If you’ve been competing in triathlon lately, you’re certainly familiar with the compression craze. We’ve tested a few compression products, most recently we reviewed the CompresSport For Quad Compression Sleeve. Our initial impression is that these sleeves work very well and are worth the money. Today, we’re going to take another product from CompresSport, the Race and Recovery, or R2, calf sleeves.
The CompresSport Race and Recovery calf sleeves are available from the CompresSport E-Store and are priced at $65 Australian. As we mentioned in our first review of the CompresSport For Quads, CompresSport isn’t the most well-known manufacturer of compression gear, but they are working very hard to increase their market share. It’s working, by the way. In their debut appearance in an Ironman event, CompresSport fielded 70 participants wearing their gear. By the third IM, they were at 181, or about 12% of the field. CompresSport gear is worn by some of the top folks in the sport: Tim Berkel, Mitch Anderson, and Chrissie Wellington. Some of these athletes wear CompresSport before, during, and after the race and some, like Chrissie, don’t use them during the actual race. We won’t get into the testimonials of all the athletes, but you can check out some of their thoughts at the CompresSport Athletes page.
What is compression? Why is compression important?
Compression generally refers to any fabric or clothing that restricts muscle movement. In most cases, this is a pair of socks, or calf sleeves, or even shirts and shorts. Compression is becoming a slightly overused term: just because a shirt is tight doesn’t make it compression. Some people use ‘compression’ shirts to reduce chafing and other irritation, but there is limited science supporting compression in large garments such as shirts. Some shorts feature compression, which can be helpful, especially around your quads. Most compression gear, however, focuses on your calf muscles and takes the form of socks or sleeves.
Compression has a few medical and performance benefits. First, compression helps with fatigue. When you’re working out intensely, running for example, your muscles endure a great deal of shock and vibration, as do your veins and joints. Compression is designed to limit the movement and vibration and, it is claimed, that this reduces your overall fatigue. There is also evidence that using compression serves as a detoxifying tool. Compression reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles and increases circulation to move any lactic acid from your muscles more quickly than without. Compression socks are used in hospitals to increase blood flow and reduce the chances of blood clots, a sought after feature for triathletes traveling after great exertion.
About CompresSport and the CompresSport Race and Recovery Calf Sleeves:
CompresSport is a truly international company. Based in Switzerland, the CompresSport product line was developed in France and is manufactured in the Czech Republic. CompresSport is growing it’s marketshare: at Kona last year, CompresSport was the second most popular compression provider behind 2XU.
Compression gear is generally made of Lycra or a similar fabric. CompresSport chose not to use Lycra because it has a tendency to stretch and lose compression after extended use. CompresSport claims that their products will not stretch or lose compression and they back that up with a 30 day money back guarantee and a 2 year warranty.
CompresSport also approaches the actual science of compression a bit differently. Most compression gear features graduated compression, that is, compression is strongest at the toe or foot and decreases as you move up the leg or calf. This is great for hospital compression where the goal is to prevent blood pooling in the lower regions, but not ideal for exercise. CompresSport uses a different approach to compression. For the Race and Recovery Calf Sleeves, the compression is lighter around the top and bottom of the sleeve and is most strong at the calf. The Race and Recovery sleeve provides 12-14 mmHg of compression at the top and bottom and 30 mmHg at the middle of the calf. This means that you get the most compression where you need it.
Testing the CompresSport Race and Recovery Calf Sleeve:
We’ve been using the CompresSport Race and Recovery Calf Sleeves for over a month. Both testers have used the sleeves during exercise and during recovery. For the initial review, we’re going to focus on using the sleeves during recovery. Our next review will cover use during exercise.
Our initial observation of the Race and Recovery Calf Sleeves are very similar to the ForQuads: they are very comfortable and provide a great deal of compression where you need compression. Although the top and bottom bands don’t have the same gripping features, the bands are wide, comfortable, and keep the sleeves in place. The fabric used by CompresSport is very lightweight and breathable. The fabric allows heat transfer and wicks moisture well. The fabric doesn’t retain water, so you could easily wear these sleeves into the swim and not have to worry about putting them on when you’re wet. The Race and Recovery Sleeves aren’t damaged by Body Glide or other lubricants.
Both test samples provided by CompresSport fit perfectly. The sizing chart on the CompresSport website is spot on. Our female tester does experience stiffness in her calves following long bike rides, while our male tester generally has calf soreness after longer runs. Both testers noted the increased compression provided directly in the calf area. When using these during recovery, this additional compression is surprising, but you quickly become accustomed to the added support. Compared to other compression products tested, these sleeves provide more direct compression in the calf and noticeably improved recovery. Even after 14-16 mile runs, our male tester recovered quickly and didn’t experience as much soreness and stiffness the day following these long runs.
The CompresSport Race and Recovery sleeves also don’t lose their compression after extended use. Since CompresSport doesn’t depend on Lycra for compression, the fabric doesn’t stretch or lose any compression strength. Even after wearing these sleeves most night for a month, the compression was just as strong and helpful as the first time we used them.
Initial Thoughts on the CompresSport Race and Recovery Calf Sleeves:
The CompresSport Race and Recovery sleeves provide an unmatched level of compression. If you use other compression gear, you will be surprised by the level of support and compression these sleeves provide. It might take a day or two to get used to this increased level of compression, but your body will thank you. In addition to providing a high level of compression, these are the best looking sleeves we’ve tested. They don’t look like hospital clothing. Though appearance isn’t vital, it certainly helps that these are very smart looking sleeves.
Both testers agree that these sleeves are the best calf compression gear that we’ve tested or used. They provide more compression, more durability, and less stretching than any other product we’ve tested.
We look forward to continuing our testing and to our next review that will focus on using these sleeves during workouts.