Compression devices, such as boots, help speed up the recovery process after an intense workout. Boots, in particular, help with leg recovery and can be used to complement pre-workout and post-workout routines. They're especially popular with athletes, but they’re used by non-athletes as well.
Among the most popular compression boots are Air Relax and NormatTec. In this guide, we’ll explore both options to help you choose the best pair for your needs.
What are Compression Boots and How Can They Benefit You?
Compression boots are compression devices that use air compression technology to aid in faster recovery. These devices help prevent fluid build-up or backflow by helping facilitate fluid transport out of your legs. The legs receive a certain amount of pressure that helps direct these fluids to your core for proper post-workout rehabilitation.
Originally intended for medical purposes, these used to be known as intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) pumps and were primarily used as a recovery system to aid lymphedema patients and individuals suffering from arthritis, diabetic ulcers, and MS. They also work for anyone who wants to relax and enjoy a massage.
IPC devices feature cuffs that go around your limbs. These cuffs get filled with air and, thus, provide compression for your limbs. This, in turn, helps increase the blood flow and facilitate the elimination of metabolic waste through the veins along your limbs.
Air Relax vs. Normatec
While both boots use a compression system to help users recover faster, Air Relax is the better choice. It can deliver higher pressure, reaching up to 230mmHG, compared to NormaTec's maximum pressure range of 110mmHG. It also has a more affordable price point compared to NormaTec.
A, B, C, Auto, Point
26" to 38" inseam
up to 2 hours
3 sizes: S,R T
Air Relax is a compression device with multiple chambers that deliver compression in succession. It helps users recover faster, and its effects are comparable to a professional massage. This boot system, by way of the leg attachments, connects to the air compressor, which lets you select the compression sequence you prefer.
It's a versatile boot system that can also be used to treat conditions, such as primary Lymphedema, edema, and poor blood circulation. It’s similar to leg sleeves, which are zipped up over the legs. Both sleeves are attached individually to the pump.
Designed primarily for athletes, the NormaTec Pulse uses a patented PULSE technology that also helps facilitate faster recovery. It has a symmetrical boot design that makes it easier for users to wear, as its sleeves easily conform to the shape of the legs. It can also be used for warm-ups.
NormaTec boots can promote improved blood circulation, as well as reduce pain and soreness in your muscles. It comes with standard attachments for the legs. These attachments connect to the Pulse power device, hosing, and power supply. The leg sleeves are each fitted with five zones that start from the feet and to the hips.
- Level 1 - 0 to 60 mmHG
- Level 2 - 60 to 120 mmHG
- Level 3 - 120 to 180 mmHG
- Level 4 - 180 to 230 mmHG
Air Relax technically has five squeezing modes: A, B, C, Auto, and Point. Mode A inflates and deflates the chambers one at a time, starting from the bottom and working to the upper chambers. Mode B inflates the chambers in a similar sequence, but it's able to maintain the pressure in the lower chambers, even as it moves to the top.
If you want to maintain and release the pressure in all of the chambers at the same time, you can opt for Mode C. The Auto mode combines the three modes (A, B, and C) and Point. The Point mode, meanwhile, lets you target a specific section to inflate and deflate and has seven individual zone combinations.
Instead of using the normal squeezing motion, NormaTec employs a sequential pulsing mode that mimics the way your leg muscles pump. This mode can help promote metabolite and fluid movement, with the pressure being released only when it's no longer necessary.
Air Relax offers time increments in 15-minute cycles and allows you to restart the cycle as often as needed. NormaTec boots' treatment time can be controlled to give you sessions ranging from 10 minutes to over 2 hours in 5-minute increments.
Both boot systems are available in three different sizes. Air Relax boot sizes are as follows:
- Size 2 - 26" to 30" inseam, ideal for heights ranging from 5'3" to 5'7"
- Size 3 - 30" to 34" inseam, recommended for individuals who are 5'8" to 6'1" tall
- Size 4 - 34" to 38" inseam, idea for heights from 6'2" and up
NormaTec offers the following sizes for their boots:
- Short, for those under 5'3"
- Regular, for individuals who are 5'4" to 6'3" tall
- Tall, for individual who are over 6'4"
Air Relax has no available apps, whereas the NormaTec boots have a fully-connected, Bluetooth-enabled mobile application that you can use to integrate your recovery data with your training plan.
Air Relax is an FDA-approved Class II medical-grade device that's originally intended to aid patients with edema. The NormaTec recovery systems are also cleared by the FDA.
Power and Battery Life
Air Relax boots come with a five-foot cord that should be plugged into an outlet. It uses a standard U.S. outlet and has a rate voltage of AC 110-120V. Power consumption is at 30W.
The NormaTec unit gives you more mobility. Its rechargeable li-ion battery has a 2-hour lifespan. The device has a world voltage of 12V.
Air Relax system includes a pair of boots with hidden sewn-in hoses, a power cord, and a pump unit. NormaTec comes with a NormaTec Pulse 2.0 device, hosing, power supply, and boots. The battery unit weighs 3.5 lbs., and the entire package weighs 11.5 lbs., making it extremely portable.
Both systems have an optional carrying case and attachments for the hips and arms.
Air Relax offers a 1-year worry-free warranty, while NormaTec offers a 2-year warranty on all components.
Air Relax boots are a more affordable alternative to NormaTec. It costs around $500. NormaTec products can cost around $900.
Those who have used Air Relax are happy to report that they've experienced relief after challenging workout sessions. Some even claim that the system has helped alleviate sciatica symptoms, soreness, fatigue, and swelling.
The device has been used for both therapy and relaxation, with many users saying that they feel refreshed after using this leg recovery system. Satisfied customers are happy with its pressure levels.
For most users, its leg sleeves are easy to wear, although some find them a bit too long. Many also appreciate its relatively more affordable cost.
Meanwhile, NormaTec users highly recommend the product for leg recovery and use it after long runs, workouts, and races. They report feeling refreshed after using the device. They also praise its effective compression system, its easy-to-use configuration, and the quality of its materials.
Most of them especially like its portability and rechargeable battery. However, they find the product a bit expensive. Overall, they claim that it's a great complement to therapy and recovery, especially with the smartphone-connectable app for recovery tracking. This gives users more control over rest times, and many of them like the Zone Boost function that gives targeted attention to certain muscle zones.
Both Air Relax and NormaTec users deem the optionality of the carrying case and the additional charge that comes with it as only a minor inconvenience.
In the Air Relax vs. NormaTec battle, it can be difficult to decide who the winner is, given that they both have their merits. However, for those looking for a practical and affordable device that they can use for help with therapy and recovery, Air Relax is one of the best options available. For those who are looking for a portable compression device, you might want to opt for the NormaTec device.
It boils down to how much versatility, in terms of pressure and squeezing modes, you need. If you require more versatility and power, the Air Relax might be better suited for you.
Keep in mind that while both devices are beneficial, we recommend that you consult your medical provider prior to using any of these devices, especially if you're pregnant, feel weak, or have any implants, particularly implants that are located on the application site.
Moreover, these devices are not recommended for children and should be kept out of their reach. Both devices are great alternatives to therapy, but they should not be treated as replacements for professional healthcare.