How Do Compression Boots Actually Work? And Why We Need Them

(3 min read)

While the idea of compression therapy has been around for years as a medical treatment, the merging of technology and fitness has offered up new innovative products by the day. I mean, who’d thought you’d see a formation of the Toronto Raptors NBA team chilling in space suits? Except they’re not planning on going to space. I’ll bet you that they’re recovering from their last work out or game. The beauty of these space suits (AKA compression boots) is that although they’re intended for athletic recovery, its roots lie in the name of blood flow. So, what does this mean exactly? It means that anyone can benefit from this system. We had a lady reach last week, who wasn’t an athlete but a hairdresser standing on her feet all day wanting to try out a pair. We’ll get more into how this simple recovery technique works below.

What is compression therapy?

When we think of the word compress, we think to press or squeeze (something) so that it is smaller or fills less space. We also use the word compress as reducing something in quantity or volume or as if by pressure, “the pump is for compressing air”. In the rehab industry, the science of you feeling immediate relief after a massage per say, has a lot to do with compression therapy. The action of pressing, squeezing and kneading on your sore limbs helps propel the accumulated lymphatic fluids (something of high volume) back into circulation to areas in the body where the healthy elements of the lymphatic system can process them. Simply put, it distributes blood flow to specific areas in your body. Having you feeling oh-so fresh after being worked on.

“When we’re talking about flushing the legs, it means the veins are pumping blood back to the heart, so these devices are doing the work of the muscles — it’s basically a replacement for active recovery, though I’d call it passive recovery,” says Eugene Babenko, DPT, a New York-based physical therapist. “If we could, we’d be constantly moving our fluids throughout the day, but we don’t. And especially when you’re sore, these can be something of a substitute for active recovery.”

Benefits of Compression Therapy

People of all disciplines can suit up in these puffed up, out-of-this-world looking boots to reap the benefits of compression therapy. Long before these suits existed, people have worn (and still do wear) compression garments during and after exercises. While in hospitals, compression stockings have traditionally been used to treat conditions like deep vein thrombosis. The benefits of this recovery method, which simply put is the promotion of blood flow, include:

  • Increase range of motion
  • Lessen pain sensitivity
  • Treatment for induced micro muscle damage
  • Improve endothelial function
  • Clear metabolites (such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid)
  • Decrease muscle fatigue after exercise

Now we have a better idea why we’d see a roundtable of athletes suited up on compression boots! With sports becoming more and more competitive now that new products for training are popping up, who wouldn’t want to recover faster to train harder? Definitely not Kobe Bryant. And for normal joes like me, who wouldn’t want to recover faster and feel good to be able to perform at my best in the office.

If you haven’t already done your own research on compression boots, I’ll tell you now that there are many studies conflicting with the benefits mentioned above. The leading company of compression boots, Normatec, does offer an impressive list on the benefits of their product’s. With the new growth of technology in fitness, it’s hard to lump all forms of compression therapy into one group.

A good example of this is the simple fact that wearing a knee sleeve won’t give you the same results as compression boots. The purpose of wearing a knee sleeve is a constant squeeze, keeping blood flow away from the area. When you take off the sleeve, all the blood that was forced out will return and thus inducing the benefits.

Compression boots on the other hand, employs a massage pulse pattern to mimic the blood flow when you are active such as walking or stretching. The beauty of this methodology is that it’s passive. So after a hard workout, you can rest and let the boots do all the work!

How You Can Try Compression Therapy

Convinced you need add this into your regiment? Here’s how to try it out to see if it’s worth the hype:

Before you search up the price tag, let me save you the time and tell you that these suits don’t come cheap. I personally think that any intergalactic looking devices don’t come cheap. A Normatec set goes around $2200. It’s a big investment upfront but potentially way worth it when you think about a massage costing around $100-$150 per session.

If you’re not keen on purchasing one of your own, you can search for gyms, chiropractic offices or recovery lounges that offer compression suits for customer use.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.