Regardless of how often and the severity you have or will experience it, it's a pain in the ass... or rather the foot.
Doctors and physical therapists will recommend anything from proper stretching to ART therapy to relieve the aches and pains, because as we all know, no triathlete worth their salt is going to lay off the training for things to heal up. You might have also seen the sleeping socks that pull the toes up with a strap connecting at the shin or other imaginative solutions. Any way you slice it, there are a lot of opinions on how to mitigate the effects of PF.
Why are we discussing this today you may wonder? Well, the inventors of the Hatfield Strap (http://hatfieldstrap.com/) reached out to us to test out their calf stretching product. We have had our fair share of PF issues and could certainly extend ourselves to test out their torture device. Read on for a look at our thoughts about the Hatfield Strap.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing
The box is professional and sharp in appearance, definitely not something someone put together in their garage. You open it up to find your Hatfield Strap with sewn in handles and a shoulder extension strap for any more variation when using. You will as also find some limited instructions with pictures to illustrate how to use the strap. What's also a nice side benefit is the box not being totally destroyed in the process of extracting it for use. Makes for convenient storage later.
Form / Construction / Fashion
When you examine the strap, it's made of sturdy nylon similar to what you would find for construction safety harnesses for workers in high risk areas. It's pretty obvious that's their nothing you can do with your bare hands to break the strap. The seams are hardcore stitching that could probably support the weight of a truck. Rest assured you're not going to anything under your own strength to tear this strap apart.
It's a unique design that allows adaptation for several body shapes and sizes. There might be a few body types that might not fit, but 98% of us triathletes will fit. The adjustable clips can be tightened down to hug the upper calf below the knee for a snug, but not painful fit. They thought of pretty much everything down to the soft pads built into the back of the leg straps so the plastic clasps don't cut unto your skin.
Fit / Function
At first, it's an art form and delicate dance to balance your foot on the strap and find the right position to apply pull force without your foot slipping out. You can't jam your foot in a hurry and hope it works right. That being said, once your foot is positioned correctly, then you can apply as much force as reasonably possible to get a sufficient stretch. The handles are large and provide ample grip to pull with effort and not having to worry about them slipping out of your hands.
The only notable issue we had was with the adjustable straps on the upper calf. We had to pretty much cinch them all the way to get a secure grip to pull against. Even with fully cinched straps, it would slowly slide down our leg if you didn't compensate for it by adjusting leg position or force pulling on the handles. The Hatfield Strap does come in multiple sizes, so make to make a proper selection that will ensure the best fit.
But, we still got ample force to get a good stretch on the calf, relieving some of the achy PF soreness before and after our Ironman Texas attempt and Ironman 70.3 Kansas race. We used the Hatfield strap for a couple of weeks and we noticed an immediate difference. The impact of the effectiveness came in the morning as a lot of PF sufferers will attest to that being the most painful times. After using the strap the night before, we experienced around a 50% decrease in morning heel pain and stiffness. Isn't nice to get to the potty for that morning pee without hobbling and pain? We thought so.
We did experience the same level of issues if we did not use the Hatfield strap. To put it into simple terms, if you don't use it you lose it. We found that if use is discontinued, the relief went away as well. The strap is not a cure for the root issue be it an injury, bad running form, worn out or ill fitting shoes or something else, we found. It gives you relief, but only if used on a consistent basis.
Now, would we have sought out the Hatfield strap on our own? Perhaps. We have bought several products for PF relief in the past and spent time in a PT office, so the drive to spend money in this area is there. The Hatfield comes in at $35 to $90 depending on style and accessories. In reality, that’s not all that bad for the durability and quality that you get. $77 would get you the calf strap and shoulder strap we tested out. You could pay at least that for most stretching and pain relief apparatuses anywhere.
You will be limited on options where to buy the strap as they are only sold on their website at the moment.
When the dust settles, the Hatfield Strap is worth your consideration when it comes to PF relief or getting the most out of your calf stretching. Sufferers of achilles strain would also appreciate the effectiveness of the Hatfield Strap. The price might be a bit extreme (based on your perspective) based on all of the options you want, but you could end up with a great passive stretching (using the shoulder strap) that you could use while recovering with a good book, watching tv or writing product reviews. You'll also receive comfort in knowing the strap will outlive your racing days as the quality construction is first rate.
Writer’s Note – Hatfield Strap sent us samples for this review and in no way influenced the review.