Review: Kinetic Compression Shirts

The buildup

I wear tight clothes. Like really tight clothes. Clothes so tight, they squeeze me.

I don’t wear them all the time. No, no. I wear these clothes most of the time that I’m working out. They’re compression clothes (mainly spandex garments made in anatomically-inspired shapes with varying patterns and sections to target specific muscles for compression during exercise), and they have been shown to increase blood flow, aid performance and speed recovery by strategically squeezing (ever so slightly) key muscles used in sports/fitness/workouts like quads, calves, biceps, triceps, forearms, the core muscles, etc.  From my own intensely scientific research, the stuff works. The only downside (aside from leaving nothing to the imagination if you don’t wear something else on top of them) is the generally high price of compression clothing, or at least good compression clothing.
Thank goodness for The Clymb. I have gotten some really high quality compression clothes at amazing discounts.  My favorite brands are Skins, 2XU, Zoot and CW-X (in that order).  I recently had a chance to pick up some shirts from Kinetik Sportswear, a brand I was less familiar with, but that had some intelligent design in their products that I thought would be worth trying.  The deal was about 80% off, and these weren’t 2 year old models, but products in their current line up.  I went for it.
What it is & how it works
I got a long and short sleeve shirt as I could use another of each in my compression arsenal.  Kinetik has an interesting design where the abs, forearms and muscles around the spine are set off in one fabric, and the shoulders, obliques and pecs are in another.  There’s also venting in the arms, as some Skins shirts have.  There’s also a rubbery/silicon lining to the bottom of the shirt to help keep it from riding up.
My impressions
I really liked the look of these shirts, though my wife made fun of me in them as it sort of accentuates the boob-region.  Sorry, I’m a child, I guess.  I found the short sleeve shirt to fit nicely overall, and provide good compression where it needed to.  I was comfortable in both shirts, and really appreciated the pit venting.
My depressions
You’ll notice the impressions section is short. That’s where I say the good stuff. You’ll also know from my other reviews that I tend to be very positive on things I review. I’m not negative on Kinetik’s shirts per se, but I do find more lacking than not.
First, the shirts run a touch bigger (or perhaps are slightly less compressive) than I’ve found with other brands.  I have really found most compression clothing to be consistently sized across brands, with this being the first time I’ve had a feeling that the shirts could be tighter. As a result, I found that the collar really didn’t lay flat (see the two pics of me wearing the short sleeve shirt while biking and you’ll see how it stands up), and ended up bunching. It wasn’t too uncomfortable when riding my road bike, but I noticed it when doing gym cardio (elliptical, mostly) and found it annoying.  It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not something I generally experience in compression gear since they tend to hug your body.
And that leads to my second issue, and this is weird.  You’ll notice above I said I found the short sleeve shirt to fit nicely overall. The two shirts are the same, save for the sleeves, but I really found a difference in the level of compression.  Neither is strong, but the core area on the long sleeve is noticeably less compressive / fits me noticeably looser than that of the short sleeve. That sort of defeats the purpose of the shirt for a major muscle area (and who hasn’t heard about the importance of the core lately, right?).  The rest of the shirt seems ok, especially the arms, but the abdomen and into the chest could stand to be something like 10% tighter on the long sleeve (and maybe 1-2% tighter on the short sleeve).
The inconsistency across the shirts is concerning from a quality standpoint, or, more accurately, a quality control standpoint.  I wonder if the same underlying driver is behind the neck collar issue I experienced.  I also found the seems between the white and black areas to be a bit too pronounced. I’m not sure they’re any more pronounced than on other brands, but they’re in areas you’re more likely to notice them, so I feel like the bar is higher. Also, because the shirts fit looser than I’m used to, the seems don’t get squeezed to sit flat and tight like they would on a 2XU or Skins shirt.  I have a Zoot shirt that fits looser, and it suffers from all of these issues.
So why am I tougher on the Kinetik shirts when I don’t go off on the Zoot?  Well, the Zoot shirt retails for about half of what the Kinetik goes for, and is at the bottom of their line (same reason I’m not really a fan of the bottom-of-the-line A100 series from Skins – you can tell how they went cheaper in the design and materials).  The long sleeve Kinetik retails for $119 and the short sleeve for $89, which puts them on the high end price-wise.  The only long sleeve I own that retails for more is a 2XU Elite shirt, and I have to say, it’s clearly a much higher quality product from design to execution.  Skins A200 and Sport lines are both much better performing shirts, and cost the same or slightly less.
You could say I just need to size down, but I don’t think that’s possible for me. A small would be too short, and the arms would be too tight.  The arms are perfectly sized for me with the mediums I bought, and I think going smaller would actually cut off blood flow.  I also think the collar issue would be worse (or at least different) as the shirt would be pulled too much in the chest and shoulders.  No, I think the sizing is fine, but the shirt isn’t.
To buy or not to buy
So I think this part is pretty clear. I do like the short sleeve enough to want to wear it when I ride my rode bike. I could see myself wearing the long sleeve occasionally, but not when I know I’m going to be pushing myself.  Had I paid retail, I’d either be trying to return both shirts, or pissed that I can’t return both shirts.  As much as I wanted to like these, and want to support an American company that is trying to make it in a very technical and competitive space, I just can’t recommend this stuff…yet.  I will definitely keep an eye on Kinetik Sportswear to see if they come into their own soon.  Until then, I’d stick to Skins or 2XU, personally.  You can’t go wrong with either.

About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of newbodi.es, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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