When it comes to using compression as a way to recover, endurance athletes were ahead of the rest of the sporting pack. In 2007, the towering Danish pro triathlete, Torbjorn Sindballe, struck bronze in the Kona lava fields while wearing one of the most eye-popping outfits the tri world had ever seen. While we’re not going to dissect his entire outfit here and now (spoiler: Thunder Bear went with an all-white line from Craft, and who could forget that glove on his right hand!), it was the first time a prominent triathlete had raced in compression socks.
As a result, starting in 2008, airports, hotel lobbies and pre-race briefings around the world knew when a triathlon was happening in their town as knee high socks became a standard part of every triathletes wardrobe both on and off the race course.
Another compression technology also started getting lugged through airports and into elite triathlete’s hotel rooms, the NormaTec MVP. This was a pneumatic compression device, with the purpose being to expedite the recovery process - though it was far more powerful and dynamic than compression socks and tights. The NormaTec used an external air pump to inflate and deflate a set of leg sleeves worn by the athlete using their patented pulse technology. Invented by Boston-based Dr. Laura Jacobs as a medical device, it had proven effective in helping to treat swelling in patients with diabetes and those suffering from lymphatic disorders.
But elite athletes, like LeBron James, and cycling teams like Garmin-Chipotle - renowned for seeking out marginal gains through applying cutting edge science - began using the device to reduce their recovery time while giving a nice and relaxing massage-like experience.
According to NormaTec CEO Gilad Jacobs, they had to do a lot of educating in their early years.
“When we first started out, athlete recovery meant that you were dealing with an injury. That something was wrong. As we started working with the best athletes in the world, we quickly realized that the pros were very proactive when it came to all aspects of their daily routine but struggled with recovery. Training. Check. Nutrition. Check. Gear. Check. Coaching. Check. Back then, recovery was either a day off or every so often an indulgence with a massage. Allowing the very best in the world to access a tool that not only worked well but was convenient to use and felt good made a lot of sense and was the reason for our success.”
Yet back in 2008, getting your hands on a MVP system meant shelling out a boat load of shekels. Priced at nearly $5000 at the time, a system cost as much as a new bike and limited how many everyday athletes could take advantage of it’s benefits outside of demoing it at a race expo. The system was also tedious to travel with as the main unit was the size of a giant lunchbox.
In 2015, NormaTec reached an inflection point. Stated Jacobs, “what really supercharged things for us was coming out with our completely redesigned Pulse series in 2015-2016 that packed a ton of new features with a refreshed lower retail price point.”
The company’s latest model, the Pulse 2.0, helps the body speed up it’s recovery by flushing out metabolic waste while increasing blood flow into damaged areas. These compression legs are every bit as relaxing as getting a massage and it’s hard to beat the convenience of being able to plop down on the couch with Netflix on while pumping away. Once turned on, the leg attachments will first mold to the shape of your body before cycling through up to five pre-programmed zones, one at a time with a pulse-like squeeze.
One complete cycle starts with your feet and ends with your upper quad. After a short pause the cycle continues for as long as the session was set up for. The system lets you program additional time, or even a greater intensity, in any single zone through their Zone Boost feature. Don’t want a specific area of your body worked on or sharing the boots with someone with shorter legs? No problem. A few simple key strokes and the device will skip over any zones you don’t want it to include. Sessions can be set to run for as little as 10 minutes and up to 2 hours and 55 minutes in five minute increments. In line with all of these updates, a new Bluetooth enabled app lets you control the device right from your phone and even lets you build recovery sessions into your training plan if desired.
The system condenses down and fits into a backpack (NormaTec makes one that is padded and sleak-looking) making it super easy to carry around (no more giant lunchbox!). The Pulse 2.0 comes with the main device, a hose, two leg attachments, and a power connector.
The lower price point Jacobs referred to above for the Pulse 2.0 is $1295. The backpack is $160.
Here’s What Our Testers Had to Say
About our testers Jana R, Steve H and Gemma H
- Legs are super comfortable.
- Quite easy to store and easy to transport. The backpack which fits the whole system is super cool.
- NormaTec is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to recovery boots.
- I love the mobile app to be able to adjust pressure with ease
- There was no learning curve, completely passive and quiet. I use them every evening while watching TV.
- The rechargeable base is a great feature.
- Backpack is fantastic for storage and mobility.
- Love the ease and passive nature of them. I put them on and they do their thing while I can nap, read or watch TV.
- The variety of pressure and programs provide variety for pre-post exercise needs.
- Price vs competition
- I would prefer the hose attachment to be near the bottom of my feet so I could comfortably put a laptop on my lap without the cable interference.
- I normally keep the power unit within arms reach so the Bluetooth integration was not as valuable to me as for someone who may put the unit on the ground.
- Having used competitor brands and not noticing a big difference, I am not sure I would purchase based on price vs the competition.
- NormaTec is the cream of the crop but for me personally, the ones I have are cheaper and still do the job. I’d rather use the extra money saved to put towards the addition of a percussion gun or EMS device.
As we’ve previously reported, NormaTec was recently acquired by Hyperice. Jacobs says this move makes sense for both companies suggesting, “I’m most excited this partnership will allow more athletes at all levels to access recovery technology in a way that has never been seen before. They have had a similar trajectory in helping to create the athlete recovery space with products that not only work but look good and, like us, they have always put the customer first and are always working on new technology.”
Weigh in on dynamic compression on our curated forum thread All Things Recovery.
Photos #2, #3, #4, #5, #7 by @DigitalKnightProductions
Photo #1 by @createdbyaaronp
Disclaimer: NormaTec is a Slowtwitch Partner