What are Recovery Boots? (Science & Benefits)

What are Recovery Boots? (Science & Benefits)

Harry Deol

29th April 2021

Recovery boots are used by both athletes and amateur enthusiasts to enhance their recovery and improve the training adaptions received after each workout. These devices offer a variety of benefits, working with your body’s various systems to help improve recovery and performance, provide a relaxing massage and even aid your warm-up. 


So, let’s find out exactly what recovery boots are, how they work and what they do.


Recovery boots are inflatable leg sleeves which provide compression to the foot, ankle and leg. This removes excess fluid and waste products away from the limbs. The inflation, holding and deflation of each compartment enhances circulation and relaxes the muscles, improving warm-up and recovery. When reading about the science behind recovery boots its easy to see why they help assist the body’s recovery process. By understanding the benefits behind them we can increase the quality of our training and manage fatigue. 

The Science Behind Recovery

The technical term for recovery boots is Peristaltic Pulse Dynamic Compression (PPDC). The device works by peristalsis which is the application of a circular, wave-like pressure along a tubular passage. (Sands, 2014)


Think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste. You apply a circular pressure around the tube, moving the toothpaste along it a narrow tube like a wave. With recovery boots this happens with your legs as the tube, moving waste products away and oxygen towards your muscles. 

Circulation Benefits of Recovery Boots

This pressure wave improves circulation allowing nutrient and oxygen rich blood to the muscles and the removal of waste products. These waste products are removed out of your limbs towards the centre of your body through your blood stream and the lymphatic system.


The lymphatic system is the second circulatory system which is responsible for filtering and managing the overflow of your blood circulatory system. The lymph system moves excess tissue fluid and other waste products that have not been removed by the blood through a liquid called lymph fluid. 

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Recovery boots help the lymphatic system as they remove waste products away from your limbs towards the knees and groin (distal to proximal). Here the lymph fluid is detoxified by your lymph nodes . This is helpful when exercising due to a back log of swelling and waste products produced by sore muscles.


Recovery boots move lymph fluid towards the lymph nodes in the knees and groin. The faster you can remove swelling, inflammation and waste products and the earlier you can resupply your cells, the faster you can recover. 


The return of blood to the heart and especially lymph circulation is influenced by muscular contractions. As your muscles contract they push against your veins and lymphatic capillaries, squeezing them and pushing blood and lymph fluid along. Compression boots mimic this ‘muscle pump’ by squeezing your muscles.

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What's the Difference Between Percussive Therapy and Vibration Therapy Massage Guns?

Massage guns are generally similar in torque and frequency unless they are knock off devices. However, it is the amplitude which separates Percussive Therapy from Vibration Therapy devices.



Percussive Therapy devices have a higher amplitude of up to 16 mm which delivers deep tissue therapy to maximise your therapeutic benefits. It reaches 60% deeper into your muscle then consumer-grade vibration massagers. This produces deeper massage-like benefits. (Source)


As we have said before, Percussive Therapy combines pressure with vibration therapy. 


Vibration Therapy massage guns are higher in frequency and lower in amplitude which provide a more constant less powerful stimulus. They have similar benefits to Percussive Therapy devices, mainly reducing pain and increase circulation. 


The more continuous (high frequency) and shallow pressure (low amplitude) the massage gun the more the device leans towards Vibrational Therapy benefits. By keeping in constant or close contact with skin, vibration tools provide a constant stimulus. This has the effect of numbing the area under treatment as the nervous system adapts by ignoring this constant stimulus.


Percussive Therapy with its larger amplitude punches deeper into the muscle and then withdraws from it. Your body cannot adapt to this on-off stimulus, so your nervous system is constantly stimulated.


Percussive Therapy is therefore considered to reduce pain and increase circulation more effectively due to its deeper penetration. Rather than numbing an area, the constant stimulation of your sensory (sensing) nerves overrides pain in that area. This gives you the potential to increase your mobility by being able to move your muscles more freely through their range of motion.


