Whether you are playing indoors or outdoors, proper protection for your muscles and joints is a must. This is why most players you see on TV wear some of the best compression pants for basketball.
These pants (or tights) are designed with leg support in mind. They improve blood circulation, keep your joints, tendons, and muscles protected and can have various features such as impact-protection pads or insulation layers.
In this guide, we will talk more about the various types of compression pants out there, see how different models stack up against one another, and list all the features that define a good pair.
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Basketball Compression Pants Comparison Chart
Best Overall – Under Armour Men’s HeatGear 2.0 Leggings
Sportswear nowadays is dominated by three major brands – Adidas, Nike, and UnderArmour, so it makes a lot of sense that some of the best tights for basketball come from these brands. The Under Armour Men’s HeatGear 2.0 Leggins are the perfect pair of tights for anyone looking for a cool and dry experience on the court. These compression pants are made out of 79% polyester and 21% elastane making them incredibly stretchable and breathable. And while that doesn’t serve you well for outdoor games, it is perhaps the perfect fit (no pun intended) for indoor ball games.
The HeatGear series’ fabric boasts a patented technology that takes heat and moisture away from your skin and keeps your legs dry. All that while maintaining a decent compression from top to bottom thanks to the high percentage of elastane in the pants. They don’t hinder your movements thanks to the 4-way stretch construction. Also, they cover most of the ankles which means that you just have to combine them with the right basketball socks and shoes, and you will have a winning combination. Price-wise, they aren’t the cheapest leggings out there but also aren’t the most expensive ones and are a decent value for your money. You can get them in 8 different sizes and 6 different colors which is quite a lot of variety for a single model.
- Decently priced
- Come in 6 colors
- 8 sizes to choose from
- Very breathable
- Full-length design
- 4-way stretch
- Not good for outdoor playing
- Stitching isn’t great
- No back pocket
Best Padded Tights – Unlimit Basketball Pants with Knee Pads
Some basketball players prefer having padding on their tights. Whether that padding is around the hips or on the knees, it generally doesn’t matter, as long as it is there. The Unlimit Basketball Pants are well-known for their knee pads that cover all of your knee as well as the top parts of your tibia. That, combined with the 3/4 design, and the medium compression they have is a winning formula, especially at the price that they come.
The pants use a polyester and spandex blend (85%/15%) which is fairly breathable but maintains its elasticity even when used for longer periods. These high levels of spandex also help with shape retention and the quick-drying capabilities of the tights. Speaking of drying, they cannot be machine dried or machine-washed for that matter. They also run a bit tight, so make sure you order a size above if you’re wondering about the fit. Luckily, there are 6 size options to choose from, ranging from Small to 3XL. Unfortunately, there are no color options to choose from like on other models, and you can get them just in the standard black.
- Knee-protection pads
- Fairly breathable
- Great for indoor games
- Good for beginners
- Not machine-washable
- Not great for colder days
- Long-term durability isn’t great
Warmest Pair – BALEAF Youth Boys’ Compression Thermal Baselayer
The Baleaf Youth Boys’ Compression Leggings are the perfect choice for kids and beginners. They are also the warmest pair of tights on this list thanks to the thermal fabric and quick-dry materials used in them. The pants feature a well-known polyester and spandex mix, although it has way less spandex than usual. This makes the pants a bit less breathable in order to make them more insulated. Unfortunately, this also loses some of their stretchiness, making them far less agile than other models.
It’s not all bad, though, as the pants are otherwise constructed quite well. The seams and elastic bands all across the pants are of top quality even if this is one of the cheapest pairs on my list. It also comes in 9 unique color combinations and 6 different sizes from Small to 3XL. As a whole, if you’re shopping for a pair of warm tights for your kids, this should definitely be on your shortlist.
- Fairly warm
- Good for kids
- Great for outdoor basketball games
- Come in 9 colors
- No padding
- Not machine-washable
- Long-term durability is not good
Best for Women – Reebok Women’s 7/8 Workout Leggins
Women are often left behind when it comes to great sportswear. Luckily, Reebok has come up with one of their best compression products, specifically designed with women in mind. The Women’s 7/8 workout leggings by the company are one of the highest praised by women of all shapes and sizes. That is thanks to the high amount of Spandex in the material blend. The compression pants are not only great for indoor basketball but are also good for yoga and other types of indoor activities. The fit is pretty true to the size so you can easily order your own size and fit into it. In terms of the compression, it is medium and won’t be too restrictive, even though these are 7/8 pants and are inherently more agile anyway.
