6 Best Compression Boots To Speed Up Recovery After A Tough Workout (Or Workday)
Whether you have an avid workout routine or you're new to consistent, structured movement, you know (or will learn) how vital rest and recovery are to your body, mind, and continued performance. While there are plenty of ways to kick-start a recovery routine, one of the most popular forms is compression therapy.
You may be familiar with compression clothing—in particular stockings worn by people who are pregnant or stand all day for work—but it's not the only way to improve circulation. The best compression boots are an equally (if not more) effective way to increase blood flow and improve circulation.
Already popular with many professional athletes and even performers like Lady Gaga, compression boots can benefit a much wider audience than just the pros. An array of brands have stepped into the recovery space with their take on this high-tech device—but there's plenty to consider before handing over your hard-earned cash.
Below, uncover everything you need to know about compression boots and who might benefit from adding the high-tech recovery device to their routine.
What is compression therapy?
Before we jump into what makes compression boots worth it, let's make sure the basics are covered. Compression therapy is a "treatment for pain and swelling caused by conditions associated with poor circulation," per the Cleveland Clinic. When an area is compressed, the accumulation of blood or fluid in that spot is prevented.
According to sports recovery specialist Joe Barthelemy, compression therapy is a great option for "high-level athletes, fitness enthusiasts, [and] individuals who stand all day for work (nurses, law enforcement, military personnel, teachers)." Because compression increases blood flow and circulation, it can speed up recovery from a tough workout or workday, he explains.
Another unlikely use for compression boots? Barthelemy says they may also benefit individuals post-surgery with recovery. Of course, we recommend always checking with your doctor before starting a new routine, especially post-op.
How do compression boots work?
Most commonly used by athletes to decrease recovery time and reduce pain, compression boots have slowly become a more popular recovery tool among a broader range of individuals. The devices use intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) for treatment, which means they use air to inflate and deflate, massaging your legs in the process.
Compression boots aim to remove the metabolic and lymphatic waste from your muscles, which usually takes the body at least a full day to do, according to New Jersey–based chiropractor and sports recovery specialist Jan Kasprowicz. That's because the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and other organs that keep your body fluids balanced, doesn't have a built-in pump, per a previous interview with health coach Ivonne Boujaoude, DNM.
Instead, the lymphatic system relies on movement for drainage. Adding a recovery tool, like compression boots, to your routine expedites this process, pushing lymphatic waste up your legs and into your lymph nodes to process and expel. (You might be familiar with a similar process in a lymphatic massage.)
Furthermore, research backs the benefits of using IPC to improve recovery times. A small 2013 study of student-athletes found an IPC device could remove lactic acid more effectively than passive recovery; another randomized trial found it was comparable to massage1 in lowering musical fatigue for ultramarathoners. Research2 also indicates that compression boots may be effective at reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness, but it is questionable whether they can reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Ultimately, your workout routine and budget will be two of the biggest factors in deciding whether compression boots for recovery are a must for your routine.
Factors to consider when shopping for a compression boot:
- Pressure level/intensity settings: Depending on the intensity of your training or activity, you may want a higher level of pressure. Measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), this intensity indicates how tightly the boots will squeeze your legs.
- Body parts: While these compression systems were picked for their capability to target legs and feet, some also offer attachments for hips and arms.
- Portability: Will you leave your system at home, or should it be small and light enough to take on the go?
- Price: Are you ready to invest in a higher-end product, or are you interested in testing out a cheaper one to start?
- Chambers: Devices with more air chambers allow for a more specialized and effective massage, which may be a must-have for some.
How we picked:
The optimal amount of compression for your recovery heavily depends on the person and area receiving the treatment. We opted for picks that all offer at least three levels of compression to ensure there's a treatment for all needs.
We tapped our experts to provide their top picks from the market and then used customer reviews to better determine the boots worth trying—and those that shouldn't make the cut.
Each pick included features a standout element that makes it worth a second glance—whether that's a completely wireless model, a gradient technology that applies pressure to encourage blood flow, or a heating component.
Typically compression boots cost a couple hundred dollars, but we tried to find options across the board to ensure this type of recovery tool isn't off-limits if you can't swing a $1,000 model.
Our picks for the best compression boots for recovery of 2022:
Best overall: Hyperice Normatec 3
- 5 overlapping zones for extra boost of compression
- Full-body recovery option
- Only one size available (with no customization)
Not only was Normatec designed by an expert, Gilad Jacobs, M.D. and Ph.D., but it also comes expert-recommended by Kasprowicz. Acquired by Hypervice in 2020, Normatec has been spotted on a slew of professional athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka and basketball player Lebron James—and has even been tested by editors here at mindbodygreen.
The Normatec 3 is the brand's latest model, with a lighter and more intuitive design than previous versions. Use the connected app on a smartphone to control the treatment, choosing from among seven levels of compression through dynamic air chambers. The patented pulse technology gives a more precise therapy with options to target specific zones with an extra boost of compression.
