Can apparel made for athletics add support to the skeletal structure? Yes, according to Smart Fitness Products LLC, a Vail, Colo., company that sells the Opedix line of tops and tights.
By stitching together swaths of fabric, then crisscrossing it and building it into a top and tights, the company (www.opedix.com) touts its futuristic clothing as allowing for better joint alignment, increased strength and mobility, and fuller lung capacity when you’re aerobically maxed and gasping for air.
I tested two Opedix products. The Standard Crew Posture Shirt fits tight and pulls you upright to force, as its name alludes, better posture on the move. The company sells the shirt for $99.95, and it is touted to touch “specific neuro-receptors in the body that fire messages to the brain.”
The effect, according to Opedix, is that the Standard Crew encourages an upright trunk, which in turn lets you fill your lungs more completely with each breath. Other claimed benefits are better shoulder alignment, potential reduced back pain, and decreased tension in the neck.
For the legs, the R1 Running Tights cost a steep $190 and incorporate a patented “anchor and sling design to provide support to the outside of the knee.” This setup is made to reduce the amount of “damaging outward movement” and decrease the stress or load on the knee joint as you hike or run.
It sounds fancy, I know. And on the run the tights and crew top do feel neat. It’s nothing like a brace, but the bands of fabric add some support and elasticity to your knees.
I felt fast in these tights, which seem to spring and perpetuate each stride a slight bit. It’s an incremental effect that can add up over a long distance.
A competing brand, Wacoal Sports Science, makes a product that applies the same kind of elasticized support with its line of CW-X conditioning wear. CW-X came to market a few years back, and Opedix, while not quite a copy, makes a product that’s similar in performance and design.
In the end, running in a pair of Opedix or CW-X tights, when compared to traditional athletic tights, was not a sea change for me. I had no great epiphanies while training in the high-price Opedix tights. My race times did not dramatically improve.
Joint support is present but subtle with these anatomically-enhanced products. Posture can be improved. Maybe my lungs are a smidge fuller on each breath. At almost $300 for the Opedix outfit, it’s a lot of small improvements for a fair bit of money.
—Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.