At first glance, Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves may look to be part of a Cirque de Soleil costume. Indeed, they come in almost every color one could imagine, and even a few colors that a rainbow would reject as too audacious.
My sleeves are a bright caution-sign-yellow, and during the first month of my test, I was too embarrassed to use them outside of the home. Luckily, they are easy enough to hide under pants, so for weeks I wore them covertly while doing yoga, during recovery days, and on plane flights or cross-country drives.
What are they for? The leg sleeves’ compression is touted to help an athlete’s muscles recover faster. The compression of the calf muscle is supposed to increase venous blood return, reduce swelling. The leg squeeze also fights lactic acid build-up in muscles, the company cites.
In my yoga practice, their effect was somewhat noticeable in long inversion (headstand) postures. But during those periods of long sitting — on a plane, in my car on a road trip — my general fatigue decreased a lot with the leg sleeves on.
I finally got up the nerve to try them in public at a 10K race. The yellow leggings drew a lot of stares and a few snickers. But I ended the race in 7th place overall (2nd in my age group!) so no one was laughing at the end. (I’m still unsure if my speed was from the compression sleeves or the fear of more mocking.)
Since then, I have used Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves across a range of activities, including long trail runs, mountain bike rides, a 12-hour adventure race, and long technical rock climbs.
While I am not sure they live up to all the promises the company cites, often I felt like I had a bit more spring in my step. They do excel at fighting off fatigue and swelling during long sedentary travel days.
With a price tag of $39.99 at www.zensah.com, the leg sleeves are worth a try — if you can handle the questions and random Cirque de Soleil comments.
—Jason Magness is a founder of the YogaSlackers.