Keeping up with the latest fashions just hasn’t been a priority in my life. To put it another way, if there was a store that sold all stuff that I’ve previously bought I’d sign up to their subscription payment plan. I’m just simple that way, I like the stuff I have, and want more of the same.

So with my recent calf injury, (see Back in Grade 1)  I figured I could use the opportunity to brush up on my fashion image with a slick looking sports accessory. These days most pro athletes are wearing some sort of protective equipment or accessory. A knee pad, an arm sleeve of even some sort of body armor. In the NBA this trend is epitomized by the leagues likely MVP, Derrick Rose. After his last game which included a few of his now trademark high flying collisions Rose eloquently said “Just my will, my heart won’t let me stop.” A nice quote but perhaps he should give a little credit to the protective kit that keeps him safe in his bold flights through the paint for “And One With Board” (a foul while making the basket while using the backboard for the shot).

But back the the calf sprain. It’s smart to be extra careful when coming back from a calf sprain as it’s easily re-injured. To find the source of the problem you’ll need to look for changes in your body mechanics. You body is a finely balanced machine so connected areas like the Achilles Tendon are often the root cause of a calf sprain. Your local physio therapist will most likely suggest some “core strength” exercises and certainly a bunch of extra warm up AND warm down stretches. Do them! This and the healing power of a calf sleeve will get through this injury in style.

Calf sleeves help you in two ways, one they keep the area warm and cozy and two, they help with the blood circulation in the area. In every one of our cases the tester reported that they felt the sleeve helped in their recovery. Some experts go even further with claims that calf sleeves and compression clothing can actually improve performance. Adidas claim performance improvements in real terms, touting an improvement of “One and half steps” for their line of compression gear. In a scientific study published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, middle-aged male runners ran on the treadmill while wearing compression clothing. The German researchers who conducted the study found that runners could run longer and had significantly better performance during both sprints (anaerobic exercise) and longer distance runs (aerobic exercise) when they wore the stockings. The lead researcher now sells a line of compression gear aimed at runners.

Regardless of any supposed performance enhancing properties, all our testers did report back that they healed quicker with the help of a calf sleeve. I don’t know if it was psychological or physical, so it’s most likely a little of both, but a calf sleeve helps to ease recovery and gets you back on the court faster. We tested three calf sleeves and these are the results.

ProTec
This slick looking calf sleeve is made from a high quality 3mm think neoprene. It’s a closed tube design so it put on like a sock. The elasticity of the sleeve then holds the sleeve in place. This can be a problem over long term use as the sleeve then gets stretched out over time (two months) and starts drift down the calf. The sleeve comes in four different sizes and can be worn on either leg.
Adidas
This sock design sleeve is made from a 75% polyester/25% spandex material and features something Adidas calls “TechFit” technology. The idea is bands of support and compression within the sleeve are applied. Many first impressions were that the sleeve was a bit cheap. It is very thin and it does feels like it could tear or rip easily at the seams. It did breath better than the other sleeves, but it also stuck to us when we tried to remove it. This sleeve comes in three different sizes and in two color combinations white and black.
NEO G
This sleeve is fastened with three Velcro straps and made from a thick 4mm neoprene. The wrap around design importantly allows the pressure applied by the sleeve to be customized to the situation and the user. With three straps the pressure can be easily adjusted over the brace and even removed after warmup. The NEO G sleeve gets the top marks for effectiveness and ease of use two important characteristics for a new piece of sports equipment. The sleeve is build of a high quality material and can be washed.

 

Here’s the results of our tests.

Cost Comfort Ease of Use Looks Quality Effectiveness Overall
Pro-Tec €15 7 7 8 7 7 36/50
Adidas €18 6 7 7 6 7 33/50
NEO G €22 8 8 6 6 8 36/50
* Combined result of ten testers

Results

So it came out to a draw, not very conclusive result with only three competitors. Over the last year my calf injury threatened to return and I reached into my bag of equipment for some support. I choose the Pro-Tec Calf sleeve, and continue to use it. It’s got style, looks and it does an excellent job of keeping the area warm. The NEO G is a serious piece of equipment but the tie goes to the equipment that you use and feel comfortable wearing, and that’s the Pro-Tec Calf Sleeve.

Pro-Tec Calf Sleeve

Buy ProTec