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Can these high-tech thigh-high boots eliminate DOMS? I put them to the test

The Therabody RecoveryAir Jetboots claim to help ease delayed-onset muscle soreness with the power of air pressure....
blue and white floral textile
Photo by Uriel SC

| love both running and indoor cycling, but too much of either can result in legs that feel like lead the next day. After tough session on the bike, even a modest hill can feel like a mountain, which is no use at all – especially when I’m meant to be the one leading the run. That’s why I was curious about a new pair of inflatable boots that promise to “make recharging your legs more convenient than ever”. Could they really help me fit in some extra sprints on the bike without lagging behind the next day?

Therabody specializes in massage guns; in fact, the company was originally called Theragun, and rapidly became synonymous with handheld percussive massagers. However, its latest creation, the RecoveryAir JetBoots, are something very different. They look a little like ski pants, and use air pressure to compress your legs and deliver a massage that, according to Therabody, boosts circulation and lymphatic drainage, relieves muscle fatigue, and alleviates the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that plagues runners and cyclists alike.

They cost $899 / £799 (about AU$1,250) direct from Therabody, which is undeniably steep, and about the same as the top-end Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar. However, if you’re a dedicated athlete then it’s potentially worthwhile if they can eliminate DOMS and help you get back in the game sooner.

Suited and booted

To put the JetBoots to the test, I headed out to the gym for an on-demand indoor cycling class that never fails to make my legs feel like lead the next day: Les Mills The Trip 15. Unlike most indoor cycling classes, which have one or more instructors facing you, The Trip has you riding through a virtual landscape that looks like something out of Tron. You still have an instructor advising you when to increase the resistance, when to stand, and when to sprint, but you can focus on the CG road.

The Trip number 15 starts out easy enough, but about two thirds of the way through you’re presented with a series of 23 jumps, with instructor Khiran encouraging you to crank up the resistance a little with each one. The video finishes with a rather sneaky standing sprint that’ll leave your quads begging for mercy. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not an ideal one to choose the day before a club run.

(Image credit: Therabody)

After a good stretch, a half-hour walk home, a shower and fresh clothes, it was time for the boots. At first I was concerned by the relatively short power cable, but I needn’t have worried; although you can use then while they’re plugged in, the boots have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the sole of each foot, so you can use them wirelessly.

They come in three sizes, and tall people needn’t worry; I’m 5’10” and the boots were more than long enough to cover me from foot to hip. A chunky zip down the front of each one makes them easy to don and doff, and their medical-grade fabric can be wiped clean if you happen to work up a sweat on a warm day.

Settled on the sofa, I used the control panel on each thigh to start the massage. Feeling the pressure begin at the toe as the overlapping air pockets inside each boot began to inflate, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Flowtron boots I had to wear once after an operation, which worked on the same principle.

The JetBoots are much more appealing though; they not only look more better, they’re far quieter too. The model I tested is completely self-contained, with the pumps fitted into the sole of each foot, though there’s also a more affordable model that retails for $699/£599/AU$799 and has an external pump. The JetBoots are smart too, and automatically adjust the inflation to suit the size of your legs so everyone experiences the same intensity of massage.

(Image credit: Therabody)

Dr Jason Wersland, founder of Therabody, recommends taking the time to run through some mindfulness sessions, and the hum of the pockets inflating becomes quite hypnotic after a while. In fact, it might be useful if they had a timer to stop them after a certain period in case you nod off.

That, plus some meditation tools, might be a feature that arrives with the forthcoming Therabody app, which is due to launch in the coming months.

The verdict

The massaging sensation itself was very pleasant, and I found the mid-level pressure settings particularly relaxing. The real test, however, was how my legs felt the next day.

Sadly, the feeling was much the same as usual. They were definitely heavy, as I’d expect from past experience, and I couldn’t perceive a noticeable difference compared to previous occasions when I’ve simply stretched and then gone about my day as usual. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to draw a conclusion from a single experience.

The following week was a particularly tough one with lots of running watches to test, and I spent some quality time after each session relaxing with the Jetboots. The experience was certainly soothing, and something I looked forward to, but it’s tough to say whether it had much of an impact on DOMS throughout the week. The difference certainly wasn’t stark.

Perhaps if I was training for a marathon or a sportive I might get more benefit from the JetBoots, but personally I’d have a hard time justifying the cost when a good massage gun, stretches, and gentle mobility exercises post-workout are effective by themselves.

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