We’re all familiar with the aches and soreness that accompany a particularly vigorous workout, and while there are some home-spun and free remedies you can try, sometimes the aches are so severe that you need something a little stronger. This is where products like the Normatec come in.
Just like compression products were once the reserve of sports doctors and professional athletes but have now become consumer products, so too has the Normatec evolved from a large, cumbersome medical device to a small, sleek product you can not only use at home but take on the road.
You may be familiar with Normatec already, it is one of the leading companies in the sports recovery market. You may be curious as to what it could offer you or your team, or you may have never heard of Normatec before and would like to know more. Either way, this article is for you.
We’ll take a closer look at Normatec and how the product works, as well as dive into its features. From the sleeves and hoses to the app and customer service.
How Does Normatec Work?
Normatec is a set of inflatable pants and a programmed air pump, but don’t let its simple appearance fool you. Before it became a product that delivered safe and effective compression at home, it started as a medical device. As is often the case with health products, it entered the sports recovery market years later.
Normatec is based in Massachusetts and gradually evolved from a small medical device manufacturer in the late ‘90s to one of the leading sports recovery products. Years ago, the product resembled a car battery with hoses but is now incredibly sleek and portable.
A decade ago, sports scientist Dr. Sands promoted Normatec at the Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group conference and mainly promoted it as a solution for elite athletes preparing for the Olympics or NBA finals. But now it’s used at home by fitness enthusiasts and amateur athletes all over the country.
Normatec continually pushes air from the feet up to the thigh. It also has hip and arm attachments, but the sequential pattern is distal to proximal direction. The leg sleeves resemble firefighter boots that come up to the hips.
They conform to the athlete with air pressure and squeeze each part of the leg with additional compression systematically. The session tends to cycle through the pattern of sequential compression for about 30 minutes. There is also a controller with which users can adjust the pressure and duration of the treatment.
Another modern update is that Normatec now connects to a smartphone. This lets you remotely control the product while leaving the hardware on the ground. You no longer need to pick the controller up and down each time you want to adjust. The Normatec has also shrunk from its car-battery-sized beginnings. The latest Normatec product is now 27% smaller than the previous design.
This makes it great for traveling athletes who require a product that is practical and easy to transport. The Normatec can now fit into a small backpack rather than requiring a large duffel bag. There is even an option to buy a Normatec duffel bag alongside the product, but we’ll get into that later.
Is Normatec Worth it?
Research is still being carried out regarding the effectiveness of compression, and because these studies usually focus on improved performance after treatment they always wind up inconclusive. This may be because no amount of intervention will lead to better performance, and factors such as sleep and nutrition also play a part in recovery.
But why are athletes so keen on compression? Well, it may be because compression has the same psychological effect as a hug. For example, to help babies sleep we swaddle them in blankets, and weighted blankets have been reported to help children and adults sleep too. There may also be other physiological changes and biochemical reactions to consider as well.
Before we go into more detail about the product, it is important to note that the Normatec is now a consumer product intended to manage discomfort from training. The Normatec provides circumferential pressure in a rhythmic pulsing action, and the experience feels a lot like a massage. Customers have reported that the Normatec helps to reduce soreness, and Normatec is certainly considered a reputable brand.
Let’s start from the very beginning - ordering the product and delivery.
We can all agree that there is nothing more frustrating (and stressful) than purchasing an item and having no idea when and if it’s shipped. You feel as if you’re being left in the dark. This is not the case with the NormaTec as they send you a follow-up email after you order with all the details you need until it arrives.
When the Normatec arrives, it does so in attractive packaging - a sleek black box with Normatec branding. It is also packaged in such a way to greatly reduce any damage to the product and is ready to use straight out of the box. It even comes with a signed welcome card from the CEO of Normatec!
The box includes the sleeves with a connector hose (for legs and/or arms), a controller, an AC adapter to charge the controller’s battery, and a couple of instruction guides. If you decide to use the app, you can control the session from your phone.
This enables the operation to come conveniently from below your feet instead of having hoses above. While this is not a significant change to the user experience, it does make the experience more comfortable.
The Sleeves & Hoses
As the sleeves are meant to withstand hundreds of sessions of use (and are the main selling point), their efficacy is hugely important. There’s nothing worse than a product only working once! We can confirm that Normatec definitely delivers on the longevity front.
The pants are of high quality and are heavy-duty, and each chamber is anatomically positioned to create the right pressure, from your feet to your inner thigh. The boots are symmetrical because they conform to your legs. This means no need to remember left and right - you just grab them and put them on.
What gives Normatec the edge in a quickly growing pneumatic compression market is the hoses. They are incredibly impressive, clicking in and out with ease. If you ever need to use compression on one appendage, there is a piece under the hose splitter to cover one of the paths for compression. Normatec really has thought of everything!
We also loved the controller. It’s quiet, powerful, easy to use, and its small size and included battery make it so easy to use the Normatec indoors or outdoors. The LCD panel is attractive and user-friendly and provides you with all the information you need during a session, including treatment duration and pressure status. You can add more compression to specific zones, which comes in handy when a particular area is sore. The battery life is about three hours.
The app doesn’t add a whole lot more to the product except providing control over the product and sharing the frequency of use based on session tracking. This isn’t a gripe though, the app does exactly what it needs to do. We believe a few sports technology companies could learn a thing or two from Normatec’s app.
The Normatec also comes with a travel bag option and isn’t just a duffel bag with a Normatec logo slapped on it. It works like a camera bag. It is lined with padding to protect the hoses, controller, and sleeves if you take your Normatec on the road with you. The travel bag doesn’t come free with the Normatec however, and it is a pricey addition. If you have a travel bag already that could comfortably fit the Normatec, then we suggest using that instead.
We were left with very few complaints using the Normatec, but if we could make one recommendation it would be linking each user to an API for compliance. For example, if you’re a coach of a pro team looking to invest in this product for your players, you could analyze stats such as patterns of use. The Normatec does connect to TrainingPeaks and Strava for those in the endurance community, but it would be great for other sports to have this option too and connect their AMS.
Normatec has also made a welcome change to their warranty policy by extending it, and we also appreciate reducing the size of the product as this benefits those with limited space.
We can say with confidence that the Normatec system has come a long way over the last two decades. Continually updating the product based on user experience shows Normatec is a company driven by innovation and with their customers at its core.
Is it the best product on the recovery market? It’s very possible, as while equipment like FlowDyn and Game Ready are also contenders, they are specialized for sports medicine purposes only. So for consumers, this really is the best product around.