Air compression therapy seems to be all the talk lately among runners when it comes to reducing post-workout soreness and recovering faster. But do NormaTec's compression boots really work?
In this article, I look closely at NormaTec boots, specifically the Pulse 2.0 Leg Recovery System (Amazon link) to see if they live up to their promise of helping us train harder and recover faster.
I tested my pair in a local physical therapy center and the cost was around $30 for a 30 minute visit. I wish I would have taken pictures, but writing a review on them was not something on my mind at the time. Checking around my area the going rate is about $1/minute with slight discounts for purchasing packages or longer sessions.
Disclaimer: This page contains links to Amazon. Should you wish to purchase this item through Amazon, I do receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) for referrals to Amazon. You are not required to purchase anything. My review is based purely on my opinion and experience using the machine on two separate occasions at a local physical therapy center and research. NormaTec did not supply a sample to test with, nor did I receive any payment or incentive from NormaTec.
The NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Leg Recovery System uses patented dynamic compression massage technology to reduce recovery time.
Before I get into the details of my review, I thought I would give you the result of my experience wearing the Pulse recovery boots in case you do not have time to read the whole article.
Post-run soreness was definitely better after using them, and I can say I did feel a lot better the next day. It took the edge off my post run, long run soreness.
The biggest thing holding me back from purchasing them is the cost. With two kids in college, I simply do not have the disposable income to spend on high end gear like this.
In the long run, I would benefit greatly by having my own set of compression boots. It is more cost effective than sports massage or going to the clinic to use theirs.
NormaTec, is a leading compression boot therapy manufacturer, who creates products that work based on a principle called 'dynamic compression'. The idea behind dynamic compression, specifically using recovery boots or arm sleeves is to help increase blood flow to your lower legs or extremities to facilitate faster muscle recovery and reduce inflammation.
Compression boots work by using air to gently apply pulsating massage-like pressure to your legs. This massage effect helps with increasing blood flow to the area while pushing inflammation fluids and waste out so that they can be better absorbed or eliminated by your body. There is also the added benefit of simply feeling better after you use your compression boots due to their natural massaging nature.
The biggest benefit that I noticed was the reduction in pain and post-run soreness.
Compression recovery boots are ideal for endurance runners, triathletes or any athlete looking to reduce recovery time, pain and post-workout soreness. In fact, 97% of pro sports teams use compression boots therapy and the collegiate level is right up there as well. Now that the prices have come down, home use is picking up among recreational athletes who want to achieve the same benefits.
Home use and prosumer models are now available. Both NormaTec and Rapid Reboot, the two leading manufacturers of compression boots have models that are now within the range of $1000-1300.00 USD. Cheaper models and manufacturers exists but Normatec and Rapid Reboot are the reputable players in this space.
When I received my compression therapy, the physical therapy assistant helped me get set up. The process is easy enough though that you can do it yourself. Simply grab the main controller which has a power button and a connector for the air hose. Plug one end of the hose to the control unit and the other end to the hoses coming out of each leg sleeve. (Note: NormaTec also makes sleeves that are designed to work with your arms and hips). Once everything is plugged in, you simply follow the directions on the control unit screen.
The NormaTec system is lightweight and compact. It is also well made as it was designed for commercial use. It is double-stitched and the zippers felt strong and durable.
Because it is so compact, I would have loved to have one during my road trip to Washington DC for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, or back when I ran the Chicago marathon. Total weight is around 3-1/2 pounds. Having this in the hotel room waiting for me post-race would have been incredible.
The control unit's touchscreen makes it easy to adjust pressure or time.
The unit comes with built in sessions you can choose from or you can customize to your own duration and pressure preferences.
The main concept and science behind Normatec's recovery system is using periods of varying duration, pressure, and a mix of pulsing / holds that progress across 5 zones inside the leg attachment. (or arm / hip attachments if you are using those)
As each leg attachment zone pulses, the squeezing helps transport excess fluid and metabolites out of your leg. As it pushes the fluid out, the zone then holds (by applying pressure) to prevent the fluids from going back into the previous zone and the next one activates. This pulse/hold cycle is more efficient than static compression and by keeping the massage-like activity going, it can lessen pain sensitivity while reducing recovery time and decreasing muscle fatigue after runs or workouts.
Most of us will probably use the unit when we have access to a power source, but the unit includes an integrated lithium-ion battery that allows it to be used anywhere for up to 2 hours before recharging.
The leg attachments come in 3 primary sizes:
The system also comes with Bluetooth wireless technology so you can pair it with their free smart phone app. I did not use the smartphone app since I was in an office setting, but the app does allow you to do some cool things with your system. For example, you can create your own recovery massage session by customizing the time and air pressure settings. You can save you customized sessions and track your recovery stats. You can even share your sessions with others and upload your recovery data to other training and tracking platforms like Strava and Training Peaks. Pairing your phone to the control unit is as simple as pushing the Bluetooth pairing button on the unit and connecting it to your phone, much like you would pair wireless headphones.
In this video, Boston Celtics trainer, Ed Lacerte describes why they use the NormaTec compression boot system with their athletes.
This short video demonstrates how easy it is to set up and use the Normatec system.