Compression Sportswear

Illustration of three people running and wearing the compression sportwear prototypes with a backdrop of the SUTD campus.


Compression wear can increase blood flow and improve blood circulation at specific areas of the body through graduated compression.

In this project, we designed and prototyped compression sportswear for runners. The compression wear featured a modular design that allowed users to independently compress various parts of the body. A set included the shirt, shorts, arm sleeves, leg sleeves, socks and shoes.


The project was initiated as part of the Asian Leadership Programme, a summer exchange programme for SUTD students to study in and work with Zhejiang University (ZJU) in Hangzhou, China for 3 months. In collaboration with ZJU mentors and our industry partners, Chemtax and Orient Befit, I worked with Timothy Syn to design the sportswear.

  • Background research on running and existing designs
  • Sketching and creating visual prototypes in Adobe Illustrator
  • Making the vector files for manufacturing the prototypes

Company Mentors: Kelly Chai (Chemtax), Danny (Orient Befit)

ZJU Mentors: Wang Jian, Tong Shang, Bian Mu Yan

Our prototypes were exhibited in ZJU in 2014, and in SUTD in 2014 and 2015.

Three separate images placed side-by-side in a collage. The left image shows the sportswear prototype on a mannequin with the project's poster on the right of it. This was for the exhibition in Zhejiang University. The middle image shows a front view of the prototype on a mannequin. The right image shows the prototype on a different mannequin that was exhibited in SUTD.
Compression sportswear prototypes in Zhejiang (left and center images) and in SUTD (right image)
Image of four shoes of different designs on a pedestal at the SUTD exhibition. Our design was the second one from the left.
Compression sportswear shoe prototypes



Running requires a light and comfortable attire that ensures adequate muscle support throughout the body.

In running, the main muscle groups used are the thighs, calves and back muscles. Therefore, the compression wear should provide more compression and muscle support on the legs.

The breathability of the suit greatly affects how comfortable it is as well. Since the highest sweat zones around the human body are the chest, back and forehead, the compression wear should have proper wicking and a more breathable material at these areas.

We analysed and formed design considerations from several existing sportswear designs. View our slides here.


A modular design would allow for users to customise the compression on various parts of their body. This approach would reduce the amount of materials used, decreasing manufacturing costs while making the suit lighter and more comfortable to run in compared to fixed long sleeved shirts and pants designs.

Ideation and Visual Prototyping

Initial sketches were created and visual prototypes were designed on Adobe Illustrator. We came up with designs which were centered on various visual themes: Singapore, SUTD and Cultural.

Initial Sketches

We individually sketched ideas for designs before selecting and combining a few ideas. The three images below show example sketches. The first two were eventually selected as sock and shoe templates for themes and were made into vector traces.

Sketch and vector trace of a sock design
Sketch and vector trace of a shoe design
Sketch of compression shirt and pants design

Singapore Theme

This theme was inspired by our home country, Singapore. Designs used the red and white national colours, along with the cresent with five stars from the national flag.

Singapore-themed compression sportswear
Variation on pants design for Singapore-themed compression sportswear
Socks design for Singapore-themed compression sportswear

SUTD Theme

This theme was inspired by our university, SUTD. The three SUTD colours were used: maroon, black and white.

SUTD-themed compression sportswear
Variation on pants design for SUTD-themed compression sportswear
Variation on shirt colour for SUTD-themed compression sportswear
Socks designs for SUTD-themed sportswear
Shoe designs for SUTD-themed sportswear


The theme was inspired by aspects of the Chinese culture, particularly: calligraphy, brush strokes and Chinese characters.

Cultural-themed compression sportswear. Calligraphy-inspired. The Chinese words mean ‘strength’.
Variation on shirt and pants design for Cultural-themed compression sportswear
Variation on shirt design for Cultural-themed sportswear
Variation on socks design for Cultural-themed sportswear. The Chinese words (from left to right) mean ‘flight’, ‘strength’ and ‘wind’.
Shoe design for Cultural-themed sportswear. The Chinese word means ‘wind’.

Final Selection of Visual Prototype

We decided on the SUTD theme as it was the most meaningful to us and our design might be used for future university merchandise. Our final designs incorporated our design concepts and considerations.

Final SUTD-themed compression sportswear design
Final SUTD-themed shoes and socks designs

Manufacturing the Prototypes

The prototypes were fabricated at the Chemtax and Orient Befit factories in Yiwu, China. The final designs were made into clothing template vector files and then sent to the companies’ design staff who helped to further edit them into colour-coded files that the factories’ knitting machines could read.

Changing threads on knitting machines
User wearing our prototype shirt and arm sleeves
Exhibition Poster