Nike bucks the trend, publishing negative study results about its own product

Walk into any gym in America or along any running path and you’ll see them: those close-fitting tights on runners’ legs. Compression tights have become an athletic status symbol that say, “I am a serious runner.” But do they actually improve running ability?

Apparently not, according to a study that found no measurable difference in muscle fatigue or pace for the runners who wore compression gear versus runners who didn’t. Here’s the surprising part: The study was sponsored by Nike, a company that manufactures the tights.

Most industry-sponsored studies produce positive results, and the fact that Nike made them public is all the more unusual. Research on the effectiveness of drugs and devices that are funded by industry are more likely to have positive results and conclusions. As Megan Thielking notes in STAT, the tendency for studies to accentuate the positive is especially prevalent in exercise and nutrition research.

When it comes to being transparent, companies should just do it.

Nike could have filed away the study and never published the results, as is the case for many clinical trials funded by industry. Instead they presented the results at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting. Maybe Nike is sending a message to other manufacturers: When it comes to being transparent and publishing the bad along with the good, companies should just do it.