Stoko K1 Review: The Future of Knee Braces
Thank you to Stoko for providing me the leggings to give a “test run”—-can never resist that play on words!
From the outside, they look like just another pair of leggings, but inside it’s a network of tendon/ligament-like construction that will wrap you like a hug, a hot coffee, and maybe even a massage. Ok, maybe not ALL of those but this is definitely a reason to not judge a book by its cover.
A Canadian brand started by Zack Eberwein, who himself was plagued by injuries and saddled with a knee brace, decided to find a better way for active individuals to not be beholden to bulky support aids. Enter into the science behind Stoko leggings; compression mixed with specially designed support helps to make these a treat to run in and wear. Used to recover from injuries, common chronic pains, as well as to help protect against future injuries it’s like the Swiss Army knife of pants. To list just some of the items it helps with: moderate ligament instabilities, MCL, ACL, mild strains, sprains, etc.
While I don’t personally have recurring knee problems or previous injuries that need a little TLC, I do get the aches and pains that seem to find us, runners, even when we hide. I’ve used KT tape, patella straps, and supports so the idea of not having to put on one of those 3 different items at any given time is a welcomed thought.
Let’s get down to business and break it down!
When I unboxed the K1 Tempos I felt like an astronaut setting up for my pre-flight checklist. There are knobs, mesh paneling, and pockets and they make an impression. While they felt on the heavier side than I normally for considering I’m in South Florida the potential benefits had me intrigued. Not going to lie they were intimidating and glared at me from my front door bench for a few days before I tackled putting them on. I put them on without reading any of the directions and may have embraced my inner childhood dream of being a space explorer but those dreams were quickly dashed when I could NOT get them off. Not to everyone—-read directions first; those knobs DO help
My biggest fear: the heat factor
If you’ve never experienced humidity in FL then you truly don’t know that muggy feeling that makes you sweat upon impact. This is primarily why I shy away from any leggings for running because it gets swampy, FAST! Stoko seemed to have the foresight and address this with their approach to the mesh points throughout the garment. Getting to know the product more I was educated that the mesh paneling within the leggings is specifically designed to release air in the appropriate places given the body temperature points of the female or male body. They did in-depth body temperature testing to find where these would give more bang for their buck to keep us runners cooler. I took a big sigh of relief and picked a “cooler” day to wear them for the first time. For reference I say cool with a grain of salt—it was 70 degrees.
Fit and Comfort:
Overall, while the leggings feel thick, they aren’t as heavily layered as they seem. However, I know full well I would not be able to wear these in our summer months even at 4 am with zero sun—-but in all honesty that is a hard sell for many running clothes so it’s not a true barometer of success for me. I highly recommend sizing up when choosing the best fit unless you want a higher compression. I went with a large and if I had wanted less compression the XL would have I’m sure been sufficient. Being able to slip these on without the patella strap, KT tape and all of the other countless accessories was a time saver and a nice change of pace (again with the running puns!) I can only imagine those with previous injuries and having full braces must feel. The compression feeling took some getting used to but just as fast as I noticed it, I quickly forgot it.
One of my biggest testing curves was getting used to the longer length since I am mostly a shorts runner. I did get used to it fairly quickly and didn’t need to tug, pick or otherwise mess with any of the fit other than the knobs which are meant to be active participants.
Two knobs to rule it all:
The two knobs in the back of the pants control the cables sewn within the pants and when you turn them it heightens the tension and in essence, gives your legs a hug in all the right places. Tighten them too much? No worries, just pop the knobs out of the locked position and stretch the waistband/squat to release the tension built up. The simple construction makes it a breeze to adjust while out on the run and comes in handy the further you go. The tension I preferred at mile one needed to be a smidge tighter come mile 3—-you can flawlessly adjust the knobs like you would the volume button on your headphones. I like the ease since I don’t like stopping while I’m in a groove! As I got more fatigued within my run it was nice to be able to adjust the snugness as I called it and have that extra support—Plus it made me feel like I was an avatar in a video game powering myself up for my next rep (anything to help that mental training and speed!)
For a more technical explanation, Stoko does a great job outlining it HERE.
The price is a bit heftier than most runners may consider BUT let me ask you this: How much do you spend on shoes, clothes, and randomness? I know MANY runners spend $120+ on a single pair of leggings that are purely coverage and while these come in at $400 USD, if you are someone who suffers from chronic pain the price is often easier to justify than giving up your activity. Stoko also as a bonus; The K-Line are both registered as Class 1 Medical Devices through Health Canada and the FDA. This certification means all their products are eligible for reimbursement through Health Spending Accounts (HSAs) and Flex Benefit Plans by all Canadian insurers, as well as some carriers in the U.S. While coverage is dependent on the insurer as benefit plans vary it is a little glimmer to link into if the price is a concern.
After taking them out for a few runs I fully believe they will be in my rotation going forward. Especially as I tick up mileage towards the end of the year for my half marathons the extra support will be welcomed. Excited for brands like this to keep popping up and offering new and innovative
ways to streamline the technology for those who may not be able to get up and go otherwise!