The pants are machine-washable which is always a plus in my book. Unfortunately, they cannot be machine-dried and tend to discolor easily over the course of a few years, especially if treated on high-temperature programs. They come in 12 different color combinations, although I really recommend the black one. And while the colors are diverse, the sizes aren’t. There are just 4 size options here, although, as I said, they are all pretty close to what you’d really fit in.
- Great for all kinds of sports
- Medium compression
- Fit well
- 12 colors to choose from
- True to size
- Don’t have a pocket
- Not good for outdoor basketball
- A bit expensive
- Only 4 sizes available
Best Budget – DRSKIN Men’s Compression Pants
The DRSKIN Men’s Compression Pants are an insanely good value for your money and are some of the top compression pants you can get right now. They aren’t the most durable out there but are surprisingly cheap. The reason for the affordable price tag on these tights is the low concentration of spandex (8%) compared to other models on this list that have it around 20%. This makes the tights less breathable, and less stretchable but more durable since the majority of the material is now polyester. Thanks to that, they are also UV-blocking and are quite decent for outdoor games, even if it is colder than usual.
What is truly unique and special about these leggings is that they come in packs of 1, 2, or 3 pairs. That, combined with the 10+ different color combinations and the 6 size options makes these tights one of the most versatile tights out there. It also makes them one of the best values on the market right now, especially the pack of three.
- Comfortable and soft
- Full-length design
- Good for both indoor and outdoor games
- Good compression
- Not machine-washable
- Stitching can go bad in a few months
- Sizes aren’t true to the fit
Best for Hot Days – Nike Pro Hypercool Men’s 3/4 Training Tights
Next up, we come to the Nike model on this list. It should come as no surprise that this is one of the best pairs of compression pants here. The Nike Pro Hypercool Training tights are a 3/4 option for those that don’t want the lower parts of their legs to be covered. Thanks to the incredible amounts of breathability here, these are the perfect indoor tights. They are also great for hot summer days when you’re playing on the street courts.
The pants use a mix of polyester and Spandex with quite a lot of that going to the Spandex. Not only does that make them super breathable but the high amounts of spandex also amount to a comfortable and soft stretch across your legs. These compression pants also feature an anti-odor material technology that keeps bacterial growth to a minimum. Unfortunately, they must only be hand-washed. On top of that, there aren’t any sizes or color options available besides the original Large black ones. Lastly, perhaps the biggest disadvantage here is the price tag. While Nike products generally keep a high-quality standard, they often bring bad value to the table, especially with the market being flooded by new companies that are trying to make a name for themselves.
- Excellent for indoor games
- Great for hot days
- Breathable and stretchable materials
- Super comfortable
- Allow for easy movements
- No color options
- No size options
- Not machine-washable
- Not great for colder days
- Very Expensive
Basketball Compression Pants Buyer’s Guide
In this guide section, we will take a closer look at what compression pants really are, what their benefits are, and which are the important features to keep in mind when shopping online. Before we dive deeper into these features, however, let’s answer some important questions…
Why Do Basketball Players Wear Compression Pants?
There are a lot of reasons most basketball players opt to wear short or long compression pants. Apart from all their health benefits, these also provide significant performance improvements. Moreover, they are an excellent addition to your jersey and can even be color-matched to your home and away kits. While most models aren’t padded, there are full-length pants that also offer protection for your hips and knees. These are great for basketball, especially if you’re playing at a higher level.
Compression Pants Benefits
As you may have already guessed, there are quite a lot of upsides to owning and wearing a pair of compression pants. Whether you play basketball or other types of sports, here are some of the biggest benefits you will get out of your pair:
- The compression from these shorts improves the overall blood circulation in your legs. Thanks to that, the muscles feel less sore and there is less pressure on the blood vessels there.
- The compression around your legs’ joints takes some of the pressure off of them, reducing the risk of injuries.
- These compression pants help with muscle recovery.
- They also help with recovering after injuries or other traumas.
- They reduce the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT).
- The pants reduce shocks and vibrations from high vertical jumps.
- They help with warming up your legs faster and keep them warmer for longer periods of time.
- Most compression pants keep your legs dry by having moisture-wicking properties.
If you want to learn how to jump higher in basketball, make sure you check out my detailed article on that topic. Now, let’s get into the different features of compression pants!
