Like a lot of trail runners, I resisted the advent of compression technology and chalked it up as a “road runner” thing. As I watched the emergence and subsequent popularization of the concept, I began to pay attention to what the users were saying, and I ultimately decided to give it a try myself.
My initial foray into the world of compression gear came in the form of a pair of calf sleeves. During my initial training runs, I noticed a greater level of comfort. I also noticed less swelling and faster recovery times after long runs and races. Calf sleeves quickly became a standard fixture in my running attire.
After becoming convinced of the benefits of compression technology, I decided to get serious about it and started a search for the best sleeves on the market. This search led me to try the Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves. This product would ultimately take my interest in compression gear to a whole new level.
The Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves were harder to put on and felt tighter on my legs than the brands I had previously used. To me, this seemed logical because the technology only works when the correct amount of compression is applied. Ill-fitting calf sleeves are nothing more than sock extensions if they are not tight! The Zensah sleeves felt comfortable immediately and I was eager to get on the trail and try them out.
After a 25 mile training run, it was immediately evident that these sleeves dramatically reduced my fatigue on the trail. My legs felt amazing during the entire run. After that initial test drive, I decided to put them to the ultimate test by wearing them in an upcoming 100-mile trail race. I take my gear selection seriously when it comes to running ultras. Despite my lack of miles in the Zensah sleeves, I was convinced they had earned a spot in the lineup.
In this particular race, I knew I was going to be competing for the win. Every little detail is crucial to my success and I was hoping the Zensah sleeves would reduce my fatigue enough to give me an advantage over the competition. I was putting a lot of faith on a technology that I was just beginning to understand.
For the first 20 miles of my race, I was mostly impressed by how comfortable the calf sleeves were. They moved well with my legs, they seemed to breath nicely and they kept my legs warm in the near freezing temperatures.
I led the race from the very beginning and I was determined to stay in the lead for all 100 miles. This meant I was pushing my pace, running the hills with determination and focusing on staying well ahead of the other runners. To put it mildly, I was pushing my legs to their limit.
My legs tend to get sluggish around mile 70 during these types of races. But as mile 70 came and went, I was still running strong. It was dark now and I had lost contact with the competition. If my legs had been tired, I might have backed off the pace, but they were feeling great, so I pushed on as if my lead was being constantly threatened.
By mile 90, I was surprised by how well my legs felt. This race had a lot of short rapid climbs that would normally take a serious toll on my calves, but I was maintaining a strong turnover rate while putting distance on the rest of the field. I had never felt this strong and comfortable this late into a 100-mile race.
I crossed the finish line, winning the 100-mile race and I was instantly a firm believer in the benefits of Zensah compression technology. When I peeled my calf sleeves off, I was astonished by the lack of swelling in my legs, which is a routine occurrence when running these distances.
After several hours of sleep, I returned to the race finish to watch as the final runners made their way across the finish line. While other finishers were hobbling about, I as walking without any signs of soreness. Nobody would have guessed that I had laid down the fastest 100-mile finish time, beating second place by almost two hours!
I continued to wear the sleeves the following day during my flight back home to Utah. Two days later, I was enjoying a comfortable 15-mile run in the Wasatch Mountains with no signs of lingering soreness or discomfort.
For me, a fast recovery is essential because it allows me to get right back into training for my next long race. The downtime between races is where fitness and endurance are lost. As a prolific and competitive ultra runner, I can’t afford that downtime. These sleeves seem to be the answer to that problem.
In retrospect, it’s highly likely that I would have won that race, with or without the calf sleeves. However, I never would have performed at the same level or recovered as quickly without using the Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves. It’s clear to me that the technology works well when properly applied. After a few experiments with other brands, I’ve found that Zensah has the highest quality and most comfortable product on the market.
These compression sleeves have found a permanent place in my ultra running wardrobe.