Running products are constantly evolving. Running shoes are now fitted with custom carbon plates, cotton T-shirts are a thing of the past, since replaced with high-tech moisture-wicking technical fabrics. One item that has not evolved is the knee brace–it’s still a bulky, heavy mixture of plastic and metal that is designed to be stiff. It does the job of stabilizing the knee, but really that’s about it; you wouldn’t call it comfortable, or high-tech. The Vancouver-based company Stoko realized this and pushed to design a new technology that forms to your body, provides unbelievable support throughout the entire leg, and, most of all, is comfortable to wear while exercising.
Stoko K1 Tempo
Recently, Stoko released an updated version of the already popular K1 supportive tight. The K1 Tempo is designed specifically to provide lower body support for running, training and everyday use. The K1 Tempo supportive tight is designed for athletes looking to add all the support of a traditional knee brace in a modern and far less bulky tight. For athletes with knee issues, you know the idea of bringing/wearing your bulky knee brace is a pain. We hear all the time that people forgo the extra support when going for runs, hikes and backcountry trips due to the size and inconvenience of the traditional brace, and would rather risk further injury, which is not an ideal scenario.
The Stoko K1-Tempo solves this by providing a medical-grade brace built into a stylish and high-performance running tight. The K1 Tempo comes in 3/4 length and includes the proprietary Embrace System, pockets designed to securely and easily carry your phone and keys, ventilation for those hot runs/training days and multiple colour options.
For those without existing or previous knee injuries, the K1 Tempo tights also offer a multitude of benefits that help runners perform their best. Going beyond just knee support, Stoko has repeatedly received feedback from athletes reporting that the K-Line products also improve lower back and hip pain, and decrease in patellofemoral pain. Additionally, targeted compression zones throughout the tights help minimize delayed onset muscle soreness, allowing all runners to benefit from faster recovery times between runs. Lastly, the K1s can help support imbalances in a runner’s stride while allowing them to maintain their full range of movement.
The Stoko Embrace System
The Stoko Embrace System is designed to provide natural-feeling joint support through specifically placed polyester fibre cabling (which is five times stronger than steel by weight) that moves with your body during exercise, providing 360-degree knee support. The cables are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the tights from the waist to the calf. The tightness of the cables is controlled by two control dials located on the back of the tights. These dials let you adjust the tightness of the cables, to give you full control over the degree of support, depending on your activity and comfort.
We have previously reviewed the original Stoko K1 product (The Canadian-made running tights that double as a medical-grade knee brace) and we’re big fans. We were excited when Stoko went back to the drawing board and figured out how to create a specific running-based tight. On a first look at the K1 Tempo, you can see the tights are high-tech. The fabric is high-end, looks quite breathable and has a feel similar to that of a traditional compression tight.
As with the original K1, it takes you a few tries putting them on at first, to find the perfect cable alignment for your body. Once aligned, you will immediately notice a firm but flexible and supportive feeling that cradles the pelvis, extending across the thighs and encircling the lower legs. One noticeable sensation is the snug support across the posterior and anterior pelvis; this was comfortable and helped to cue engagement and alignment of my pelvis during running and leg-strengthening workouts.
We decided to test the K1 Tempos in a few different technical scenarios while trail running and during weighted exercises to really get a feel for what the tights can do. For weighted squats and lunges, we found you could tighten the cabling quite taut using the control dials, creating strong support above and below the knee. The tights were comfortable, flexible and gave me confidence with weighted, single-leg strengthening exercises and side-to-side lunges–something that, in the past, has been quite difficult without a full knee brace. For trail running, I felt it best to loosen the control slightly from that used during strength training. The tights and cabling still provided a great sensation of stability across pelvis and knees. The support around my knee was truly noticeable, especially with the leg in full extension, running downhill.
Although the tights are made of a durable fabric, the knitted ventilation allows for high breathability and comfort in the heat. The 3/4 length is perfect for running on both trails and road, as well as for indoor weight training. The added convenience of properly-sized pockets is a nice addition, as running with your phone has become so common. I found the phone pocket to be particularly stable, which is nice, as rocking/bouncing of pocket items can be quite annoying during training. The tights are machine-washable in the included mesh bag and keep their shape and functionality after multiple washes.
Overall, the K1 Tempo is a great option for people with knee vulnerabilities or previous injuries that require some support. The tights are much more comfortable than the traditional rigid brace, which I often forgo on hiking trips or in the backcountry, and which I do not usually bother with for weight training or running. The classification as a medical-grade device, with the potential for health benefit coverage, is a big bonus, but the regular price point is accessible. Highly recommended for those with knee complaints or those looking to prevent tweaking of old injuries.
From Stoko’s brand director (and sub-4 minute miler!) Derek Scott
The Stoko K1 Tempo is the future of athletic apparel. Unlike anything in the market, this high performance tight mimics the body’s ligaments to provide medical grade joint support. We know personal bests are not made on race day, but the 3-4 months leading up to it and support is crucial in this time. The demands runners place on their body are high and lower body support and alignment are a must. Not only does the K1 Tempo support the lower body, it provides targeted compression for faster exercise recovery and medical grade bracing for anyone suffering with bad knees or coming back from injury. Worn by professional athletes in a range of sports, expect to see the K1 Tempo covering the roads in future marathons.
How to purchase
The Stoko K1s are available for purchase at www.stoko.com and are reimbursable through health spending accounts or flex plans by all Canadian insurers. Stoko offers a 30-day risk-free trial, meaning that if the K1s aren’t right for you, they’ll refund you and take them back with no questions asked. Learn more about Stoko’s ‘Get Stoked Guarantee’ here.