I have what I somewhat affectionately call a persnickety knee. It has earned the right to be picky after a torn ACL in 2008 and a torn meniscus in 2014. So while I was excited to test out the Enerskin Compression Sleeves, I knew they had to pass an often grumpy and slightly arthritic critic!
Enerskin positions themselves as being slightly different than the average compression gear. All compression gear works around the idea that a tight fit helps support muscles and promote blood flow. The Enerskin sleeves also have silicone strips as well, designed to add additional support in key areas. It looks awfully similar to the concept of kinesio tape, just crossed with compression. Alternately, it sort of looks like you’re wearing just the leg portion of an X-Men uniform. Much like a futuristic comic book uniform, Enerskin uses a proprietary material called Gastex, which they say blocks UV rays, repels water, and is breathable. I definitely noticed the breathability-even when hot and sweaty overall the sleeves weren’t overheating me.
When you look at the company’s site, it’s clear they take joint health very seriously. Their blog covers common ailments like patellar tendonitis and tennis elbow, with illustrations and descriptions of helpful exercises to alleviate symptoms and strengthen joints. Of course, these exercises also include the suggestion of using Enerskin sleeves, but they aren’t offering the sleeves as a miracle cure, just a key tool in your arsenal.
That alone is a great sign; we get a lot of health pitches at GearDiary that claim a single piece of gear can cure your joints, give you six pack abs, and cure your dandruff, all in just 2 minutes. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but we’ve all seen athletic equipment that promises the world without any science to back it up. Enerskin has research behind them, plus they’re quite clear in showing that in the end it’s still up to you-an Enerskin sleeve can get you moving faster, but you need to make sure you’re keeping in shape too. In poking around on their site, I even found a link to a research report on how silicone sleeves can help with ACL surgery recoveries. If only these had existed eight years ago!
So that’s the background on Enerskin, but how does it work in practice?
The compression is excellent. It’s not painfully tight but it fits like, well, a second skin. Also, the silicone helps line the skin up on your leg, since you have a built in guide to where it should hit your kneecap. Like all compression gear, it may take a few times before you find a comfortable way to get the sleeve situated, but once I was used to it I could slip it on fairly quickly. Enerskin suggests wearing the sleeves silicone side in for exercise, and silicone side out for recovery. This allows the silicone taping to be lined up properly for workouts.
Speaking of kneecaps, the compression around the knee is really good. One weird side effect of the skins is that it makes it easier for me to kneel down on my left knee. After my ACL surgery I quickly learned it is an awful idea to put any weight on the front of that knee, but with the Enerskin on it I can kneel for a few moments without pain. Since the pain comes from a combination of missing tendon (that’s where they took pieces to make my ACL) and scar tissue, it seems like the Enerskin offers a bit more stability and pressure, which holds the sensitive parts of my knee in place better. The silicone also lines up to add a bit more padding too. Basically it means I can do lunges on hard ground and not worry I am going to accidentally touch down too hard and flinch in pain, but it is a tangible example of how the compression and silicon work together to provide support.
I have mixed feelings on the Enerskin, but I would like to stress this is very much an individual experience. I found the sleeves to offer phenomenal knee and calf support, but they were uncomfortable once they reached my thighs. The fit seems fine, certainly tight as you’d expect from compression gear but not overly tight. My issue was more with the very top, as the sleeves bunched a bit, causing the silicone strips to rub and catch my skin. It also created a sensation that the skin was going to roll down my leg at any moment, though in practice they didn’t budge even during jump squats and deep lunges. Enerskin does offer a few suggestions to alleviate this, and I did have some success with a few of them, even if the overall sensation still felt a bit weird at times. And on the positive side, I definitely felt the benefits of compression sleeves during both those exercises; my knees didn’t creak or click, and I felt a little bit bouncier and stronger.
Even with my slippage issues, Enerskin impressed me. A few days ago my knee was quite sore after being in the car too long one day (bad traffic on my commute home combined with bad weather and a hard leg workout that morning), but putting the Enerskin on helped immediately. If nothing else, the Enerskin is an excellent tool for post-workout recovery-compression has been studied as a way to keep blood flowing and support healing muscles, so whether you wear it during or after a workout, there’s potential benefits and very little downside.
Compression gear isn’t for everyone, and some people prefer it during workouts while others prefer it for recovery, but whichever you choose, take a look at Enerskin’s offerings. They are a bit pricey (the sleeves I reviewed here are $119), but the combination of support taping and compression offers the best of both worlds!
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Liked: Breathable fabric; offers both exercise and post exercise support; combines support taping with compression; offers excellent knee support.
What Needs Improvement: Had some slippage issues; expensive; hand wash only.