Ever since I tried the NormaTec compression recovery boots last July at the Tracktown Summer Series 5K, I became obsessed with recovery boots. The idea behind these boots is that they promote a faster recovery by the sequential wave of pressure that is applied to your feet and legs, which accelerates the removal of metabolic waste. Being a scientist, of course, I wanted to know if there is any empirical evidence to support this idea.
Sadly, the answer is no, there is no good empirical evidence to support the use of compression recovery boots to aid recovery and it may be all a placebo effect. However, after trying it myself in July, I realized I DON’T CARE; I DRANK THE KOOL-AID AND AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE WITH RECOVERY BOOTS. At the Tracktown Summer Series 5K, I got to be in the boots for 5 mins after running a hard 5K. My legs were beaten up from the race, but after those 5 mins, my legs felt fresh. Not simply that they felt better, but that they felt 100% rested and relaxed. I told my friend who tried out those boots with me that I felt like I could go out and race again.
NormaTec, the brand that I had tried at Tracktown, was just under $1500 for the leg recovery system (control unit, battery, hoses, two leg attachments, microfiber bag). It was more if you want the accessories for the other parts of your body. There was no way that Ben was going to let me spend that kind of money on dubious claims, so I had to find something cheaper.
I did an extensive online research. Although there are other brands that do compression recovery boots, the general consensus was that if you can’t afford NormaTec, then Air Relax was almost as good as NormaTec for about one-fourth of the price (another review here). And so, I did purchase Air Relax and have been using it extensively. Since getting it in August, I use the boots 4-5 times a week, usually for 45 minutes. Do I love it? Absolutely.
- The compression given by Air Relax is really great. Through the control unit, you can control the level of pressure (four different levels) and how the pressure is applied (A: Pressure is applied one chamber at a time, so when one chamber is filled, it is then emptied and the next chamber fills; B: Bottom to up until filled and then released, and the cycle restarts, but going in the reverse direction; C: Simultaneous pressure from all four chambers; Point Mode: Pressure is applied in only one selected chamber). I really love pressure and I thought I would max out, but Level 3 is as high as I need to go. It’s quite powerful and frankly, Ben and I are afraid at Level 4, Air Relax would squeeze the muscles out of our legs like toothpaste. I enjoy the different cycles I can use to apply pressure and have fun playing around with it.
- The price is good, considering how expensive these boots are. I believe that Air Relax provides you with the best value. It’s 80-90% as good as NormaTec, but at about 25% of the price. At the end of this post, I’ll have tips on how you can buy it even cheaper than the listed price of $389.57 on Air Relax’s website.
- The legs attachments come in three different sizes, so you can buy one appropriate to your height (I got the small).
- The control unit is easy to use and figure out.
- The entire system is small and easy to store. The boots and control unit are small, which makes it easy to put away when not in use or to bring with them with you for car travel.
- It’s pretty quiet. The humming noise from the control unit when the chambers are being filled is audible, but not loud, meaning Ben and I could watch TV or have a conversation without having to increase the volume.
- Personally I find being in the boots very relaxing.
- There is no empirical evidence to support any claims from any compression recovery boots that they aid recovery. This could all be a placebo effect
- Each session only last 15 minutes. I really really really love my time in Air Relax, so I can sit in the boots forever. Normatec allows you to have longer sessions. I don’t have the 15 minute limit a bother because I sit with the control unit next to me, so when the session is over, I hit a few buttons and my next session is on!
- This isn’t a big deal to me, but with Air Relax, you have to be near an outlet. There’s no external battery you can use so that you can kick it with Air Relax in the back seat of your car while your spouse drives.
- On a hot day, your legs will feel a little sweaty inside the boots.
Buy Air Relax if you’re not rich enough NormaTec and you find compression recovery boots relaxing. There is no guarantee that they will help you recover faster, but I really love the squeeze and pressure around my aching legs after a hard workout and my legs feel so relax and happy afterward. I think compression recovery boots help me the same way a massage helps me, so in that sense, Air Relax is totally worth the investion. YMMV.
If you’re interested in purchasing a pair for yourself, here’s what you can do to purchase a pair for about $350.
- Go to Air-relax.com
- Click on Shop (found in the header)
- Click on Air Relax recovery system
- Fill everything out as if you’re going to purchase Air Relax that day, BUT DO NOT HIT THE FINAL PURCHASE BUTTON.
- Leave the website. Trust me.
- The next day, Air Relax will email you a code for 7% off your purchase if you buy what you left in your shopping cart.
- Use that code that Air Relax gave you PLUS this one 0P9EADF (from Thomas Gerlach and good only til the end of Sept 2017), which is good for about $20 off. You can double stack the codes. When you do this, your Air Relax should come about to $340 before taxes and shipping (my total price was about $380).