Monday, November 22, 2010

Product Review - Calf Sleeves

Saucony AmpPro2 Calf Sleeves

- Labeled for anatomical fit - You would think the difference between LEFT and RIGHT wouldn't make a difference. And to be honest, I have no idea if they do. Fortunately Saucony takes the mystery out of things by clearly labeling which sleeve goes on which leg. The best part is the labels are part of the sleeve, not part of the label. That's important because my labels were quickly cut out for improved comfort.

- Microban - Um, supposedly this keeps things less microbial than normal. I'm guessing that means I'm less likely to get some sort of odd calf fungus. Since it's hard to measure and plays no part in my performance, I'm not really worried about this feature.

- Celliant - This fiber or additive to fiber is designed to improve oxygen levels and body temperatures. I'm no scientist so I'm not sure if it works or not. Although I have used the sleeves on cold days and it helped keep my calves warm. But then again so would an extra layer of clothes.

They fit like I would expect compression sleeves to fit. Tight. Not so tight that my toes turn purple, but tight enough that I can feel them when I run. Tight enough that I can see lines on my calf when I take them off after my run. Tight enough that they do help my calves in both active mode and recovery mode. In other words, the fit is just right. I got mine in Large (16" to 17" according to their site) since my calf is 17" at it's largest point. Small runs from 12" to 13" and Medium runs from 14" to 15". Oddly, there's no 13" to 14" so you just have to guess a bit if you fall between sizes. Remember to measure the largest part of your calf. And remember that these are unisex, so gender doesn't matter. Oh, and for those guys with hairy legs, don't worry, you won't need to shave. These are hairy-guy friendly. As you'll see in the photos, my legs are hairy enough but I didn't have any issues.

- Machine wash cold with like colors
- Do not use softeners
- Remove immediately
- Do not bleach
- Line dry
- Do not iron
- Do not dry clean

The biggest secret to these is placement. Following some tweets sent by Saucony, I just happened to discover that the seams go on the inside. Fortunately these are flat seams and don't chafe, so even if you have some serious calf-whip or calf-rub or what have you, they shouldn't pose any issues. Aside from that random nugget of information, these are nice sleeves. They're just a hair tighter than expected but they don't constrict your blood flow. In fact, I think they actually work better because they're tighter. I can feel the support, especially on runs beyond 5 miles. Since these are my second pair of calf sleeves, I've already learned that they go on easier if you put them on before your socks. Not that you can't, it just seems to go easier if you do.

They also feel nice for recovery. I went for a long run, showered, and wore these the rest of the day. My calves felt like I didn't run a step (although the rest of me did). I did notice some binding at the top on my first few times wearing them. I think I was pulling them up too high and they pinched a bit between the calf and the back of the knee. After trying them again without hiking them all the way up, they felt much better. No pinching. My biggest problem with these is they don't come in ViZi-PRO orange, so you'll have to settle for black.

CEP AllSports Compression Leg Sleeves

Unlike the Saucony sleeves, CEP doesn't list any "features" on their site. So other than some fancy seams, they're pretty plain. They do have a totally different design and you can feel it when you wear them. Comparing the two is difficult because of how different they feel when you wear them. The CEP sleeves aren't as tight and feel more like a sock. This is likely because CEP appears to have moved from the medical industry to the sports industry. Not a huge leap when you consider the benefits of compression on athletes and their performance and recovery.

Not nearly as tight as the Saucony sleeves and more prone to stretching. Think of these like you would socks; stretch them out too much and they'll lose their shape until you wash them again. But they still work. I've worn them on long runs (including my premier 50k) and they do help your calves continue to fire long after they should be dead tired. They also help in recovery. After my first half-marathon, I could feel the compression easing my pain. And seeing as they are still tight against the skin, they'll keep out ticks but not aggressive and large horseflies.

There are different size charts for men and women. Because my calf is 17", I fit in the IV Men size (from 15.5" to 17.5"). The III Men's runs from 12.5" to 15" and the V Men's runs from 18" to 20".

- Machine wash, permanent press/wrinkle resistant, max. water temperature 105°F/40°C
- Do not bleach
- Tumble dry, permanent press/wrinkle resistant cycle, low heat
- Do not iron or press with heat
- Do not dryclean (their spelling, not mine)

The design makes these differ greatly from the Saucony sleeves. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. The CEP sleeves feel looser but still offer some level of compression. The unique seam pattern doesn't appear to harm you and may even help with blood flow and compression. Oddly, while they are looser than the Saucony sleeves, the bottoms are tighter, making it a bit more difficult to put them on.

Here's a little side-by-side comparison so you can see how they fit.

You can see my measurements in this gallery if you'd like. For this particular review, take note that my calves are 17 inches around at their largest point. My ankles are just under 10 inches (above the ankle bones) and the top of my calf (just below the knee) is 15 inches.

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