Between running and strength training, my legs are always in need of a little extra TLC. It doesn’t help that I sometimes (OK, often) skip my post-workout stretch. So when I heard about Therabody’s RecoveryAir boots, I was ready to zip them on and bask in the muscle-healing benefits of compression therapy.
You may be familiar with Therabody’s uber-popular Theragun, a percussive therapy device that relieves body aches and muscle tension. Now, the recovery-focused brand is entering the compression category with its just-dropped RecoveryAir product: a set of inflatable compression boots that squeeze your legs to boost blood flow. These harness a technique called pneumatic compression, which is when you sequentially squeeze and then release limbs to pump fresh blood into the area. The end result? Less achey muscles so that you’re better able to slay workouts to come.
Pneumatic compression devices have been used for decades to enhance athletic performance and recovery and treat blood flow conditions like deep vein thrombosis and lymphedema. And the therapy itself has been traced back to ancient times, when it was used to heal wounds and reduce inflammation. So while compression isn’t new, it hasn’t been something you could do from the comfort of your home until recently.
Never one to turn down a leg massage, I used the RecoveryAir compression boots for a week to see how it impacted my sore muscles — read on for intel on what they felt like and whether they made a difference in my workouts.
How RecoveryAir Works
Therabody’s RecoveryAir ($699) looks like a pair of sleeping bags for your legs, lined with overlapping chambers (a design that’s meant to keep moisture and bacteria at bay) that fill with air to squeeze your limbs. The boots are hooked up to a plate-sized device that pumps out the air and basically works as your remote control for your compression session.
To get started, you zip up your boots, turn them on via the control discus, and adjust it to your desired session length and pressure. If you’re looking for something more high-tech, you can also pair your boots via Bluetooth to the RecoveryAir app to browse pre-programmed sessions for recovery, warming up, and rehabilitating. Just pick whatever your body needs, kick back, and let the app do the work.
The boots slowly fill with air from bottom to top to encourage blood flow towards your heart. Once they’re fully expanded, they quickly deflate so blood can flood your limbs — and this circulation boost helps flush out metabolic waste (like lactic acid, which accumulates during exercise) that can cause soreness and inhibit muscle repair. The fresh blood is also full of nutrients and oxygen, which research shows can help reduce soreness, swelling, and muscle fatigue.
Each cycle takes about a minute (that’s about two to three times faster than comparable boots, according to Therabody), and you can opt for pre-set sessions anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour long.
What It’s Like
I first slipped on my boots for a 30-minute session at medium pressure after a long run, and it was better than I imagined. I lounged on the couch while the boots did their thing to the white noise-like hum of the control device, and it was heaven. The RecoveryAir gently squeezed my legs from feet to upper thighs and held for a moment before deflating, a sensation not unlike a firm, restorative hug. It feels a lot like you’ve got each leg wrapped up inside one of those blood pressure sleeves that you find in drugstore pharmacies.
My legs felt refreshed afterward, but what I didn’t expect was how relaxed I felt mentally. The boots provided a massage-like experience in my own living room, and there’s nothing like a little spa time to refresh your body and mind.
I continued using the RecoveryAir after workouts (I usually chose 30- to 45-minute sessions or the app’s “Upper Leg Recovery” program) and noticed that my legs felt stronger and sturdier the next day in comparison to the more wobbly and weak post-run sensation I’m accustomed to. So while the boots didn’t completely eliminate all muscle soreness, it did feel like I rebounded from tough exercise more efficiently than usual.
The best part? Wearing the boots throughout the workday and before bed is where I noticed the most benefits. Whether it was the improved circulation, which research shows can boost blood flow to the brain to enhance your mood and mental clarity, or just the chance to chill out in massage-mode, I emerged from every compression session with a clear head and relaxed body. When I had trouble concentrating on work, 15 minutes of compression at my desk helped me focus (in fact, I’m wearing them as I write this). If I struggled to unwind in time to sleep, a 45-minute session in bed put me at ease. Added bonus? The battery life was impressively long — I completed about six sessions before it needed a charge.
Should You Try It?
If you have the funds and are in the mood for smoother recoveries with a side of serious relaxation, then the RecoveryAir is worth the investment. The boots made my sore post-run legs feel more stable and limber the day after the workout, which made it easier to maintain my training routine. And, besides the fitness element, the sheer bliss of the compression felt like a luxurious self-care ritual. I’m keeping the boots in my recovery regimen — especially during the running season.
Bhattacharya, S. (2012). Wound healing through the ages. Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3495363/
Haun, C. (2017). Does external pneumatic compression treatment between bouts of overreaching resistance training sessions exert differential effects on molecular signaling and performance-related variables compared to passive recovery? An exploratory study. PLoS One, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5491247/
Rithalia, S. (2010). Intermittent Pneumatic Compression and Bandaging: The Effects of External Pressure Applied Over Bandaging. Medical and Healthcare Textiles, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781845692247500352
Winke, M. (2018). Comparison of a Pneumatic Compression Device to a Compression Garment During Recovery from DOMS. International Journal of Exercise Science, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5955306/