Do you suffer from swollen legs, poor circulation, or DOMS after exercise? Compression boots could be the solution you’re looking for.
The benefits of using compression boots are many. From faster recovery to increased circulation, it’s worth trying them if you struggle with your legs in any capacity.
Here’s all you need to know about compression boots and their benefits. Plus, we’ll cover how, when, and how long to use them.
What Are Compression Boots?
Compression boots are inflatable sleeves with different chambers that fit over the legs. They consist of sleeves and an air pump. The air chambers are located around your foot, calf, hamstring, and quad.
As the different air chambers in the leg sleeves fill with air, they provide compression to your legs to increase circulation and help move oxygen-rich blood through the limbs.
They are often used by athletes to accelerate recovery and those suffering from chronic venous insufficiency to stimulate blood flow and prevent swelling and blood clots.
How Do Compression Boots Work?
Compression boot systems use pneumatic air compression to inflate the chambers on the leg sleeves at different intervals.
This continues over a number of cycles—known as “intermittent” or “sequential”—to create a squeezing effect across the entire leg.
As the chambers of the leg sleeve inflate, deflate, and squeeze the legs, the massaging effect helps to stimulate the fluid in the legs.
The blood flows more easily and brings oxygen-rich blood to cells and muscles. It also helps to get rid of any excess fluid that may have leaked into the surrounding tissues in the legs.
As a result of this process, lactic acid and any waste products that build up in the blood are filtered out of the blood more easily.
Benefits of Using Compression Boots
There are many benefits of using compression boots for both everyday life and recovery purposes after exercise. Here are some benefits you may experience when using compression boots.
When you’re standing, walking, or even sitting, your veins and arteries need to work against gravity to return blood to your heart for reoxygenation. Often, this can result in poor circulation throughout the lower legs.
The squeezing motion of the compression boots helps blood move more freely as it encourages the muscles to flex against the compression. This helps blood to move through the veins faster and more effectively.
Enhance Lymphatic Drainage
Swelling in the legs can be caused by lymphedema, a condition that causes lymphatic fluid to build up in the limbs.
When the lymph nodes become blocked, they can begin to swell or the fluid can escape into the surrounding tissues.
Massage—or manual lymphatic drainage—is a well-known way of preventing lymphedema as it encourages lymphatic fluid to flow.
Compression boots perform the same function and can help the lymph nodes in the legs to drain and reduce the build-up of fluid in the legs.
Research has shown that a combination of pneumatic compression therapy and manual lymphatic drainage has better effects than manual massage alone.
Compression boots can also help to reduce swelling that occurs as a result of water retention or injury.
Remove Waste Products
As compression boots help to increase blood circulation, they also play a role in removing metabolic waste products from the body.
When the blood leaves the heart, it carries oxygen to the cells. Once the oxygen has been deposited in the cells, it picks up metabolic waste products—such as carbon dioxide—to take back to the lungs to be excreted.
Speed Up Recovery Time
DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness—can occur after a hard workout. Often, there’s more than one factor involved in DOMS. These may include lactic acid build-up, tissue or muscle damage, and inflammation.
DOMS can also make it more difficult to exercise. You may need a longer recovery period in order for the pain to dissipate before you can exercise again, which may decrease the efficiency of training.
Using compression boots can help reduce the pain of DOMS by increasing blood flow in the area, which brings healing oxygen and nutrients to the area.
This helps to speed up recovery time and get you back to exercise as soon as possible.
Exercise can cause damage and injury to the muscles, which results in a decreased range of motion. When you have a decreased range of motion, your movement is affected, which can compound the problem and keep the range of motion short.
Using compression boots can help your tissues to repair more quickly by bringing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to them. This helps to improve the range of motion as injuries heal faster.
Relax and Unwind
As well as improving recovery and increasing circulation, using compression boots can provide a relaxing sensation just as a massage would.
If you don’t need to use the compression boots for recovery or circulation-enhancing purposes, you can use them simply as a relaxation technique.
