Monday, April 2, 2012

@BRDSPORTS achilles brace review

If you have been training and participating in triathlons for any length of time, you undoubtedly have had injuries or been hurt.

IT bands, tendinitis, strained ligaments, pulled muscles and repetitive motion injuries are all a part of the triathlon game.  That’s not even including what can happen in crashes.  That’s just training and racing.

Personally, I’ve always had my issues.  A pulled hamstring plagued me for 2 months one year.  I pulled groin muscle plagued me for the better part of a year.  And, the most lingering problem is an achy achilles tendons.  I stretch, I do strength work and I see a massage therapist for it, but throughout the year I can have flare-ups here and there.

In the past, I’ve just grinned and bared it.  Maybe I’d make an extra massage appointment to get it worked on or RICE it.  (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).  Lets get real, though.  Massage therapy is not cheap.  Most of us cannot afford to put up our feet all day.  Ice isn’t always accessible and you can’t wear  an ice pack on your body all day.  And rest, what’s that?

That’s where the product review of the day comes in.

BRD Sports braces contacted me for a review of their braces.  Lucky for me they had the exact brace for my achilles condition.  The Achilles Ankle Brace was a prefect product to review for my condition.

From my time in the brace, here’s what I know:

Size matters : If you don’t size it right, it won’t work right.  I had to go back and forth a few times to get the right size.  After a few conversations, the best fit is the fit where you don’t exactly feel pressure and where you don’t have the fabric impression on your skin after wearing it.  You want to be able to wear it long term without causing blood flow restrictions.  It felt a little odd to not have it putting significant pressure from other braces, but the point is the gel pads that place comfortable pressure on the achilles without causing issues.  When sizing, measure carefully and if you end up in a mid-range zone, go smaller.

Durability : The brace is made from a three dimensional knit that creates anatomically contoured support.  That knit is unique in that it’s not like neoprene with no give.  It flexes and still does the job without the unforgiving nature of neoprene.  I’ve worn it working out, running, sitting around the house and to work.  If I feel a flare up, I start wearing it.  I do not wear it for every workout, just when I feel the tinge coming on.  Through more than 3 months of use, stuffing in a gym bag and throwing it around the house, there are no frays and no tears.  It’s been washed and is still as sturdy as day one out of the bag.

Low profile : You can wear it with running and dress shoes and you don’t know it’s there.  It’s slim and snug and does not fall down.  You don’t have to keep reaching down and pulling it up.  It can go on the outside or inside of socks and has a low profile so no one will notice.  If you hate questions about why you are wearing a brace and being gimpy, you can be covert with the BRD brace.  Plus, it fits in your shoes without loosening the laces all the way and feeling like your wearing 6 socks on your foot.  Plus, the color is black, so it’s not going to stand out and everything goes with black, right ladies?

Function : When you have it on, it does not restrict movement like a traditional support brace.  It does no cause cramping due to fit and constriction.  You can run, walk and do anything you normally would without walking around like Frankenstein all stiff and rigid when you can’t bend at the joint.

Benefit : Throughout the trial, I wore it when I felt any tinge of a Achilles flare up.  Sometimes I was at work and didn’t have it immediately accessible, but I tried to diligently carry it in my gym bag to have at all times.  I used for post workout if I felt it needed.  In the past, I would have 2 to 3 flare ups a month that would last anywhere from a day to 3 days.  Using the brace, I’ve had a tinge that it immediately cured after wearing for a few hours.  I’ve been in a full fledged flare up and used the brace for a day.  While at full flare up, the brace alleviated a significant amount of discomfort and generally shortened the duration of pain.  I could usually wear the brace for a day and be fine to take it off the next day.  It’s not just a placebo.

Cost : At $59.99 for the Achilles brace, it’s not cheap.  But, like I say, you get what you pay for.  This brace should last a long time.  It’s spent a significant amount of time stuffed in my gym back and it’s never lost it’s shape or elasticity.  After 3 months it looks just as good as day one.  You can get braces from $60 to $5 at the store.  You get what you pay for and not every brace is going to address your issue.  A lot of braces are designed to stabilize and immobilize your joints while BRD’s aim is to keep you moving and get you back on the course.  If you are looking for something that moves with you and allows you to get back to training without restrictions, BRD could be a better choice.

When you boil it down, you have a lot of choices out there.  You can go out and buy “Joe Blow” brace for some added support to get you through some rough times with a minor or temporary joint issue, but it may not lend itself to keeping you training.  BRD braces do not cause hot spots, the do not restrict blood flow (as long as you get sized correctly) and keeps you moving.  It’s great for mid-injury and recovery or preventative care after a tough workout.  I know I love the support of throwing on a compression brace post run while recovery at home.  I forget it’s even on and it’s adding compression and Achilles support when I need it the most.

Take a look at BRD sports and if you see something you like, use code “BLOGSAVE10” to take 10% off for this week only!

* Writer’s note, BRD supplied a brace free of charge for this review.  They in no way influenced the writer for a positive or negative review.

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