Recently I started a new training program, for a triathlon, which has dialed up how much time I am spending cycling or running. With that has come a lot of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and general leg tiredness. This has required a complementing uptick in things like stretching, massages, and strength training to avoid getting hurt.
Thankfully at the same time I was contacted by a company run by physical therapists that, in addition to running a popular youtube channel, also makes a variety of stress relief, flexibility, and massage style products. Bob and Brad are both physical therapists, and they offered up one of their products after seeing our review of massage guns and foam rollers.
After having just spent more than $450 on a few months of stretching sessions with StretchLab (see our StretchLab Review), I was eager to find an option for interventions that could be done at home and jumped at the chance to get the Compression Leg Massager. (Note that while everything in this review is an honest assessment, the massager was provided and some links are affiliate and will help support this site by sharing a small portion of the sale.)
Do Air Compression Massagers Work?
In short, yes air compression massagers work. They have been shown in studies to have at least some effect on lactate clearance and performance improvement. In addition massage techniques can improve performance and the compression massagers, while different than others like percussion massages or foam rollers, they still are massage.
Beyond the science, which supports that they work, sometimes it just feels nice to be able to sit and relax. After now having used the leg massager a handful of times, I am happy to have it and plan to incorporate using it into at least a daily routine. The main plan is to use this at night, hours after working out, doing so seems to improve my sleep and makes the legs seem fresher in the morning.
Since the boots are discrete and can be used while sitting upright though, the other plan is to drop them on during the day to break up the time in front of the computer. This ability to add a 15 minute period of relaxation to a routine is sure to have benefits beyond just the lactate clearance but also as a chance to slow down.
This article summarizes the rest of the experience with the lower leg compression leg massager. Thanks again to the folks at Bob and Brad for providing
Setup and UnBoxing
After unwrapping the compression leg massager, setup took less than a minute. The leg wraps come with Velcro and can be strapped on, although it is also possible to slide them on like a pair of pants.
If only one person is using them there is really no need to resize with the Velcro each time. Personally I set them up on my first session and in subsequent session have just slipped on the thigh and lower leg portions like you would a pair of pants.
Other than plugging in the controller and making sure the hoses are attached, there is no complex setup required. The compression legs also came with a carrying bag made for easy storage, including packing into a suitcase. For a traveling triathlon or long race, or even just after a long flight, having these packed away in a hotel certainly would help to keep the blood flow in your legs.
There are a handful of different settings to choose from, but for the most part once you have the boots on it’s just a matter of hitting the power button and letting the system do it’s thing. The pre-programmed 15 minute session works well out of the box, but on the first treatment make sure to adjust the tightness of the velcro to get a good fit.
A 15 Minute Massage
One minute in and I wasn’t sure if the system was setup right, but by three minutes I knew it was and was surprised. The massager feels great. It is designed with an auto-off function so the standard 15 minute treatment can be done while reading a book or watching tv and once it shuts off you know things are done.
There are three settings for the massage, foot, calf, or thigh. Each can be used to target a specific area, and also available is an automatic option that cycles between each over the course of of a few minutes. This pushes blood from the thigh down to the foot and back again. It really does work through all the muscle groups of the legs.
For a day where you have spent tons of time on your feet dialing down to just the foot option also works, and if doing this you can skip sliding on the thigh sections since they are not used in the foot massage.
Compression can also be controlled in intensity from low to high. Lower will keep the tightness of the wraps lower while high feels more like a blood pressure cuff that is being squeezed. That is to say, it feels effective. The highest setting does not compare to a real massage, but if your like me and find deep tissue massages to be somewhat painful than the compression wraps are the ideal fit.
Is The Compression Leg Massager Loud?
My comparison for the leg massager was the industrial sized Normatec systems and those huge chairs you sit in that are at spas (and some airports). For each of those a major concern was how loud and intense the compression system was. Keeping in mind, this leg massager was going to be an end of the night item, and annoying family in another room or in a bed was a big concern. That turned out to be unfounded.
The leg massager is quiet, this led me to expect one of two things. Either the compression was going to get a lot louder, or it would t be that intense. Neither was the case. Thoughout the whole 15 minutes the compression never got above a low hum.
Turning off the heat element did make the compressor work a bit harder, likely more power was going to it, and the noise was a touch higher but still quiet enough that I was not worried about disturbing anyone in another room or even having to increase a TV volume. The loudest noise was the Velcro straps being pulled apart, not the actual mechanics.
My first test was on a day with no leg workout, but 10 days of either riding or running. As an off day nothing was painful. The following day was packed with a 40 minute ride and 50 minute run. About an hour after that workout I put the boots on and felt instant relief over what was already becoming some slight soreness.
Can you walk while wearing Compression Leg Massager Boots?
The boots are somewhat bulky and go over the thighs and lower legs, but are possible to walk in. The biggest concern with walking in them is two fold, first is getting the bottom of the boots dirt, and second is that the thigh parts tends to slide down while walking so you have to hold them up.
Thankfully the thigh attachments can be removed entirely just by disconnecting the hoses and unwrapping them from the legs.