Features To Look For
Some of the most important parts of any pair of compression pants are listed below:
- Length & Sizes
- Compression Levels
Those will ultimately shape up the ideal pair for your taste and needs. And while the price isn’t featured on this list, it remains important, as some models have a much better value for their money compared to others unnecessarily expensive ones. I generally recommend going for the trusted brands out there but sometimes good models fly under the radar just because they don’t boast a premium name or an equally premium price tag. With that aside, let’s focus on the main features now…
Length & Sizes
Length-wise, there are four types of tights you can pick from. Those are full-length pants, 3/4, 7/8, and shorts. All of these lengths come with various advantages and disadvantages. Still, the most preferred one out of them all is the full-length one. The reason for that is that these compression pants actually compress the entirety of your legs and apply their effect evenly on your legs’ muscles. The other types of pants leave areas of your legs exposed which is great for thermal and sweat regulation but isn’t so great for compression and stability. Full-length compression pants are also the only ones that provide any type of support and warmth for your ankles, so keep that in mind if you’re playing outdoors.
When it comes to the actual sizes, most pants use the normal S, M, L, and XL charts. Still, you have to remember that since those models will have a relative compression to them, they will often run smaller than they actually are. In other words, if you aren’t sure about your size, always order one side above, as that will come down to your size thanks to the compression anyway.
Some brands will give you a size chart that will have calf and waist circumferences that you can work with, depending on the compression on their pants and the sizes available.
Compression pants are primarily made out of materials that stretch easily and also apply decent amounts of compression onto your legs. The most common materials are Polyester, Spandex, elastane, and Lycra. These are all synthetic materials that have incredible stretchability and are also fairly breathable, especially whenever they’re combined with cotton. Elastane and polyester mixes are the most breathable ones and for that reason, they are the most common out there. As a rule of thumb, the less elastane/spandex there is in the polyester blend, the cheaper and less elastic the pants are going to be.
The material combination is also important when it comes to whether the pants are machine-washable or not.
The durability of compression pants will be primarily determined by how often you use and wash them. Synthetic fibers tend to last quite a long time before they start going bad. Still, elastic materials such as Spandex and Lycra can lose their elasticity if they’re being used on a constant basis. Moreover, warm settings on your washing or drying machine can completely ruin those fibers and make the pants lose all of their compression properties.
The thickness of the material is a feature that many people often overlook. And if you’re playing basketball mostly indoors, then this wouldn’t make a ton of difference to you. Still, for those that play ball on the street courts, insulated (or thermal) leggings are a must. They will help you warm your legs up faster and will keep them warm throughout the whole game. For the added thickness, though, you are trading a fair amount of breathability and quick-dry properties. That is why these compression pants are often only good for colder days.
Compression levels are often professionally determined for each person depending on their age, muscular and vessel stage, and more. Still, tights that are sold on the general market aren’t that specialized and they offer a similar amount of compression. They are all fairly tight if you’ve selected the right size for you. As a rule of thumb, the pants shouldn’t feel like they are restricting your blood flow but you should be feeling slight tightness nonetheless.
Types of Basketball Compression Pants
When picking a new pair of tights, you will have to also decide what type they would be. The main ones are:
- Full-length compression pants – As the name suggests, these pants feature a design that reaches from your waist to your ankles. They are the most common ones and are preferred by the majority of basketball players.
- Padded compression shorts – These shorts have special zones around the hips and the knees that have compression pads. The pads protect your joints and bones from direct impact. They are excellent both for beginners and professional players.
- 3/4-length pants – These pants are almost exactly the same as the full-length compression pants but are slightly shorter. People who wear those prefer not having any compression over their ankles. Some women’s models also come in a 7/8 version which is slightly longer.
- Insulated tights – Most women’s models come with an insulation layer on them. They are excellent for warming up fast and keeping your legs warm. If you love playing ball outside, these are the way to go. Opposite of them are the cooled tights that are extra thin and are designed so that they don’t hold any heat nor any moisture. They are perfect for intense indoor play or hot summer days.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do basketball players wear padded compression pants?
Today’s game of ball in the NBA is rather physical, especially when in the paint. That is why most college and NBA basketball players prefer wearing compression shorts that also have padding on them. The NBA, however, prohibits such garments from being seen during the game, so they are always under their shorts.
Do NBA players wear compression socks?
Some NBA players wear their socks only as a fashion statement. There are some players, however, that prefer to wear them because of their benefits. Some of those benefits are ankle support, improved performance, better stability, comfort, and better cushioning.
What compression pants does Steph Curry wear?
Steph Curry is known for his basketball shorts over compression pants combination. His favorite compression model is the Nike Heatgear Compression Tight (3/4).
Do NBA players wear cups?
Typically, the answer to this question would be no. However, there are certain players that prefer wearing cups under their compression shorts, as they aren’t forbidden by the organization.
Finding the best compression pants for basketball will be a matter of features and personal preferences. The first thing you need to look for is the length and materials of the pants. 3/4 pants are great for mobility but full-length models are better at keeping your legs tight, dry, and warm. Look for models that have premium materials mixed into them, as those last longer, are easier to maintain clean, and deal with excess moisture better.