Who Benefits From Using Compression Boots?
Compression therapy can be beneficial to almost everybody, for a number of different reasons.
However, those who benefit most from compression boots include athletes—triathletes, runners, weightlifters, and other sports players—and people who spend long periods of time standing still or sitting down.
Athletes are likely to use compression boots for recovery purposes. Those who stand or sit for long periods will use compression boots for health purposes.
Disadvantages of Compression Boots
Although compression boots have many benefits, there are also some downsides to using them. The disadvantages of compression boots include:
Although there are many different compression boot systems to choose from, some of the entry-level models are not very effective.
However, if you wish to invest in a high-quality system, you can expect to pay up to $1000 or more.
For this reason, compression boot systems are not always accessible to everyone.
Not Straightforward to Use
The average person may not understand how best to use the different settings on the system to their advantage.
What’s best for you may depend on your current health and physical condition, as well as the intensity of the training you’re doing at the time.
This can also change over time, and most people—even athletes—aren’t aware of how to use the settings appropriately and adapt as time passes.
It’s also difficult to find straightforward information without consulting a physiotherapist or a doctor.
Not For Everyone
The compression boots are not safe for everybody to use. Check with your doctor before using compression boots if you have one of the following conditions:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Blood clots
- Edema or lymphedema
- Ischemic vascular disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Skin inflammation
In these cases, using the compression boots without getting approval from your doctor may result in worsening health.
Why Is Compression Therapy Popular With Athletes?
Compression therapy is popular amongst athletes because of how it speeds up recovery time. The faster athletes can recover, the sooner they can get back to training and the stronger they become.
As compression garments can help to ease post-exercise pain, increase range of motion and flexibility, and remove metabolic waste, they are an invaluable tool when it comes to recovery for professional—and recreational—athletes.
How to Use Compression Boots
You can use your compression boots in any comfortable place in your home.
You can use both legs simultaneously or one leg at a time and you should sit in a comfortable position. There’s no need to elevate the legs when using compression boots.
Place the leg sleeves over your legs and they are completely deflated. Make sure your feet are as deep in the boots as they can go.
Men should be sure to protect the groin area and you should take any items out of your pockets before using them.
Connect the air hose from the pump to the sleeves. Turn the unit on and select your desired intensity. Start off slowly and with light compression and you can increase it when you get used to the pressure.
You can also choose to turn off any specific air chambers if you want to exclude part of your leg from the therapy.
Set your timer and start your compression session. Remain awake and alert so you can pay attention to how your legs feel throughout the session.
When you are finished, unhook the hoses and unplug the pump from the wall outlet. Wipe them down so they are ready for the next use.
It’s also a very good idea to read through the instruction manual when you get your compression boots, as each brand is different and may have different settings to what you expect or are used to.
When to Use Compression Boots?
For the best results, compression boots should be used after training or after a long day on your feet or sitting. This will help to accelerate recovery.
However, you can also use compression boots any time during the day when your legs are feeling sore or you’re suffering from poor circulation.
You can also use them before a workout, as they help to stimulate blood flow and can help you to warm your muscles up quickly.
How Long Should You Use Recovery Boots For?
Most compression boots come with built-in settings of 10, 20, or 30 minutes. You can use them for up to 30 minutes safely.
However, you should vary these settings depending on the intensity of the exercise you did before using them, or the severity of your edema.
It’s not advisable to use the compression boots for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Most machines will automatically turn off after 30 minutes to prevent accidentally using it for too long if you fall asleep.
How Often Can You Use Compression Systems on Your Body?
As long as you have no contraindications and have been cleared by your doctor, you can use your compression boots multiple times during the day.
If you use them for recovery, it’s recommended that you use them regularly, at least whenever you need them. If you exercise daily or spend time on your feet or sitting during work, you can use your compression boots on a daily basis.
However, if you use compression systems for medical reasons, you should check with your doctor about how often you can use them safely.