Product Review: Zensah Ultimate Compression Sleeves

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Zensah Ultra Compression Sleeves to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When I first entered the run-blog world, I read a LOT about compression gear and its supposed magical powers. But the price tag for most socks/sleeves was way more than I was willing to pay to try something that may or may not work. I ran my first two half marathons, several 5ks, and plenty of long runs without the assistance of any compression for before, during, or after runs. But I’ll admit, I remained curious, especially when reading information like this from the Zensah website:

Graduated compression features the greatest amount of compression in the part of the garment farthest away from the heart and the least amount compression in the part closest to the heart (for socks, this would be the greatest amount in the ankle and the least in the calf). The graduated compression decreases the cross sectional area of the veins and a pressure gradient is created, which leads to improved venous return and many other physiological benefits.

The many benefits of compression include:
  • Enhanced blood circulation as a result of improved venous return.
    The deoxygenated blood goes back to the heart faster, which in turn helps to improve blood flow of oxygen rich blood back to the body.
  • Faster recovery following strenuous exercise and improved performance by aiding in the removal of blood lactate.
    Reducing blood lactate concentration during maximal exercise bouts, allows for an increased lactic threshold. Studies have shown that athletes with a high lactate threshold perform better.
  • Enhanced warm-up via increases in skin temperature.
  • Reduced muscle oscillation/vibration upon ground contact, providing stability to the muscle help prevent microtrauma to the muscles, making for a faster and easier recovery.
  • Reduced effects of delayed onset muscle soreness in the days following strenuous exercise through alleviating swelling and inflammation.
  • Increased muscle support, which increases performance through improved muscle efficiency.
  • Improved leg power and vertical jump through enhanced proprioception.

When another brand had a big holiday sale, I got a few pairs to try. They were cute and comfy, but I can’t say that I noticed any real benefit to my running or recovery. I just liked the way they felt. Then I started rehearsals for Legally Blonde. As you may or may not know, I’m in the big “Whipped Into Shape” jump rope dance number. After the first few rehearsals for that number, my shins were in constant pain. My knees started bothering me. So of course, I started to freak out. Somehow, I got the brilliant idea to wear some compression socks to rehearsal one day, and it was like, “Oh, hey, check it out, my shins don’t feel like they’re about to crack. That’s cool.”

Photo Mar 05, 6 33 41 PMThen, I got the Zensah Ultra Compression sleeves in the mail, and they really kicked things up a notch. These sleeves offer maximum compression and support, which means that I can jump around like a crazy lady after a 3 mile run and not be limping and in pain. These sleeves are WAY more supportive than the other brand I was wearing, and they’re the first thing I pack in my rehearsal bag every day. I’ve been recommending them to my fellow jumpers as a way to help alleviate shin pain during rehearsals.

I’ve also worn my Zensah sleeves during and after a few runs, and while I like them a lot, I can’t say for sure that they improve my performance. The extra support just feels really nice. They’re also great for travel–they kept my legs comfy and fresh during a 6 hour car ride, and they’d be great for air travel as well.

Pros:

  • Very high level of support
  • Nice color options
  • Competitive price point

Cons:

  • The “ultimate” compression means they’re a bit difficult to get on and off; I have to sit down on my butt and tug them pretty hard
  • Sizing wasn’t quite right for me. I ordered the medium sleeves going by my height and calf circumference, but I felt like the sleeves weren’t quite long enough–they ended up digging into my ankles and calves a bit more than was comfortable, which seems counter-productive in a product that’s intended to increase circulation. I’d be willing to try a size large and see if that was better, but I’d worry that I’d lose that “ultra” level of compression by sizing up

Overall, I’m really happy to have received the Zensah Ultra Compression Sleeves, even if solely for the amazing support they offer my shins during Legally Blonde rehearsals. Without the Ultra Sleeves, I would be in constant pain, and my running would likely suffer.

Want to try Zensah products for yourself? Use code ZENBIBCHAT20 for 20% off your order!

Connect with Zensah:

  • Twitter:  @Zensah
  • Instagram:  @Zensah
  • Website:  zensah.com
  • Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/zensahsports

Do you use compression gear for running and recovery?

What’s your favorite brand of compression gear?

Socks or sleeves?

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13 thoughts on “Product Review: Zensah Ultimate Compression Sleeves

  1. dgobs says:

    Nice review! I’ve seen Zensah products before and have been curious to try them out, but the price tag has prevented me from doing so thus far. I’ve tried Adidas compression leg sleeves and Pro Compression leg sleeves and knee socks. I’m like you, I haven’t noticed any different in my performance when I’ve worn them running, but I do like the way they feel… especially after a run! I prefer the PC products to the Adidas, and right now there’s a super cute pair of Shamrock socks on sale at PC that I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t need 🙂 For me, I feel more of a difference in my legs when I wear the socks compared to the sleeves.

    • DarlinRae says:

      I have a hard time getting the socks on, and I’m also wickedly blister prone, and not sure I want to try running in them only to get massive blisters and/or bleed all over my very expensive socks. The sleeves allow me to wear my tried and true socks. Or flip flops. Or warm woolly socks. And yeah, I saw those shamrock socks and it’s taking all of my self-control not to buy them!

  2. SuzLyfe says:

    Zensah was the first compression company I ever tried! I ran my first half in them, actually. They just weren’t tight enough for me, but I love the fabric. I race in sleeves (and for longer distances if I am doing that at the moment), I recover in socks and if I am doing a short run and want compression, socks then.
    Also sleeves if I’m wearing flip flops lol

    • DarlinRae says:

      I really love the flexibility of the sleeves. I can wear my nice warm socks with them and not have a sweaty dual layer thing going on. And also yes, flip flops in the summer 😀

  3. Fallon @ Slacker Runner says:

    I love compression socks. I’ve worn sleeves with heels under my slacks to work. People find it funny when they see I am rocking a bright orange calf sleeve under my slacks. I’ve never tried Zensah but they sound like a great option. I’ve noticed that I have to size up in the calf sleeves. I order from PC and my socks are all sm/m but I couldn’t even get that sleeve past my ankle so now I order a lg/xl and they work much better.

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