In this brave new world of today, there’s a lot of amazing technology that has recently cropped up or being invented as we speak. Smart fridges telling you you’re low on milk, a voice activation system that can turn your lights off or tell you the weather tomorrow (my dad’s new friend, Alexa, is a new addition to their home) and basically having the whole world in your palm through your phone.
And when technology collides with running, well, I get quite excited. Isobar Compression is a company that manufactures compression clothing that is made according to your exact measurements. And I’m not talking about small, medium or large but YOUR actual compression needs, which is found out using a scanner and then the garments are produced later using a 3D printer.
I was fortunate enough to try this compression gear out. The company gave me a hugely reduced cost for a pair of compression socks and compression calf sleeves in exchange for an honest review of the whole process.
Normally you would go into a centre where the Isobar Compression team have a base and they would scan your legs (or arms) there. There’s actually one (or will be one very soon) about five minutes from my house at the Ageas Bowl Perform centre. However, the day they were available I was going to be at work… Handily though, they (two very nice, knowledgeable chaps) were able to drop in to my office on their way to London as it would only take 10 minutes. It was quite surreal having them arrive at my office building and setting up their gear in our small gym…
After a very quick set-up of their equipment and hooking it up to their laptop, I was instructed to place my bare foot onto the Isobar step. I also had to have bare legs (I wore tights and just removed them).
Then Charlie, the guy in the picture above, circled the attached camera around my raised leg.
The scanner captures around 45,000 different data points of each leg which will give my “compression profile”. Everyone’s legs are different shapes, with different bone lengths and muscle sizes and pressure requirements. From this data they then make a seamless garment which graduates the compression to an accuracy of within 1mmHg (I will throw my hands up here and say I don’t know what that measurement is). Effectively each stitch is controlled to the pressure needed.
So the difference between these and ones off the shelf is that the ones off the shelf may not be providing your legs with the specific compression needs they require.
“For a compression garment to be effective in reducing the risk of DVT and speeding up recovery it needs to produce at least 20mmHg and we can accurately produce this pressure, unlike off the shelf compression garments.” Source
So after all that waffle (though I do find it quite interesting), what did I think?
They’re also quite tricky to tell which sock goes on which leg (there’s some stitching at the top that you can read but it’s not obvious).I put them on post run and they did feel different to my regular compression socks. My regular compression socks squeeze my entire calf and I’d often find it uncomfortable towards the ankle (do I have cankles??). But these felt less restrictive and more comfortable. Perhaps it was my imagination but I definitely felt a different level of compression through the leg, rather than one single “squeeze” all over.
I have two major gripes about the product however. One is the cost. They are very expensive. I was fortunate to get a discount so was happy to pay, but for the entire scanning process, a pair of sleeves and socks would have set me back over £200. You pay for the scanning and then the cost of the garment. If you’re keen it makes sense to buy more than one product to maximise the cost of the scanning but I would struggle to justify this cost. It is new technology however and they are the best in their field… Perhaps in the future the cost will go down but for right not while it’s so new, it’s perhaps not surprising.
My second gripe is when I wore them outside on a walk with Alfie, they kept slipping down. I like to wear compression socks on long runs and this would just not work. For lounging around the house they’re perfect, but not for running. Perhaps this is just my calf shape?
But overall, I’m very impressed. There’s a lot of information on the website and they sent me a list of studies to peruse that suggests the benefits of compression (especially for deep vein thrombosis sufferers). I’ve listed it out below if you are interested (I will say though that I haven’t gone through it all, I’m not a scientist and they’ve obviously only provided data that supports their product – but one of the studies is a meta-analysis, so take what you will from it).
I would recommend these if you’re serious about your compression gear. In my opinion this is top of the range gear. It’s a fantastic way to recover.
What do you think about compression gear?
What’s the most expensive bit of workout kit/gear you’ve bought?
Are you a technology addict?
**Full Disclaimer: I given a reduced cost for the Isobar Compression gear (scanning, socks and compression sleeves) in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**
- Evaluation of a lower-body compression garment (Doan, et al., 2003 – J. Sport Sci.)
- Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis (Hill, et al., 2013 – BJSM Online First)
- The eﬀects of wearing lower body compression garments during a cycling performance test (Driller& Halson, 2013 – International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance)
- Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exercise positive eﬀects of wearing compression tights (Bringard A, et al., 2006 – N. Int. J. Sports Med.)
- Inﬂuence of a compression garment on repetitive power output production before and after diﬀerent types of muscle fatigue (Kraemer WJ, et al., 1998 – Sports Med. Training Rehabil.)
- Compression garments: Do they inﬂuence athletic performance and recovery? (Wallace, et al., School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology – Sydney)
- The eﬀects of compression garments on recovery (Davies V, et al., 2009 – J Strength Cond. Res.)
- Inﬂuence of compression therapy on symptoms following soft tissue injury from maximal eccentric exercise (Kraemer et a., 2001 – J Orthop. Sport Phys.