Can These Sophisticated Compression Boots Really Boost My Recovery?



Once considered a medical grade device, compression boots have become commonplace and some athletes see them as an absolute necessity. Nowadays, you can find air-filled boots like NormaTec, Therabody, and AIR RELAX in gyms, studios, and physiotherapy offices, and depending on how much disposable cash you have, you can even buy them. yours. But are they worth the time or the financial investment?

First, a brief science lesson on how they work: “Your body is constantly generating metabolic waste when it produces and uses energy, and this waste is circulating in your blood,” says Kathleen Leninger, DPT, physiotherapist at Personalized performance in New York, NY. “Because your legs are below your heart, it’s harder for the heart to pump this waste material from your legs to your lymphatic system, which helps get rid of it. “

The idea behind compression is quite simple – it helps your system increase blood flow to certain areas, which helps circulate this waste to get rid of it faster. But not all cuts are created equal. Below, check out some of the most popular compression boot systems and learn about the pros and cons of these high-tech recovery tools.

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How are compression boots different from compression socks?

There are two types of compressions used by athletes: compression and intermittent pneumatic compression. Compression socks, usually tighter at the bottom and increasingly loose, use regular compression; they work by compressing the legs, improving blood circulation from the feet upward and reducing swelling and discomfort. Intermittent pneumatic compression devices, such as compression boots, mechanically inflate and deflate segments of a sleeve at different times to do the same thing.

Think of it this way: “If you have a tube of toothpaste and the only toothpaste that’s left is at the very bottom, you have to squeeze the top first, then you move on to the next chamber until you find yourself. make your way to the bottom, ”Leninger says. This is similar to the operation of intermittent pneumatic compression devices.

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing wrong with using compression socks; you can just get results faster with intermittent pneumatic compression devices. “The amount of compression you get from a mechanical device will work exponentially faster than socks,” says Eric Madia, manager of sports science at the Sports Performance Lab. Think of it as active stretching versus passive stretching: socks are a passive means of compression, while pneumatic compression devices are more active.

The advantages of compression boots

If you’ve ever worn a pair of these puffed sleeves, you know it feels Well– a bit like a massage. And “if the only benefit you get is sitting and relaxing for 20 minutes while you’re using them, it’s still worth it,” Leninger says. But there are scientifically proven benefits when it comes to physical recovery.

For starters, the boots improve blood flow and circulation. Intermittent compression applied during post-exercise recovery resulted in increased blood flow to the limbs, potentially contributing to changes in performance and recovery from exercise, a 2018 to study in the Journal of Applied Physiology find.

They can also reduce swelling. When you’re doing a tough race, whether it’s an XC ATV race, 100 mile gravel crusher, or a mind-blowing Tabata sprint session, your muscles get micro-tears. “You might not even notice it, but edema or swelling occurs when your body begins to repair these microtears,” Leninger explains. This swelling will go away naturally if you recover appropriately (think: not standing, elevating your legs, resting), but compression can help reduce the amount of rest you might need by preventing the swelling from occurring. ‘accumulate in a particular area when you have to go straight from a journey to life.

“When this metabolic waste from a workout stays in your cells and takes up space, it’s space that your blood could use to deliver new nutrients to the muscle,” Leninger explains. The more nutrients your muscles receive, the faster they can repair and rebuild themselves.

A 2016 study of ultramarathon runners published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that post-exercise pneumatic compression therapy offered the same benefits as post-exercise massage, specifically reducing overall muscle fatigue. And daily treatments using a pneumatic compression device reduced DOMS recovery time compared to a constantly worn compression sleeve, according to research published in 2018 in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

In a study of athletes performing 60-second cycling sprints under heavy resistance, researchers found that pneumatic compression therapy worked as well as an active recovery spin to reduce blood lactate levels. This is why some cyclists use them when they are short on time, as you can multitask in the boots.

Another study of 24 highly trained Olympic athletes (half female, half male) reported that those who received a 15-minute session of pneumatic compression therapy after their morning workout experienced a reduction in their threshold. painful pressure (a scientific way of saying their muscles were less sensitive when pressed) immediately after the session and for the rest of the day after the afternoon practice. Their peers who recovered without the compression therapy did not experience such pain relief.

It should be noted that although physiological research shows great promise, research on performance measures is lacking. In other words, studies show that you are likely to feel better, but research to confirm that you will perform better is harder to find … although the two may go hand in hand for some riders.

“I bought the Normatec boots because after trying them I liked the compression on my tired legs,” says Kaysee Armstrong, who runs with the Trail Squad as part of Liv’s pro team (and who is not sponsored by Normatec). “After a long day of traveling or training, it helps me recover, and on days I’m lazy [and not feeling like a recovery ride], it helps me to be lazy and makes me sit up, put my legs up and recover.

The disadvantages of compression boots

The only real downside to compression boots? They can be quite expensive. Some of the more popular systems cost around $ 1,000, which is a lot of money for the average rider.

Scientifically, “there are very few, if any, studies that show a negative effect for athletes,” Leninger explains, which can help you feel better about insanity.

Another downside is that the systems are not always intuitive to the average user. While your physiotherapist may know exactly which setting to put you on based on your current workout and feedback, it’s not always so obvious to the layman who uses boots at home.

How to use compression boots

It should be obvious, but the harder you work, the more recovery you need. “In general, the more intense your efforts, the more metabolites, constitution and waste products you will have to eliminate from your cells,” explains Madia. Slip them on for work after speed, after a long ride, a hundred-year-old workout, or after any most demanding workout, and you’re more likely to see the benefits. They can also be especially helpful when you know you have two strenuous back-to-back efforts, Leninger explains.

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