These Boots Aren’t Made for Walking

Injury rehab isn’t the only thing runners are interested in. It would also be nice to speed up recovery periods between hard workouts. After all, the more often you have to delay a hard tempo run or track workout because you’re not quite recovered from the previous one, the fewer key workouts you can do.

Training, nutrition and recovery are the big three determinants of performance, says Gilad Jacobs, vice-president of athlete technologies at NormaTec Sports, which makes an inflatable recovery “boot” that Whitfield uses in his quest to minimize his between workout down time.

Training and nutrition have long been explored by coaches and athletes. It’s recovery that’s the vast, unexplored country. “Everyone is running in the same gear,” Jacobs says. “Everybody is eating more or less the same thing, putting in the same miles. Recovery is coming up as the number one difference-maker.”

It’s not something you can run in. Or even walk. Imagine hip-waders, connected to an air pump and a control box about the size of a toaster. The pump cycles air through five chambers that compress in rhythm to move venous blood and lymphatic fluid from the foot to the calf, then to the knee, etc., until it’s squeezed all the way out of the leg. The cuffs don’t just force spent blood and lymphatic fluids heartwards. They also relax in the right sequence to allow fresh, arterial blood to rush back.