Most commonly used by athletes to decrease recovery time and reduce pain, compression boots have slowly become a more popular recovery tool among a broader range of individuals. The devices use intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) for treatment, which means they use air to inflate and deflate, massaging your legs in the process.
Compression boots aim to remove the metabolic and lymphatic waste from your muscles, which usually takes the body at least a full day to do, according to New Jersey-based chiropractor and sports recovery specialist, Jan Kasprowicz. That’s because the lymphatic system, which is a network of vessels and other organs that keep your body fluids balanced, doesn’t have a built-in pump, per a previous interview with health coach Ivonne Boujaoude, DNM.
Instead, the lymphatic system relies on movement for drainage. Adding a recovery tool, like compression boots, into your routine expedites this process, pushing lymphatic waste up your legs and into your lymph nodes to process and expel. (You might be familiar with a similar process in a lymphatic massage.)
Furthermore, research backs the benefits of using IPC to improve recovery times. A small 2013 study of student athletes found an IPC device could remove lactic acid more effectively than passive recovery; another randomized trial found it was comparable to massage1 in lowering musical fatigue for ultramarathoners. Research2 also indicates that compression boots may be effective at reducing delayed onset muscle soreness, but it is questionable whether they can reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Ultimately, your workout routine and budget will be two of the biggest factors in deciding whether compression boots for recovery are a must for your routine.