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These brands can deliver a blissful recovery experience.
IF YOU asked us a couple of years ago our thoughts on compression boots, we would’ve told you they were an innovative product with potential. The big question was, “Would they wane out of existence like other fitness product fads, or would the tech continue to improve?” The latter has seemed to take shape thanks to the innovative product design of two key brands: Normatec and Therabody.
Yes, it’s true there are other brands out there making compression boots for workout recovery but, the fact of the matter is, nobody is putting in the work like Normatec and Therabody. For example, since our initial review of the Therabody compression boots a year ago, the brand has developed a fascinating boot iteration that’s truly wireless called the JetBoots. On the Normatec front, we recently tested the Normatec Go, an uber-portable compression boot system that targets the calves and allows for easy on-the-go recovery.
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For those who are skeptics about compression boots, we get it. To be clear there is still a major lack scientific research to support claims that compression boots help speed up or improve your recovery process. (Brands might tell you otherwise, but we only go by the independent studies.). Instead, we can only tell you how we feel after using them. “There’s limited definitive science that proves compression boots do actively speed up your lower-body recovery. Despite that, compression boots do have value,” says Ebenezer Samuel, MH Fitness Director, C.S.C.S. “The end result is definitely relaxing—thus allowing my nervous system to downregulate, and this downregulation has recovery value.”
To help sift through the rapidly growing options out there, we put together a roundup of the best compression boots for all types of individuals. Ahead, six curated compression boot picks, conscious of all workout routines and budgets.
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The JetBoots offer a truly wireless experience thanks to internal pumps that are integrated at the bottom of each foot. There are zero cords or controllers you have to hold, which means you can pretty much throw these bad boys on and enjoy 20-100 mmHg pressure from wherever you please—whether on the couch or inside inside the airport lounge.
“I like that JetBoots are user-friendly. It’s an untethered experience that’s super convenient: Put em on, press the buttons on one leg (they’re auto-paired…even more convenient), and let the air-massage begin!” -Ebenezer Samuel, MH Fitness Director, C.S.C.S
“I’m completely won over by the wireless design. I love that I can easily use them in bed.” -Brett Williams, MH Fitness Editor, NASM
Read more: Therabody JetBoots Review
More affordable, but with lower battery life and dependent on an external pump: That’s essentially the difference when comparing the TheraBody Prime to the JetBoots and Pro System. However the Prime comes a simple control panel, smart app connectivity, and all the same pressure settings and performance features as you’d get using the JetBoots. If you’re wanting to save a few bucks and still get high-quality performance, then these are the ones.
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While most compression boots are simple to use, Normatec’s latest generation provides a no-nonsense user experience thanks to the clean zip-up design and nifty lightweight controller. Seven customizable compression settings are available, as well as Normatec’s ZoneBoost tech, which provides extra time and pressure on specific points of soreness—like the top of your quads the morning after leg day.
“My Normatec legs are reliable and quick to start. Normally I’ll use them on the couch while watching TV or doing work on my laptop. I love that I can still be productive wearing them,” -Rad Lopez, Peloton Instructor
Perhaps the coolest design of compression boots yet, the Normatec Gos are compact and simple to use. The downside is they only cover the calves, so you’re not getting any quad or hamstrings work, but if you’re looking to see what all the compression boot buzz is about without making too significant of an investment, then these are an excellent choice. And just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing on performance: These boots work the muscles especially well after a long run or full day of walking.
“I can get the compression my calves need without being stuck in a lying position on the couch. It’s easier to play video games or type while wearing the Gos, and I’ve actually used my pair during an airplane flight too.” -Ebenezer Samuel, MH Fitness Director, C.S.C.S
Read more: Hyperice Normatec Go Review
The crème de la crème of TheraBody’s compression boot lineup, so to speak. The only downside about the Pro System is they’re dependable on an external pump (not true wireless), but the controller is there to help deliver a fully customized recovery experience like no other. For starters, the Pros can be programmed with your favorite preset settings. They also come with two special preset programs you can’t get on the Prime or JetBoots: Isolation and Interval mode. From there, the customization only gets more intense. We’re talking adjustable pressure time, hold time, and pressure range to give you the opportunity to work your muscles the best way you see fit.
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Even though TheraBody has a legitimate full body system, we feel Normatec’s covers areas you’re more likely to be sore in, like the hips and legs. Normatec’s bundle is also significantly cheaper, as TheraBody’s bundle is about $300 more and still requires the additional arm sleeve attachment if you want to work both arms at the same time.
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Compression boots work by using air pressure to control the blood circulation in your legs. “As each chamber in the boots fills with air and compresses more tightly, it prevents a large amount of blood from circulating through that part of your body,” says Samuel. “So when the boots tighten around your feet first and then your calves, your blood flow to those areas is limited. As this compression continues around your entire leg, you’re left with even more limited blood flow. But just a moment after all that, the chambers methodically deflate, permitting blood to travel first into your thighs, then down through your lower legs, then into your feet.”
The theory behind this practice is the onrush of blood will help bring nutrients to help your legs recover efficiently, but this has not been proven for fact. Despite the lack of proof, the gentle squeezing of the leg muscles can feel relaxing—even massage-like at times.
To ensure your blood circulation doesn’t get cut off TheraBody and Normatec have capped their devices to only reach specific amounts of pressure (measured in mmHG). So as long as you properly place the boots on your legs and use them for the time settings given, your risk of injury is low. Just make sure if you’re new to using compression boots you start with the lowest setting first with short periods of time. Then, as you get more comfortable with using your compression boots, you can play with the higher mmHG levels and time settings.
Buying a pair of compression boots is no small investment, which is why we took the time to vet the most trustworthy products above. Painting in broad brushstrokes, compression boots are largely expensive because you’re bringing high-level compression therapy tech into to the comfort of your own home.
So with the price points you see with Normatec and Therabody, you have to consider the amount of research and development needed to help advanced the compression boots while still being easy to use. Specs like simple control panels, built-in internal pumps, preset programs, and compression targeting are several examples of tech that’s been improved upon in the last few years.
Second to consider is portability, as brands have been able to condense the size of their products and make them relatively easy to move around the house and travel with. Last is safety, as brands have to make sure their compression boots operate within a specific boundary to ensure you receive a tightening effect on your muscles without going too far and potentially causing injury.
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For the past two years, we consulted with Men’s Health‘s Fitness editors and writers on the top compression boots. Experts including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM, put all major compression boot brands to the test to evaluate their performance, fit, price point, and ease of use.
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