It was a magical time of year with all of the holidays either happening or around the corner (December 2015). What better time to gift myself the updated compression recovery system from Normatec. Having previously owned the Normatec MVP and reviewed it here along with the other systems on the market, I was very excited to get my hands on a new version called the Normatec Pulse. It’s kind of like every year or so when Apple comes out with a better iPhone and you can’t wait for it. It’s not like the other one had problems that were huge, or you likely wouldn’t get the new one, but you know they will have made it even better. One big difference here is that Normatec doesn’t release new systems every year. Let’s jump into the new system.
Normatec Pulse Features
First I will list the main features their recovery boots had and still have followed by the updated and new features.
Sequential squeeze – The system works by compressing sections of your legs up and then down to flush them out similar to a massage.
Five Overlapping Zones – Most systems have 4 separate zones, Normatec has 5 zones. And as an added bonus all of their zones overlap so that you don’t have small pockets of your legs that don’t get an even and sequential squeeze.
Pressure adjustment – There are 7 different levels of compression to meet your comfort level and compression needs.
Sizing – They have 3 different sizes of their leg attachments to get the below 5’4″ people, middle range, and the super tall folks above 6’3″. If you fall in a middle zone they will be happy to answer your call or email about getting the correct size.
Easy Connectors – The new connectors are more modern looking but a little tougher to go and undo. They are also generally a little more bulky when you connect it into the hub.
Zone Boost – When you press the Zone Boost button on the main unit it will increase pressure in the current zone. This feature has always confused me to some degree but it works. There is no specific listed amount of time or pressure increase that it applies but it does apply an increase. I’m also a little unsure of how to time it best so that you press it on the right zone.
Improved foot design – This is one of the main reasons I sold my old unit and switched to this. If you have read about these or have any experience using the previous model by Normatec then you know about the foot squeeze problem. The Normatec MVP previously squeezed your foot laterally and this was very painful for many. The work around was to either put a PVC tube in there or a sandal. Now with the Normatec Pulse the squeeze is top to bottom and feels great.
Battery Powered – I have to say I hadn’t even considered this a possibility when I saw the new release. This was also something that existed as a separate add on called the Normatec battery kit and sold for nearly $200. While the add on gave 4 hours the built in battery in the Normatec Pulse life gives 2 hours. Still, it is built in and essentially free. But if you want extra battery power there is always something like this.
Lighter control unit – Even with the additional battery and the improved screen the main unit of the Normatec Pulse is about half the overall size. This clearly shows how all technology has gotten smaller and more efficient since the original suitcase like design of the Normatec MVP.
Zone Control – I’m not sure what the official name for this feature is but you now get the ability to turn sections of the unit on and off. This was previously a feature of the Normatec MVP Pro version that retailed for around $5,000. Now you get it in the base model of the Normatec Pulse that retails for only $1,595.
Timer – Another feature from the previous Pro model only. Now you can set your session time on the control unit. This is great because often times I wouldn’t really be paying attention to the time or would fall asleep if after a hard work out. Now it stops after however long of a session you need, awesome.
Normatec Pulse Usage
When I first got the unit I was immediately pleased with the look and feel of it. I knew going in that Normatec was modernizing their design but this was a huge step up. It was almost comparable to going from the Apple Newton to the iPhone in terms of features and usability. The previous MVP system was bulky and almost like a mysterious box that you would turn on and just assume it was doing everything right based on a handful of led indicators. Now you turn it on and you have options and features that are clearly presented and labeled.
On to the actual usage – it’s a mixed bag of very impressed and a few disappointments. As I listed above in the updated features; the new Normatec Pulse packs a punch with everything it does new and better. The new and improved foot design was the first thing I noticed when I slid them on and started using them. You can tell they heard the feedback and had really put some time into this crucial element of the compression recovery boot design. It now has a pleasant squeeze that goes from top to bottom and doesn’t hurt but instead feels great.
Unfortunately the next thing I noticed was that the new design of the standard size also changed the length just a little bit. For someone like me that falls into the 5’6″/5’7″ range I am probably the worst possible height. The standard height range goes from 5’4″ to 6’3, an 11 inch range of fit. What happens if you have an inseam of about 29.5″ is that you can’t really use the 5th zone of the boots. If you try to adjust and move it around you will either have strange bunching in the lower zones or a crushing of your private parts. For me this makes them a 4 zone boot and has them end up reaching about 3″-4″ below where I would like them to squeeze. I know this isn’t the end of the world because they have the hip attachment but that is a $600 purchase and another 60-90 minute squeeze session just to get the upper quadricep area. With the Normatec MVP I was just barely skirting the edge of using all the zones. The silver lining on this is the next huge feature I noticed with the new Normatec Pulse system.
The zone control ability is a welcome feature at this price point. With my previous issue it was a simple matter of just selecting the top zone and turning it off. I have also really enjoyed this feature because sometimes I don’t want a full leg squeeze. My calves recently have been acting up so sometimes I just turn on the bottom two zones while I’m sitting at my desk for a simple squeeze while I’m working. This isn’t the ideal positioning for clearing the gunk out of your legs but it is something I previously couldn’t have done.
The final thing I really want to dig into is the session timer. If you read my previous review comparing all of the models that existed you will know that I use the boots a lot and sometimes I fall asleep. One of the ways these boots work is similar to a massage and it is very relaxing. When you add the relaxation factor in with the fact that you probably just did a hard workout it adds up to some unplanned napping with boots. I’m not sure if having the boots squeeze for over 2 hours is good or bad for you but I know it isn’t suggested anywhere. I’ve only had this experience a handful of times previously but now I never have to worry about it. The Normatec Pulse has the session time that you can adjust in 5 minute increments with the easy plus and minus buttons on the two sides of the main screen. I also just really enjoy not having to set a separate timer on my iPhone or try to look at a clock and remember when I started.
Normatec Pulse Durability
I can’t speak for how well this unit will last over the course of many years. I can speak on the knowledge that this again feels like a very sturdy main control unit and durable material on the compression recovery boots. The connectors despite feeling a little more hard to manipulate also feel more durable. The only concern for durability that you could probably have is with the new control screen. This is to be expected because it is a digital display, like all digital displays, however I gladly except this one possible break point over the 7 led system of the MVP. I did look up the warranty on the Normatec site and saw it had 2 years on the control unit and one year on the recovery boots. But the bottom line is that this is a $1,595 piece of recovery equipment and you should treat it like you would any other electronic device of this price range.
Normatec Pulse Pros and Cons
- Most of the features of a pro unit for the price of the previous entry unit
- Built in Timer
- Built in Battery
- 7 power levels
- 5 overlapping compression zones
- 29″-30″ inseams will only get to use 4 zones
- Battery life seems to die off fairly quickly when not in use
- connectors are not compatible with old attachments
Normatec Pulse Conclusion
I have loved my previous Normatec MVP and held it in high regard above the other units on the market. The Normatec Pulse continues the excellence built on the previous version and added so many improved and new features. When I think about the one issue I had with the length I realized it must have existed for people an inch or more shorter than me in the previous model. With the ability to turn off zones this unit cancels out that problem and incompatibility that people would have had before. I suppose the only way they could make the next version better is longer battery life and more sizing variations. For now, the Normatec Pulse again stands alone as the best compression recovery boot on the market.