Compression Boots, NormaTec vs Air Relax

Normatec system
Everything included with the NormaTec system

I had a recent opportunity in May, to check out the NormaTec Compression Boots in Boulder, Colorado.  I was at Apex Coaching where they were letting some of us give these boots a try.  I’m a person who can be a bit of a skeptic with things like these.  Well, after 10 minutes in the NormaTec Boots with heavy Delay Muscle Onset Soreness (DOMS) in my legs, I was a believer.  The boots didn’t cure my legs, but I felt a definitive improvement.  The NormaTec Boots can set you back $1495 and I was wondering if there was any good competition in the market place.  I found a close competitor with the Air Relax Compression Boots coming in almost $1100 cheaper than the NormaTec Boots.  That’s a big difference and something we are going to look at.

I am not paid by any of these companies.  I have no links for NormaTec besides their website.  Air Relax does sell their system on Amazon and if you want to support the site you can click to Purchase The Air Relax Compression Boots.   Also, want to skip all the reading?  You can find most of the information in this video below.

My Initial Thoughts

My Initial Thoughts?  This whole thing is one big scam to get me to spend more money on stuff I don’t need.  Seriously though, I was coming into this with big skepticism.  It was a buddy of mine that convinced me to give the NormaTec boots a try while at Apex Coaching.  I stepped into the boots with heavy and sore legs.  10 minutes later, I stepped out of the boots with legs that felt a lot better.  How much better?  That day, my legs felt 50% better.  It was an amazing experience.  I can’t imagine what these can do for you when using them on a regular basis.  That leads me to discuss my limitations here in this article.

Limitations In My Testing

Air Relax System spread out on the floor
Full Air Relax system on the floor

I am limited in the fact that I don’t have time to train and don’t have the money to own any of these products right now.  The only review I am giving you is how they feel when you use them for the first time.  I have no data on their effectiveness.  Matter of fact, the data on effectiveness is all over the map (look at this study here).  In that study, they looked at all the studies done (24 total) on compression boots to see what similarities they could find.  The main findings were “that wearing compression garments during recovery from exercise seems to be beneficial for performance recovery and DOMS, but the factors affecting this efficacy remain to be elucidated.”  The other main finding was that the studies needed to do a better job in recording pressure levels and athlete information.

Who Else Has Reviewed These

There are a few reviews out there when it comes to compression boots.  Most of them are fairly short and provide general summaries.  I guess my review is like that also.  However, there is one professional triathlete who used the Air Relax and NormaTec boots very frequently.  You can go to Thomas Gerlachs’ Website and read his feelings on both of these systems.  He also has a few coupon codes you can use until the end of June.  I take Thomas’ opinion serious since he trains and uses them frequently.

How They Stack Up

I decided to throw in another compression boot company here.  I figured it would be good to see who is just below NormaTec and you can see that Air Relax still comes in significantly lower than Rapid Reboot.

 NormatecRapid RebootAir Relax
Picture
Purchase LinkNormtecrecovery.comRapid Reboot AmazonAir Relax Amazon
Price$1495$995$390
Warranty2 Year (free)2 Year(free)1 Year (2 year +$40)
Maximum Pressure110mmHg200mmHg230mmHg
Pressure Zones5 Chambers4 Chambers4 Chambers
BootsShort (5'3" and Under)
Standard (5'4 to 6'3")
Tall (6'4" and Over)
XS (23" and Under)
S (24" to 26" Inseam)
M (27" to 30" Inseam)
L (31" to 34" Inseam)
XL (35" and Above)
Size 2 (26" to 30" Inseam)
Size 3 (30" to 34" Inseam)
Size 3 (34" to 38" Inseam)
SoundWhisper Quiet
(Personal Experience)
QuietQuiet
Weight3.9lbsProbably Similar3lbs estimated
Dimensions4"x5"x9"10"x6.5"x5"10.2"x7.0"x 5.1"
Hip or Arm AttachmentHip and ArmHip and Arm (Coming Soon)Arm and Waist
Session Length Min-Max10min - 2hr and 55min10 min - 30 minutes15 minutes
Battery/Charge/UseYes/6 hours/2 hoursNoneNone

The Big Differences

The Main Display of the Air Relax Pump

The big difference here is the extras you get with the NormaTec system.  NormaTec runs out to 2 hours and 55 minutes in one session.  That means you don’t have to keep restarting after 15 or 30 minutes like the other two brands.  The other huge advantage NormaTec has is the battery.  You can take this system with you and run it for 2 hours.  That means you can use them immediately after a race if you like.  That is a very cool option.

