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Recovery compression boots are not exactly subtle things. They look a bit like wrapping your legs into two mini sleeping bags. Maybe you’ve seen them on the health and wellness Instagrams. Maybe you’ve wondered what they are doing, and if they’re really doing anything.
So far, the consensus is yes. There’s a lot happening in those little sleeping bags for legs that you can’t see. Namely, they’re compressing around major muscle groups, helping circulate blood flow.
“The air is compressed in a systematic way,” says Kellen Scantlebury, a doctor of physical therapy, certified strength and conditioning coach, and the owner of Fit Club NY in NYC. “The main goals are to improve circulation and blood flow into legs or upper extremities by bringing oxygen-rich blood into the area. It helps reduce the amount of lactic acid present and flush that out.”
What are the benefits of using the best compression boots?
The benefit of using recovery boots is quicker recovery and less soreness, including delayed onset muscle soreness (also called DOMS, it’s the kind where three days after a run you find yourself sorer than two days after). Compression boots are best used as a recovery tool immediately following exercise, such as a leg strengthening workout or a run, says Scantlebury. Think of them as an addition to your-post exercise stretch and cooldown routines.
Compression boots are built for your legs, since that’s where a majority of swelling tends to occur in the body post-exercise. However, some styles do come with arm sleeve add-ons to help with any soreness there as well.
How to use recovery boots
Compression boots are such a great tool because they are very user-friendly, he says. With them, there’s really no way to risk injury, the way that foam rolling over bone or overstretching can.
“You can use compression boots five times a week depending on your level of activity,” says Scantlebury. “If I’m training for a marathon, for example, I would use them after every run. It’s not something you can do too much of.”
Although the system is pretty foolproof, there are some ways to customize it, including the length of time you wear the boots for and the level of compression you choose. The compression boots Scantlebury uses in his clinic are set up for 15 minute intervals, and he’ll tend to recommend them for two or three rounds, or 30 to 45- minute sessions. He suggests scaling your wear time to the intensity of your workout. If it was quick, use the recovery boots for one round. If it was super intense, opt for a few more.
Depending on the recovery boot, that intensity varies, but it should never feel painful. “I would equate the sensation to wearing a blood pressure cuff, where you feel it tightening,” says Scantlebury. “Imagine that around your whole arm or whole leg.” If you feel any sharp pains, he says, take it off and head to your doctor. That could signal an underlying condition or injury.
Here are seven of the best compression boots out there right now. Happy recovering.
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Normatec 2.0 Compression Boots
Normatec‘s recovery boots really set the scene for the world of compression. If you’ve seen these kinds of boots on Instagram or marketed in a wellness center, there’s a good chance they’re Normatecs. With that name recognition comes a host of details to match. There are seven intensity levels to toggle between throughout a single session or over the week. They’re also made with ZoneBoost, which puts extra time and pressure on specific areas. These are the holy grail of compression boots.
Therabody RecoveryAir System
Therabody has recently gotten into the compression boot game with its Recovery Air boots. You can manually control the time and intensity (unlike more of a plug-and-go type of operation), and there are options for precise pressure control on areas that tend to get sore or you want to increase circulation around. These boots also come in three sizes — small, medium, and large — which is great for those with limbs that might not do well with a one-size-fits all type.
Rapid Reebot Recovery System
Offered in five sizes, this recovery device features three time settings, 10 customizable pressure settings and two compression modes that offer the option of rapid flush or intermittent massage. The Rapid Reboot Recovery System also allows you to control which chambers of the sleeves are activated to target or avoid certain spots. And the boots themselves are crafted from a rugged ripstop fabric and a seamless interior for optimal comfort. A bonus? They come with a convenient carrying bag for travel. The only drawback is that the boots needs to be plugged into an outlet.
Triducna Compression Massager
The high-end market of recovery boots is pricey. If you’re just starting out and looking for a cheap recovery boot option, try this pair from Amazon. It’s under $100, making it one of the more affordable options out there. The boots have four intensities and offered targeted compression to the feet, calves and entire leg. They also have an option to add heat to that compression, making it a bit more like a massage and aiding in the relaxation that helps optimize recovery.
Flyte Recovery Boots System
This compression system delivers a whopping 16 levels of compression and four different modes, so you can switch things up based on your needs. Cordless and rechargeable for ultimate convenience, the compression boots come in two size options and contain six chambers in each sleeve for a customizable air massage that lets you select which areas you want to target or avoid. The brand also supplies a tote bag, so you can pack up everything and take it on the go. This is a great feature for those whose limbs swell while traveling and could use the extra circulation boost.
Fit King Leg Air Massager
Fit King’s boots are made to improve circulation and do so through two modes (sequence and circulation), three intensities and 10 massage sensations up and down the leg. The timer is automatically set for 20-minute intervals, and one of those per workout is generally the right amount. You can use these compression boots for post-workout recovery, of course, but they’re also good for general circulation issues like lymphedema and neuropathy. Plus, they’re easily adjustable and come with extenders, so they should fit most people. The system lets you target different areas of the leg independently, too.
Kingsfield Compression Boots
Kingsfield‘s recovery boots are powered by an outlet, but come with an extra-long, six-foot cord so you don’t have to be curled up against the wall while you use them. They have a wide range of compression levels available for you to play with, from 20 to 200 mmHg of compression. The extra long boot with four air chambers means you can target more surface area, including your quads, hamstrings, calves and feet — all at once, or independently. The boots pack up nicely into a little carrying case for easy storage, too.