What are compression boots? What are they used for and when? Are they even necessary? Host Dr. Scott Jablonka, Carolina Movement Doc, dives deep into the hype behind compression boots and offers his perspective on whether they are worth their salt.
Listen to Dr. Scott Jablonka’s full episode on The Omega Sports Move More Podcast.
What are compression boots?
Intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) devices or compression boots are recovery garments meant to cut healing time from intense training sessions. Traditional compression garments include long leg compressions, calf compressions, and arm compressions.
IPC’s are a different ball game. They are giant boots that cover your entire leg and go all the way up to the groin area. The sleeves have a tube attached which delivers air compression through each compartment.
Some popular IPC brands are Normatec, Rapid Reboot, Speed Hound, and Air Relax. Prices range from a few hundred (if you find a great deal) to a few thousand dollars. It is essential to keep a longevity mindset; you get what you pay for.
What do compression boots do?
IPC’s claim to benefit athletes by enhancing blood flow circulation and reducing intramuscular swelling, making for a faster recovery time between workouts. In addition, it clears metabolic waste from tissue breakdown, which is arguably more deserving of marketing and not widely discussed. Compression boots also help with delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This benefits marathoners, cross-fitters, and even rowers.
What does the research say?
When it comes to athlete recovery, the research is hit or miss. What does the research have to say about the effectiveness of compression boots? I have here three studies to present that can help with your opinion on IPCs.
A 2016 study titled “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Massage and Pneumatic Compression for Ultramarathon Recovery” from the Journal of Orthopedics and Physical Therapy proved that both forms of recovery came back with the same results.
Why is that beneficial? Setting aside the same results, the next thing to consider is cost and convenience. Unless you are a top-performing professional athlete, chances are you do not have access to a full-time massage therapist or physical therapist, so the next best thing is these boots.
The second study from the International Journal of Exercise Science in 2018 concluded that daily use of pneumatic compression could offset DOMS while proving beneficial to athletes.
The final study is from 2020 and comes from the University of Wisconsin titled, “Pneumatic Compression Devices: Effects On Recovery and Subsequent Performance.” The study compared NormaTec recovery to active recovery and passive recovery by measuring lactic blood levels between the three.
NormaTec refers to compression boots. Active recovery is doing exercises like yoga, stretching, light running, or low-level cycling. Passive recovery is doing nothing at all.
They concluded that NormaTec showed having better benefits than passive recovery but did not have better effects than active recovery. However, it’s important to note that the study did not specify what type of active recovery they measured.
We’re sure you are focusing on active recovery if it warrants better results. Imagine this, you have been training with 13-mile runs. Are you going to want to participate in active recovery? With compression boots, you can sit at home and let the boots do all the work.
Is it worth it?
In short, yes. The boots are a good investment if you are a high-performing athlete who requires a quick recovery time. If you are a person who hits the gym maybe a few times a week, we suggest a pay-per-use session.
Want more movement tips from Dr. Scott Jablonka? Listen to older episodes of our Move More Podcast.