Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Compressport Quad Guard Review

Having already worn, reviewed and enjoying the calf guards I was keen to try the quad guards. This eagerness was compelled by my quads "blowing up" at the North Downs Way 100. Following on from this my quads were in bits for several days. The only part of my legs that were not in bits were my calfs. This made me question the impact of the compression wear. In this particular case I had been wearing the compressport calf guards that I have previously reviewed on my blog.

So with the view being to put the quad guards on my Christmas list I was thrilled when Mark Barnes of HPF Consultants offered me a pair to review. With Mark sharing the same attitude as me of honest and unbiased reviews it was a great opportunity to test out quad compression, or more specifically compressports quad guards.

It seems over the last 12-24months compression wear has exploded on to the scene with every company finding their way to generate a product with compression involved. To my knowledge the jury is still out on any actual scientific evidence to validate the benefit of compression. I will be the first to admit though that whether a physical gain or a placebo effect I don't really mind as long as my legs are not blowing up and in bits before the end of an ultra.

As always this review is constructed from my opinions. I try to discuss issues that will universally apply to everybody, but remember what works for me may not work for you.

Initially I was not sure about my running experience in them. I believe some of this may be down to my over awareness of having compression on my quads. As time has progressed I have become less conscious of the sensation of the compression. In turn my enjoyment of running in these quad guards seems to amplify with every run, however there are some flaws in the product. Whether these are flaws with me or the product I invite you to draw your own conclusions from this review.

Initial Impressions
The product looks well made. They come in varying colours mine are black and pretty unremarkable beyond this to comment.

The quad guards feel nice to the touch and appear very well made. There are no notable seams and so it appears as if there should be no comfort issues in this respect.

The quad guards follow exactly the same principle as the calf guards in the sense that the cuffs of the top and bottom are there to keep the garment in place but offer no compression. The compression also becomes less restrictive towards the bottom of the garment. On the quad guards the top cuffs have what looks like small grey dots on the inside. These I assume provide grip and aim to stop the garment slipping. Assuming this is the case they achieve the job relatively well.

The garment is sold in varying sizes and there is clear guidance on how to identify the correct size for you. I can't stress enough how imperative it is that you get the correct size. Having originally been sent a size down I can confirm that there is a significant difference between the size groups. For me a T1 was never going on, no matter how much body glide is available, but the T2 fits brilliantly. Mine provide a lot of compression but that i attribute to being because I am on the borderline between a T2 & T3.

This fit appears to be good. The product takes a little manipulation to get into the right area. Once in place the garment appears comfortable if unremarkable. It's important though to remember the garment is not a custom fit to each customer & thus everyone's experience of comfort will vary slightly.

Overall my initial impressions were good and my hopes remained high for the product.

Running Experience

Having had the positive
Experience of the calf guards from compressport my expectations were high. The first few wears of the quad guards left me wondering if i was going to be placing them away in a dark cupboard (please note I have yet to decide what makes a dark cupboard stand out from any other cupboard) or on eBay for someone else to try.

My main concern was that I could not seem to get the quad guards to sit on my legs comfortably. This meant whilst running I was very aware that I had the product on. I felt the awareness more so perhaps than the garment was effecting the quality of my run.

With a mind set to ensure I had exhausted all efforts I put on the quad guards pulling them up a little further than i thought seemed appropriate. The difference in my experience became like night and day. The fit was a lot better and I didn't find myself feeling the need to stop and adjust them whilst running. Given undertaking such an act is frowned upon, in several locations, I was most relieved.

I have run with these on in various settings and under various conditions. They are a comfortable fit and not restrictive to the natural running movement in any way. During long runs I have definitely noticed less fatigue in my legs and I have been able to go faster for longer. Some of this invariably will be down to fitness gains, but the level of increased support experienced by my quads was most certainly noticeable.

My main grumble whilst running in these was a sense of increased friction between my inner thighs. It never resulted in any sores, but I was conscious of the potential and applied an extra dose of lanacane to the area. It appears that the compression can cause
The top of the thigh to slightly, for want of a better term, bulge out. In this instance a part of the thighs that would never normaly come into contact can potentially rub together. Of course this could be a way of my body saying I need to trim my legs down a bit. This likely won't be an issue even registered by slimmer runners, but for the average joe it's some thing to be conscious off. I couldnt say if the issue would escalate further the heavier you are, but this is a real possibility. As already mentioned this apparent sense of friction did not lead to any chafing.

