The good folk at Stoko provided me with a pair of K1 to test and review – whilst I’m not in rehab from a knee injury the scope of use for the K1 intrigued me.
And my knees do have a habit of complaining after a long day snowboarding – and anything injury prevention is never a bad idea when you rely on your body to do what you do.
Below I’m going to take first take a look at some things about the company, how the K1 works and then fill you in on my experience with them.
When I first saw it, I was expecting just a knee brace, so when I saw the product it surprised me.
They looked more like compression tights. This was obviously something different from what I perceived a knee brace to be.
A little History behind the Company
Stoko is based in Vancouver, Canada and the success of their products is highlighted by their use by athletes in the NBA, NFL and Canada Snowboard, to name a few.
Stoko was born of the idea of creating a better knee brace to enable people in all walks of life to get back out there and pursue their athletic endeavors. The designers weren’t satisfied with the product available on the market, so decided they wanted to try to do it better.
They felt that knee braces hadn’t really developed very far over the last half a century and that it could be done better.
Stoko worked with physiotherapists, orthopaedic surgeons, engineers and other experts to develop their knee braces, which are FDA and Health Canada registered.
How the K1 Works
I’m no expert on this product, so this is from my understanding based on what I’ve read and experienced with the K1.
The “brace” or “compression pants”, whatever you want to call them, have a series of targeted cables running through them that provide support for the knee. The cables are designed to mimic the muscles and ligaments that naturally support your knee.
The K1 also uses compression to help support your knee and other areas of the legs and lower back.
The following does a better job of describing how it works:
There are control dials on the K1 that are used to tighten and loosen the cables. You loosen off the dials to get the K1 on (good luck trying to get into them with the cables tightened!) and then you tighten them to the desired amount needed.
You can adjust the two sides of the K1 separately – there are two dials. This allows you to get customized support – for example if one leg needs more support than the other. And you can tighten or loosen them as much or as little as you wanted, depending on the level of support desired.
Now, I’m not coming off any particular knee injury, so I can’t comment how they worked in that sense. But I do have “complicated” knees, that do a lot of complaining! And don’t always feel the strongest after a hard day snowboarding. So, when Stoko approached me to try the K1, I figured it couldn’t hurt.
Rather unimportant (in my opinion) but the packaging that came with the Stoko was really nice. Always feel bad when things come in a nice box and you have no use for the box and just have to recycle it – but is what it is! The K1 did come with a bag, which is handy – and helps me to keep it with my snowboarding gear arsenal along with my gloves, helmet, goggles etc.
Getting the K1 On
I was warned that these things were tight – they were not wrong. It took some maneuvering to get them on. That said, they didn’t take as long as I warned they could take. Takes a bit of effort, but didn’t actually find it took too long.
Not something you can just pull on in 5 seconds, but following the instructions it was only a couple of minutes and I’m sure the time would come down too, as you got used to how it goes on. Quite simple really. I was told to leave 5-10 minutes to get them on, but certainly didn’t take that long, in my case.
How They Feel On
They’re very tight at waist but the rest felt good. Walking down stairs I often feel my knees, particularly my left and you can feel the support they give you for something as simple as walking down the stairs. Even with the cables loosened off. With them tightened you feel that extra support.
For me, if they didn’t tighten around the waist as much at the same time as tightening the rest, that would be preferable, as I’m quite sensitive to tightness there. But I get why, to help keep everything in it’s place. And, after a while that pressure on the waist eased. Like it started to mold to my body – and by the end it was hardly noticeable and not uncomfortable.
It was noticeable again when I sat down in the car, even after releasing the cables. But not to a point of being painful.
I wore a knee brace for a while – just a simple compression sock kind of brace – and it was OK in terms of comfort, but found that it continuous slipped out of place – and when doing something like snowboarding, you can’t be constantly adjusting something. I’ve never used a rigid knee brace, like the type shown above in the “A Little History Behind the Company” section above, so I don’t know the difference in how that feels – but I imagine those stay on pretty well – but likely get in the way of either range of motion – or just being bulky.
So the Stoko felt like it was best of both worlds in terms of being discreet, comfortable but also supportive and something that stayed where you needed it to.
For those of us of the male persuasion, not the easiest to take a leak in – got to really pull it right down around the thighs. And if you’re wearing bib pants when snowboarding like I do, it makes it even more difficult. This is only a small concern though. If it’s something that’s going to improve your recovery, act as injury prevention and help secure your knee, if you’ve had an injury or chronic pain there, then it’s well worth that small inconvenience.
I think the most pleasantly surprising thing about the K1 was how the rest of my body felt after wearing them – I definitely noticed less in terms of muscle soreness in my lower back/glutes. My knees felt supported too of course, but it was the other areas that were the most surprising.
I can see myself continuing to wear the K1 for injury prevention and muscle soreness more so than anything else. But of course, if I do need something to add support at some stage after a knee injury, it’s also nice to know that I have these in my back pocket, so to speak.
I found driving up the hill in them wasn’t super pleasant, with the tightness around the waist – but that’s something I’m particularly sensitive to, so others may not have the same experience there -and once I was up the mountain riding with them, I didn’t notice any discomfort whatsoever.
And that was one of the biggest pluses I found to the K1 versus other knee braces – they get to a point where you don’t even think of them as being there. They didn’t impede my range of motion and I forgot I was wearing them after a while (when I wasn’t purposely concentrating on how they felt).
If you’re interested in the K1, you can check it out here. Note they also have the K1 Tempo and K1 Breathe – slightly different versions of the product.