Dan Tognotti has a long history of knee problems stemming from his lifetime of playing sports. He had his ACL reconstructed at age 15, had it reconstructed a second time at age 19 and a third time at age 30. After tweaking his good knee while snowboarding in 2015, he began looking for some kind of pant that could provide more support and stability to his problematic knees, but his search came up empty. This inspired Tognotti to develop his own specialty pant and create his company, Bracelayer Apparel Ltd.
Bracelayer specializes in compression tights that provide extra support and stability to the knee, IT band, and hip. Founded in Whistler in 2015, the company’s mission is to improve athletic performance, speed up recovery and reduce pain for people who have chronic knee issues, or who are recovering from a knee injury.
Put simply, Bracelayer’s product is a compression pant with a neoprene knee sleeve built-in. This neoprene layer is sandwiched between a base layer of antibacterial lycra and a compression mesh, so the neoprene never actually touches the skin, making them comfortable to wear. Depending on the pant, the neoprene layer will be either 1.5 millimetres or 2 millimetres thick.
Originally, the pants were intended to be worn underneath custom rigid knee braces to help keep the brace in place and prevent it from migrating down the leg, while also providing targeted compression and protection to the other knee. Through customer feedback, Tognotti quickly realized that it wasn’t just people with knee braces who were enjoying the product, and in fact, a majority of their users were people who didn’t even have knee injuries. They were simply athletes of a variety of disciplines who enjoyed the extra support and stability that the Bracelayer pants provided.
“Studies have shown that knee sleeves and compression help to increase proprioception, increase your sense of stability and balance and lowers your risk of injury as muscle fatigue sets in,” says Tognotti.
Proprioception is your ability to perceive the movement, location and action of parts of your body without looking directly at them. It’s what allows you to walk without having to look at your feet, reach for a door handle without having to look at your hand and touch your nose with your eyes closed. Compression pants increase blood flow and improve circulation and knee sleeves provide extra compression to help support the knee joint. Combining compression pants with knee sleeves integrates the benefits of both pieces (while holding the knee sleeve in place). Even athletes who aren’t injured can reap these rewards, which include improved proprioception and movement awareness to prevent muscle fatigue.
Currently, Bracelayer offers a variety of product types, including a full-length and a 3/4 length tight and a full-length and 3/4 length thermal tight. The thermal tights are a newer addition to the product line, and are the preferred choice for athletes during the winter who want to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, snowboarding and skating, as well as indoor sports like hockey. These tights have a fleece-lined interior that does a great job at keeping you warmer on their own, and also make a great base layer in the extremely cold weather.
Bracelayer has repeat customers from around the world, including professional baseball and hockey players and former and current Olympians. They are also now partnering with several organizations, including the U.S. National Ski Patrol, the Canadian Ski Instructors Association and the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Basically, if you are an outdoor winter adventurer, these tights are for you.
“We’re a unique product,” says Tognotti. “The common theme we hear from people who wear the tights is that they feel stronger and are able to stay active longer. We have a lot of people who’ve said they used to ski half-days and now they’re stretching out full days wearing these pants — they’re awesome.”
So whether you struggle with knee problems, or you’re just looking for more support while you’re out skiing, hiking and climbing, Bracelayer will allow you to get in a few extra runs or stay out a few extra hours to continue doing what you love. For more information or to order a pair for yourself, check out the Bracelayer website.