ReAthlete Air C +Heat Compression Massager Review
As someone who's been a competitive distance runner for over half of her life, I’m often researching and following trends to help myself get the best out of my recovery routine so I can train and compete injury-free. From using massage guns to foam rolling my tired muscles after workouts, I’m a bit of a recovery nut.
So when I got my hands (well, legs) on the $199 ReAthlete Air C +Heat compression massager, I couldn’t wait to try it in the middle of my current training block. It’s not every day that you get to zip yourself into what amounts to be giant pressurized pants!
Whether you’re trying to make the most out of your fitness routine, have chronic leg pain, or simply want to get the blood flowing, here’s how a compression massager can aid in your muscle recovery.
What are compression boots?
Compression boots, also called compression massagers, are similar in concept to wearing compression socks. They both provide external pressure to help increase blood flow and circulation while decreasing inflammation in the target areas. Unlike compression socks, compression boots act as active recovery tools rather than passive ones. They provide an air-pressure-based massage that compresses specific areas of your legs through predesigned sequences.
Due to their potential recovery benefits, compression massagers are often used among elite athletes as another method to gain better results during heavy training. After all, the better you’re able to recover from workouts, the better your training quality and competitive results will be. They’re also quite pricey, with the best known model, Hyperice Normatec, charging $900 for a pair, making the purchase more attractive for a training facility where a lot of people can reap the benefits.
The good news is that the use of compression boots doesn’t stop with athletes. Whether you’re dealing with muscle pain from standing on your feet all day or in need of some stress management and relaxation, these massagers can work to soothe your muscles when they need some TLC.
What is the ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager?
The ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager acts as pantlegs that cover everything from your thighs to your toes. When putting it on, it's best to start from the toes and work upwards to wrap the velcro sleeves around the calves and thighs. Once you plug the boots into the remote, you have three options for your compression massage: an entire leg massage, a thighs-and-calves-only massage, and a feet-only Shiatsu massage.
Using the remote, you can adjust the level of compression intensity from one (being the lightest) to three (being the most intense). Though the ReAthlete is primarily a massager, the section of the boot over the knees acts as an optional heating pad that does not compress.
How did I use the compression boots?
I used the ReAthlete compression massager after workouts over a span of seven weeks, two to four times a week. Typically, I opted for the boots after workouts that were especially tough and draining days on my legs, from hard endurance intervals to track races to long runs of up to 15 miles.
Though sometimes it felt like a chore to sit still for 30 to 60 minutes in immovable boots, I got into the routine of using them in my downtime. It felt nice to sit back and relax with the boots on and either read or watch TV while decompressing (pun intended) from the day.
It only took a few uses to find my sweet spot when it came to level of intensity and what areas worked on me the best. I found that level two was the perfect middle ground when wanting to soothe my legs without feeling like the compression was too much or too little. The thigh and calf compression points stood out the most no matter what intensity setting I set them on as they felt firm, but not super tight during their sequences.
Though the device is called a “massager,” it never dug into the target areas as much as it was squeezing at different pressures and cadences throughout the length of the massage.
What I like about the ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager
My favorite thing about this compression massager is that it's extremely portable. It folds up well and doesn't take up too much space by itself or in its carrying case, and it's super packable and lightweight. I’ve had no problem bringing it with me on the go for weekend trips or storing it in my closet when I’m cleaning (a big plus living in a tight Boston apartment).
It’s easy to use
I found the device fairly easy to use and not overwhelming when navigating the controls and intensity options. With three intensities and three different massage focus points, the remote is straightforward and offered just what I was looking for without complicating things.
It fits a range of heights and body sizes
The adjustable leg sleeves make this device inclusive and hassle-free when it comes to finding the right fit, and the boots come with extra material to add on to adjust for different heights and body types.
It's a good value
For the quality of massage and overall experience of using the product, the price of $199 is fair and reasonable. With other competitors costing in the high hundreds to thousands of dollars, it’s nice to have a lower-budget option that aids in recovery and achy legs while offering good quality and value.
What I don’t like about the ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager
Because the setup process includes unfolding the boots, velcroing each section around the legs, and plugging in the remote, I found it took at least 5 to 10 minutes before I was able to start my recovery session. The convenience of just slipping on the boots like a pair of pants a la Normatec was just not there, which sometimes felt like a barrier to wanting to use the ReAthlete product at all. With the length of setup plus another minimum 30 minutes of use, it felt like a time commitment.
The sleeves aren’t completely enveloping
Though I appreciated the addition of the heating pad over the knee, the knee straps were awkward-fitting and did not compress around my legs. Even with the adjustable velcro padding, if I wasn’t using the heating options, my knees were just sitting there partially out in the open. With the way the massager is designed, it doesn’t entirely cover ankles, so having exposed parts of my legs was a bit distracting and made the overall experience feel less secure than I would have liked.
It lacks detailed instructions
Lastly, the instructions on how the boots should fit and feel were vague, especially if you're someone with minimal usage or knowledge of compression massage. It would be useful to someone new to this type of device to have a benchmark for how tight the boots should be and when to know if the sensations are good or bad in order to get the most out of each wear.
Based on my experience with Normatec, I knew that the fit should be tight but comfortable, and that the compression should never feel painful or cause discomfort in any way. If the boots leave skin marks or cut off circulation when in use, they’re too tight. My teammates and training partners recommended using them after particularly tough days on my legs, and to slowly increase the length of each session over time based on my body’s recovery needs—but none of this info was included with the device itself. Yes, operating the remote itself was simple, but there was a lack of information on the appropriate amount of use and the signs of negative use for beginners.
How does it compare to Normatec?
My first introduction with compression boots were with the Hyperice Normatec boots, which cost $700 more than the ReAthlete ones. Though my time with the Normatecs wasn’t extensive, I noticed two major differences from my budget-friendly boot sleeves: The Normatecs provided a more firm and cushioned compression, and the setup and takedown of the boot was much easier.
Because the Normatec boots are pant sleeves that fully engulf the legs, the overall process of putting them on and taking them off was much easier and quicker. With the ReAthlete, you have to size and velcro each section of your thighs, calves, and feet one by one, which feels like a commitment in comparison to a boot that zips up and is ready for use in a few seconds.
As for features, the Normatecs had several more intensity settings and options than the ReAthlete, providing for more specific compression massages if needed. The boots’ remote was also “smarter,” in that it had app-enabling features that let you program your compression massage from your phone.
At the end of the day, it’s about the recovery aspect and what works and feels the best for your muscles. Though the pricey Normatec boots had a more aggressive feel and a few more intensity settings, the ReAthlete provided a comparable compression experience for just a little more work.
Is the ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager worth it?
If you have an intense fitness routine, stand or walk a lot for work, or have achy legs, I’d say yes. At just under $200, it may feel like an investment, but considering its much pricier competitors and the quality of recovery it offers, this is the recovery tool that I didn’t know I needed. I’d rather use them and feel a little less sore than not have that option at all.
One thing is for sure: I’ve run three personal records so far while adding this machine to my recovery routine. And while I can’t say the massager is the only reason, I have to assume it hasn’t hurt. It’s all about what works for you and whether this aids in your recovery or makes you feel relaxed. The ReAthlete Air C +Heat massager isn’t leaving my routine any time soon.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.