More powerful Percussive Therapy devices with their higher amplitudes have been shown to have larger and more long term blood circulation benefits. These devices altered fluid distribution within the muscles while less powerful devices did not.


This suggests that larger amplitude devices provide greater muscular benefits due to their deeper penetration.

How Dynamic Compression Works

Dynamic compression is the sequential inflation of recovery boots through separated compartments as opposed to static compression where the whole boot is completely inflated. Dynamic compression improves supply to the muscle and the removal of waste products from the limbs in three ways.


Pulsating pressure simulates muscle contractions to squeeze fluid through the blood and lymphatic system

A pressure gradient prevents fluid and waste products being forced back down towards your feet

The pressure in each chamber is released once it is not needed to prevent the backflow of blood. Nutrient rich blood rushes to the muscle in response to the temporary restriction of blood circulation. (Draper, 2020)

It is thought that the quicker each chamber can be released when it is no longer needed the faster you can recover as nutrient rich blood reaches the muscles earlier.

How Recovery Boots Massage Your Muscles

Recovery boots gives similar benefits to a sports massage as your muscles are rhythmically squeezed with pressurised air. This results in physical and therapeutic benefits similar to massage through the stimulation of your sensory nerves. ‘Happy chemicals’ such as dopamine and serotonin are released which reduce pain and relax our muscles, allowing them to stretch further. 


Recovery boots are ideal when wanting to get rid of that ‘tired and heavy’ feeling after a workout without needing a sports massage. The stimulation of our nerves reduces muscle tension and pain so we can recover faster and train better.


You can check out our high quality range of leg and hip recovery boots here. Or read on to learn about all the benefits recovery boots can offer.

Practical Benefits of Recovery Boots

1) Improves performance


Increased circulation, reduction in pain and stiffness along with improvements in mobility allow recovery boots to improve your performance. Feeling fresher for that next workout allows you to push further both mentally and physically. This means your body can handle a higher or more intense training load sooner, so you can perform better and further develop your fitness and skills.


2) Speeds up and improves recovery  


By enhancing circulation to and from the muscles you are able to increase oxygen and nutrient supply whilst removing waste products. The massage effect also decreases feelings of pain and stiffness which helps reduce muscle fatigue.


This is helpful when trying to counteract acute soreness which is the immediate soreness felt after a workout and DOMS which is the delayed soreness we feel after a few days. Recovery boots have been scientifically shown to improve the ability of your muscles to regain their strength quicker. (Wiener et al., 2001)


3) Enhances mobility and flexibility


Recovery boots massage and loosen your muscles up for exercise which boosts your mobility and flexibility. This is particularly helpful after a workout to aid recovery by treating stiffness or to assist your warm-up routine. Increased circulation also improves your readiness for exercise.


However, recovery boots are not replacement for dynamic stretching and a cardiovascular warm-up. Your muscles need to be prepared for sport specific movements and your heart rate needs to get up to speed.


4) Reduces risk of injury


By aiding recovery and decreasing pain and stiffness, recovery boots can help you recover faster and train without discomfort. These both contribute to decrease your risk of injury. (Waller et al., 2006)


Fatigued and sore muscles cause us to compensate with poor technique which can often lead to injury. Improvements in mobility and flexibility also help our muscles move more freely which also reduces injury risk.


5) Aids injury rehabilitation 


The circulation benefits of compression help speed up recovery from an injury early on and prevent muscle loss by enhancing oxygen and nutrient supply. 


A reduction in pain and soreness as well as improvements in flexibility can also help improve muscle mobility, complimenting your physiotherapy sessions.

Physiological Benefits of Recovery Boots

Here is a summary of how exactly recovery boots bring you practical benefits for your training:


  • Enhances blood circulation, supplying nutrients and oxygen to the muscle and waste metabolites away
  • Reduced pain and soreness
  • Decrease in stiffness
  • Improved range of motion and mobility 
  • Increases lymph circulation to remove swelling, excess fluid and waste metabolites


If you want to harness the power of recovery boots for your training click here to view our range


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