How They Felt

This is my general experience with how they felt on first use.  I went into the NormaTec and Air Relax with very fatigued legs.  Each time I had a pretty decent amount of DOMS I was dealing with.  I used both systems for the same amount of time and did the best job I could since I don’t really own these.  The Air Relax were loaned to me since a friend purchased them and shipped them to my house first so I could test them out.

NormaTec

The NormaTec feel really, really good.  The pump is super quiet and you barely hear it at all.  The boots are very large and fit over your legs very well.  There are five chambers which do a great job of covering all parts of your leg.  What impressed me the most, is how smooth the unit operated up and down your leg.  NormaTec really had that action dialed in.  Each chamber filled at the right amount, while another chamber deflated at the right amount.  I can tell why this system costs much more.

Air Relax

The Air Relax also did a fantastic job putting compression on my legs.  However, it wasn’t as smooth or as quiet as the NormaTec system.  This is where the price point starts to matter.  I felt like the previous chamber released air quicker than the next chamber was filling up with air.  Even though the Air Relax wasn’t as smooth, it still got the job done.  I finished my session feeling just as good as I did with the NormaTec boots.  My legs felt surprisingly refreshed.  If I ever start training to race again, I might be getting some Air Relax Compression boots in the future.  Why would I not get the NormaTecs if they are better?  Let’s talk about that.

Final Thoughts

I can’t afford to buy everything that is out there on the market.  I’m an average guy, who has a job and small kids.  My training time and my budget are limited.  I look at it this way; professionals use the NormaTec system because it is a good system.  NormaTec is a top of the line recovery system and professional athletes use top of the line gear.  Take a pro cyclist for example.  A pro cyclist would probably be riding something like a Specialized S-Works bike.  There is no way I can afford to buy a Specialized S-Works bike.  I would love to own one, but it isn’ in my budget.  Does this mean I don’t buy a bike?  No, I still buy a bike that does basically the same thing, I just buy a cheaper bike.

That is what we have here with the Air Relax system.  It is a good system.  It is not as good as the NormaTec system, but it still gets the job done.  There is nothing wrong with buying something that gets the job done for a lower price.  Now, if you have the money to spend, then I would absolutely buy Normatec.  Otherwise, I would stick with the pretty good bike that can still race and do what you need it to do at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks for reading everyone.  Don’t forget, help support the site by purchasing anything from Amazon.  I mean ANYTHING!  Just go up to the top right of this article, find the Amazon picture, and click on it.  That will take you to the Amazon landing page.  Anything you buy after that I get a small portion of the sale.  That helps me offset the costs which really start adding up.

 

 

 

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

3 thoughts on “Compression Boots, NormaTec vs Air Relax

  • August 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm
    Permalink

    Hey thank for the kind words on my own blog. You really do a great job in the presentation of the differences in a simple format I really like.

    One thing to note, I too like the idea of busting out the Normatec boots after the race while in the car waiting for awards (if you are so lucky to get one), but you have to remember to keep the Normatec unit charging in the hotel room and plugged in over night as the battery is constantly being trickled out as soon as removed from the AC. This means if you pack in the car on Friday and drive to the race site, on Sunday, it might be dead or only have a few minutes worth of charge when you want to use them.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2017 at 7:59 pm
      Permalink

      No problem Thomas! If you ever want to guest blog any tech equipment shoot me an email. You can use your own affiliate links if you like. I just don’t want any links that take people out to spammy sites or sites that don’t relate to Athletic Tech.

      Reply
  • Pingback: Air Relax Compression Recovery Boots Review | A Fast Paced Life

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