Along with three-hour battery life, the device comes with attachments for the hips and arms for a full-body recovery. While pricey at just under $800, they're well worth the investment if they fall into your budget—and testers say a post-run treatment leaves your legs feeling "lighter and less fatigued."
Best for beginners: Therabody RecoveryAir Prime
- Multiple sizes available
- Preset treatments available
- Easy-clean material
- Fewer advanced features
Navigating the world of compression therapy can be a scary endeavor, but you can't go wrong with this pick from Theragun. It's the most simplified option from Theragun's lineup of compression boots—yep, there are multiple—which all feature the brand's signature TruGrade Technology™.
This unique approach to compression therapy applies decreasing amounts of pressure as you go up the leg to encourage circulation. For example, if the foot starts at 80 mmHg of pressure, the knee will tap out around 77 mmHG.
Designed for an easy clean, especially if used after a sweaty workout, the boots can inflate (and deflate) in less than 60 seconds. Available in small, medium, and large, these boots are the most simplified model from the brand and one of its cheapest, although still in the mid-range of affordability at $699.
Best for calves: Normatec Go
- Good for isolating calves
- Extremely portable design
- Completely wireless
- Won't help with full lower-body recovery
Most compression therapy boots are bulky, making multitasking a no-go, but these wearable units break the status quo (and allow for greater flexibility in your recovery routine). Worn only on the calves, the devices feature individual control panels on each leg, which allow you to better customize your treatment.
Despite the smaller size, the portable pick still packs many of the same standout features of the full Normatec compression boots, such as three-hour battery life, 360-degree compression, app compatibility, and pulse technology. However, you can wear the device while sitting or standing—and they weigh just over 0.5 pound each.
Best wireless: Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots
- App compatability
- Easy-to-clean material
- More expensive just because it's wireless
- Fewer compression levels
If you're someone who finds cords extra annoying, then this Therabody model is just for you. It skips the abundance of wiring needed for most compression boots by incorporating internal pumps, which fully inflate (or deflate) in less than 60 seconds. While no cords equals faster relaxation—at least in our books–it also means you give up a few settings.
Unlike the original, it offers just four compression settings: 25, 50, 75, and 100 mmHG. However, the highest level of compression is the same as the brand's other offerings. Similarly, it also comes in four sizes, features an easy-to-clean interior, and packs a 240-minute battery life. And while features may feel limited now compared to some other models, new ones are launching soon for the Bluetooth-compatible boots in the Therabody app.
Best budget choice: FitKing Leg & Foot Compression Massager
- Heating element
- Around $100
- Fewer features offered
- Limited information on pressure levels
Most compression boots have a higher price point, so it's understandable that you may be tempted by a more affordable option. Just remember, you'll get what you pay for—whether that's the number of features offered, customization allowed, or even the amount of information offered by a company.
From our research, these massagers are the best budget option you'll find with two separate compression chambers, three levels of intensities, and a built-in heating mode. Reviewers generally agree these boots do the job for the price and actually churn out results by helping with soreness and pain.
Most customizable: Rapid Reboot REGEN
- 20 compression levels
- Available in a range of sizes
- Up to 200 mmHg of pressure
- Comes with carrying case
- Over $1,000
For the most customizable treatment, opt for the Rapid Reboot Regen. Also recommended by our experts, it offers 20 compression levels, starting at just 100 mmHg and working up to 200 mmHg of compression. (FYI, most over-the-counter socks apply less than 20 mmHg of pressure).
Connect the zip-on boots to your smartphone, or use the remote to optimize your treatment. Each leg features four air chambers, which inflate and deflate with the press of a button. Further personalize your treatment by choosing the session time, cycle speed, and preferred chamber (foot, calf, knee, or thigh). Once your treatment is over, pack the 5-pound device into the included carrying bag and take on the go—just remember you only get three hours of battery life.
Bonus: Rapid Reboot makes its full-leg boots in sizes XS to XL. There's also an upgraded package for the full-body system, which adds hip and arm attachments. You can also save by swapping to the slightly less advanced Gensis model.
What do compression boots do for athletes?
Compression boots can alleviate muscle fatigue and pain by aiding in recovery between workouts or training sessions.
Are leg compression boots worth it?
Compression boots can be a great fit if you are looking for a way to enhance your recovery routine and have the money to invest in a pair. However, they won't make or break your recovery.
How long should you wear a compression boot?
You can wear your compression boots for up to 30 minutes. Most products contain programs that guide usage time.
Do compression boots help with swelling?
Compression boots should help with swelling by increasing blood flow and circulation, as well as limiting the accumulation of fluid.
People from all walks of life can benefit from the compression therapy that compression boots offer. Athletes and those involved in intense physical activity may find these products most beneficial due to their effectiveness at easing muscle soreness post-workout and aiding in recovery. Regardless of your movement routine, rest and recovery are incredibly important for keeping your body functioning at its best. For more info on how to recover properly from exercise, see the simple fixes to the top five recovery mistakes.