Disclosure: I received a free Zensah thigh sleeve to review because I am a BibRave Pro. (Per usual, all opinions are my own–you should know by now I don’t need any help with that, I’ve got plenty of ’em!) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro here. Read and write race reviews at BibRave.com! The giveaway at the end of this post is not sponsored by Zensah.
UPDATE: I forgot to add that YOU can score 20% off Zensah products through 9/22 with code ZSBIBCHAT20!
Unlike the Zensah calf sleeves, the Zensah thigh sleeve comes as a single, not as a pair. On some level this made immediate sense to me. If you’re going to wear compression on both thighs, wouldn’t you just grab compression shorts or tights? Since runners often wear single-sided compression (just one calf) to protect a recovering injury, packing the thigh sleeve one to a pack instead of two seems logical, though I guess you could buy two and wear both.
The packaging depicts two runners, each wearing a thigh sleeve. (The calf products are featured on a similar graphic element on their packaging and on the website.) I’m not sure it’s possible for the average runner to actually run wearing the thigh sleeve. This is for two reasons. One, the top of the sleeve tends to roll down, peeling off of the thigh. Two, because it is a compression product, the top of the sleeve produces the thigh version of the “muffin top.” Since I am an average (yet tall and not waif-like) woman, I don’t have the mythical “thigh gap” (and don’t want one, as it would look unhealthy); I run wearing shorts to prevent thigh chafing, and use Body Glide when I have shorter shorts. When the sleeve top rolls down, it exposes the interior exposed elastic, which then grips onto the opposing thigh. Further, the muffin-topping action produces increased chafing. (This isn’t unique to this product–I had the same problem back when I wore a Body Media device, which has an elastic band that goes around the upper arm.)
Initially I wanted to get a picture of the thigh sleeve on my body, so you’d be able to see exactly what I mean. Given the location of the product, however, it is very hard to do so without getting some rather dicey real estate into the photo. (Also, let’s face it, none of you want to see my thigh-muffin.) Instead, I give you a photo of the sleeve, and one with the top rolling down a bit, so you can at least better picture what I mean.
If you have the very-low-body-fat-percentage type of build of a professional runner, you may not run into these issues. In fact, I think this product was designed with exactly that body type in mind. (I can’t confirm this, but it is my suspicion based on my experience of it.) I thought of this since I had an almost comical attempt to get the sleeve on and into place. I wondered if I had ordered the wrong size (double checked the chart and nope, per my thigh measurement I should have used the L/XL). If you click over to the Zensah website (link above) you can see that the models have somewhat chiseled legs (not a lot of body fat). This also means the thigh sleeve is probably not an option for heavy-set, larger-bodied runners.
That said, so far all of the reviews by customers on the website are positive, and the sleeve has performed as expected for them. As with any type of wearable, your mileage may vary based on the size and shape of your body.
If you wear tights over the top of the sleeve, you may not experience these issues. Note that I haven’t tried this–it’s been hot and humid everywhere I’ve been since I got the sleeve to test–but it seems like it should work, though I imagine reassembling yourself after using a porta potty would be difficult. I’m going to give it a shot once the weather cools a bit.
I’m planning to buy 2.5″ thick elastic–the kind I used to strap over my Irish “hard” shoes to ensure a snug fit through the arch–and add it to the top of the sleeve, under the gripping elastic. That kind of elastic yields to no man or woman or thigh. While I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, and the average runner reading this likely doesn’t have the sewing background I do, I think it will help the sleeve work better for my thight.
Another fix would be to use a quality stretch kinesio tape (like Go Tape) to secure the top of the sleeve in place after putting it on. Since taping could potentially cause a restriction, like putting a rubber band over the muscle, I would not recommend running with the sleeve taped in this way.
A bunch of other BibRave Pro team members also tried out the Zensah thigh compression sleeve. Read what they thought about it:
Overall, I think this product has promise, but in its current incarnation it doesn’t work for me without some kind of intervention (e.g. my planned elastic fix, tape, tights, etc.). On the upside, the Pro team gave some feedback to Zensah, and they seem genuinely interested in improving the product. Still, I really like the calf sleeves better, especially because I now own two pair that are the white with red and blue. So when I inevitably lose one, I’ll still have a pair!
Speaking of sleeves, I won a pair of Zensah calf sleeves at the Berkeley Adventure Run at Road Runner Sports a little while ago. Sadly, I forgot to check the size and they are size S/M (I need M/L). Since I feel like a doofus trying to exchange an item I won over a month ago, I’m going to give it away here instead.
Important notes! This giveaway is NOT sponsored by Zensah in any way. (They just happen to have made the prize.) The prize is a set of black Zensah calf sleeves in size S/M. I will mail it to the winner–be patient! I have a crazy work month ahead of me, so the trip to the post office might not happen instantly.
Also, this giveaway is linked to the #WinAllThePrizes Wednesday Giveaway Roundup. Check out the rest of the goods at Running with SD Mom and Erica Finds… to enter to win all sorts of blogger giveaways.