Once accustomed to the quad compression I can honestly say they have been a pleasure to run in. Not only do they provide quality compression they provide a convenient additional layer on those cold and icy mornings. A combination of these and the calf guards means its only my knees that get cold.

I'm not sure to what extent the quad guards have played a role but recently my perceived effort has greatly diminished whilst running. This is likely to be due to increased fitness but I'm confident that the quad guards have contributed. The best way that I can describe the feeling of the calf guards is my legs feel firmer and more stable. My gut reaction is that my legs feel like they are vibrating less. When running to feel and leaving watch in my pocket I smashed my half marathon pb by 20min down to 2hr2min At the end of the run my legs felt fresh and ready to go again.

The compression is still slightly awkward during sprint intervals. At this point I notice an element of restriction in my movement. I am then also aware of the cuffs of the guards rubbing on my thigh. With that said over long distances I absolutely love them. The slower pace does not bring about the same challenges as sprint intervals.

After a hard run the quad guards are not finished. I have noticed a positive experience from wearing them for an extended period afterwards. This has left my legs feeling fresher the following day than I could anticipate if not wearing them. Hopefully this will play out to be the case during my ultra marathons. I will provide an updated review then.

Overall the running experience is very good. Would I wear these for every run? No! I would not wear them every time I lace up my Hoka's. For every tough long run they will be one of the first pieces of kit in my bag, shorter less challenging runs or fast paced intervals will see the quad guards left at home. This is not so much a criticism , but more indicative of where I see the niche for compression garments.

It is my perception that compression wear is designed to reduce fatigue and increase recovery rate. The general purpose is therefore to make running easier. Perfect for race day, but in training I believe it to be important to exhaust muscles and make them work hard. This action in its own right assists in making future running easier. I do not sit here with any scientific proof but it is my opinion that wearing compression guards on short intense workouts may limit the benefits to be gained from these workouts. For long runs though recovery time appears reduced and so I can be back on my feet quicker. It also makes running back to back long runs more feasible and sustainable.

In general my running experience has been very positive.

Maintenance and Durability

The quad guards get used a lot and the nature of their use means they take quite a bit of a battering. I have taken to hand washing the product after each run. The beauty of the product is it dries super quick.

My quad guards have been worn a lot and they continue to feel like they did when they were brand new. There is no sign of wear and they continue to perform as well as the first day I took them out of the box.

Value for money

This is a really difficult question to answer and one that does not result in a straight forward yes or no. There can be no denying the product is expensive and so where it provides value for one it may just be a huge chunk of cash down the drain for someone else.

At over £50 this is not an item for anyone to buy without considering their personal needs. My view would be that if you are only interested in doing runs of an hour or less then the benefit of the product may not be worth the outlay and the money better invested in shoes and clothing. If you enjoy running on rugged terrain for extended periods of over an hour then this product could well be a perfect investment.

Training for ultras makes long back to back runs an important aspect of any training programme. To this end the reduction of Stress in the legs and the increased recovery rate could well see the quad guards
As excellent value for money.

Overall for me I would rate them as a sound investment and value for money. If you are running the trails and undertaking distances over 15miles I reckon you would get value for money. For others perhaps a useful but far from essential investment and maybe one better listed for a Christmas or birthday gift.

Conclusions

The product is not without faults. I have mentioned the issue of the top of the quad guards. They require a reasonable amount of manipulation to get into place. There is then the issue of friction between the thighs. With that said this could be my body telling me I need to get slimmer legs. Equally there has been no noted chafing.

I would suggest that for short distances the quad guards do not serve to provide significant benefits, but over long distances they are a fantastic addition to anyone's running cupboard and will assist to negate the effects of back to back long runs.

The price for me is value for money, but make sure you get the right size and use them in the right elements of a training plan. My experience is this only applies for long runs. If you want to run regularly and far then this becomes a sound Investment.

The best endorsement I can give is that one pair is robust enough to be used repeatedly, but when the time comes to replace them I will gladly do so. If I was not using them regularly then I'd probably query value and suggest that I should have put them on a birthday or Christmas list. Depending on your circumstances they are either a great investment or a novel piece of kit better left to ask someone to buy for you as a gift.

Happy Running!

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