- Air Relax Recovery Boots use compression therapy to improve recovery.
- Compression therapy is known to increase blood flow, enhance range of motion, and decrease inflammation.
- Air Relax is a great deal compared to competitors on the market.
The more we learn about fitness and exercise, the more we learn about recovery. The time between workouts is just as important as the workouts themselves. The gym recovery industry has skyrocketed in recent years and some of the most talked-about products in the recovery world are Therabody and Normatech’s very expensive air compression boots. For $700 or so, they promise increased blood flow, greater range of motion, and decreased inflammation.
Can you get that for cheaper? For about $200 or so less, a company called Air Relax says so–and we tested them to find out.
Benefits of Compression Boots Post-Exercise
I am by no means a super athlete. But if you’re like me and focus on your health and wellness with an active lifestyle, then you know how hard recovery can be. No amount of stretching or yoga can keep me on some dirty mat for more than 3 minutes.
But once I slide my legs into Air Relax Recovery Boots, I honestly don’t want to take them off.
Air Relax Classic AR-2.0 Leg Recovery System facilitates compression therapy, a technique that improves blood flow, moves lymphatic fluid (extra fluid that drains from cells and tissues), removes lactic acid, and reduces inflammation for top-notch recovery.
What Can Air Relax Do?
- Increase and accelerate recovery time (1)
- Reduce risk of injury and muscle soreness
- Enhance range of motion and flexibility
- Decrease inflammation and muscular fatigue (2)
“Exercise significantly increases the demand for the red blood cells and other blood products in your body,” says Thomas Baer, D.P.M., podiatrist at South Shore Health. “Those same cells and the metabolites from exercise need to be continuously moving for new blood cells and nutrients to take their place.”
“Compression therapy improves the returning blood flow and helps reduce fluid congestion in order for this to happen,” adds Dr. Baer.
How Do Air Relax Recovery Boots Work?
Air Relax Recovery Boots operate with what the brand calls a “dynamic compression system,” which is basically just the four chambers of each leg sleeves (the “boots”) inflating and deflating with air from the compressor. When inflated, it temporarily restricts blood flow; when deflated, nutrient-rich blood rushes into your muscles.
The four chambers of each Air Relax boot:
- Chamber 1: Covers mainly your feet and ankles.
- Chamber 2: Focuses on your shins and calves.
- Chamber 3: Your knee.
- Chamber 4: Up to your mid-thigh.
This is dependent on height of course (for reference, I’m just above 6 feet tall).
Everything you need for operation is on the control unit screen, including on/off button, four different pressure settings, and three different modes. Each mode provides different ways to target the compression. Here’s what each one does.
This is the peristaltic cycle mode, which is a fancy way of saying something moves in a wave-like fashion. Each chamber will inflate and deflate before compression moves on to the next chamber, like a wave of relief.
Mode B is the sequential cycle mode where chamber 1 inflates and holds, chamber 2 inflates and holds, and the cycle continues until all chambers are filled. All four deflate at the same time and the cycle repeats itself only this time reversing the pattern, starting at chamber 4 and working down to chamber 1.
Air Relax keeps it simple with the third mode, which is a classic full massage cycle. All 4 chambers inflate and all 4 deflate at the same time.
Air Relax Boots: My Experience
For one, the box looks a hell of a lot heavier than it actually is.
I was surprised (in a good way) at how little equipment was included. I was expecting so many little parts and pieces that I would have to fiddle with, but I took out the control unit, the leg sleeves, and the instructions—that’s it.
Oh, I think they threw in a sticker too.
Using the Air Relax Boots
Setup was easy. All I did was plug my control unit into an outlet (which was a bit short, so keep an extension cord handy), put the silicone hose into the unit, and slid on each sleeve. Sliding into the boots was easy enough but there is a zipper that trails the length of each leg sleeve for easier access.
I was impressed with how easy to follow the instructions were. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried to follow instructions on certain items that need their own instructions to actually follow. These had pictures, easy bullet points with what’s what and what goes where, and only two pages explaining all three modes, all four pressure levels, and certain features (like the Point function for targeted chamber activity).
The only downside was the cord situation. Aside from a short cord attached to the control unit, the silicone hose is fairly long and tangles more often than preferred.
Comfort and Compression
Air Relax Recovery Boots are comfortable—like very comfortable. My go-to is Mode A and pressure level 3. I like how each chamber inflates and deflates on its own, and pressure level 3 is the right amount before it gets too tight (personally pressure level 4 was a bit much for me). Air Relax recommends different amounts of time depending on pre- or post-workout, but I find that 30 minutes is the sweet spot for me.
I’ve used these after a workout and feel half as sore as I normally would the next day (no joke). The best part is you can read, work, watch TV, or get lost in Reddit wormholes while you recover since the machine is quiet. And yes, I’ve written a fair amount of this review while wearing the recovery boots.
Air Relax Boots: Pros and Cons
- Extremely comfortable
- Various compression modes for different purposes
- Range of compression level good for those with different preferences
- Very easy to operate
- Quiet control unit
- Significantly cheaper than high-end competition
- The silicone hose tangles easily
- Difficult to store between uses
- Leg sleeves slide down your thigh a little depending on bottoms you wear
- Short control unit cord
What’s the Competition?
Air Relax is a great deal compared to others on the market at $580. Sure, there are those recovery boots that are $1,000-plus, but what most folks want is something that provides benefits and doesn’t rob you blind.
Normatec 2.0 Recovery System is a good rival for Air Relax at $699. These Normatec boots are more expensive, but the trade-off is these leg sleeves go higher up your leg than Air Relax. The Air Relax control unit looks more comprehensive and personally easier to use, in my opinion. A comparable pair of boots to Normatec are the Therabody Recovery Air Prime Massage Boots at $699. A fairly simple control unit is matched by full leg boots and a faster inflation and deflation time compared to Normatec and Air Relax.
We even went down to $288 with a recovery system like FIT KING. The FIT KING only goes up to your knee, the control unit is more of a handheld remote than a powerful machine, and you get fewer power levels and compression chambers. Compare this to Air Relax and you really miss out on some key recovery features.
The Bottom Line
Air Relax Recovery Boots exceeded all expectations. I was expecting an expensive and complicated product, but instead have something I use every night. Three modes and four pressure levels let me explore how best to use compression therapy to my advantage and I was able to find my go-to setting after only a few uses. The best part: it’s quiet and I can actually get other things done while optimizing my recovery. I recommend Air Relax to anyone looking to maximize their health and save a couple hundred dollars.
Sands, W.; et al. (2015). Dynamic Compression Enhances Pressure-to-Pain Threshold in Elite Athlete Recovery: Exploratory Study.