them. Like that new pair of underwear, at first it’s constrictive, but after awhile it becomes a part of you.
It’s hard to get past the sticker shock, but those brave enough to take the plunge will be rewarded with a high quality product that delivers on their promise. Our demo pair has lasted through 10+ intense and long workouts and are still going strong. They have been abused, wadded up in the bottom of the clothes basket and washed repeatedly and still come back for more.
Interestingly they also retain their vibrant color after several uses and washing. Nothing’s worse than those workout clothes that are sweat stained and faded from washing. After all, triathletes and the like buy workout clothes expecting them to stay in one piece and not look like hell after a few workouts. Sometimes, quality comes at a higher price.
* Writer's note - Skins Compression provided the products for this review at no cost and did not influence this review.
Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. He writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, Endurance Sports Examiner and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013). Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.