Many athletes who have knee instability from injuries sustained in other sports, such as skiing or hockey, rely on a knee brace for running. But traditional knee braces are often bulky and uncomfortable, only support one leg, cannot easily be washed and have not really been updated in the last 50 years. The Vancouver-based company Stoko has set out and created a pair of running tights that perform all the functions of a traditional knee brace without the bulk. We put the women’s K1 Breathe tights to the test.
What is Stoko?
Stoko’s products feature the unique and patented Embrace System™, which wraps your legs with more than 30 metres of lightweight support cables that are directly integrated into a compression tight. The cabling is positioned to move with you naturally, supporting your knee (or knees) when and where you need it most. The tension is fully adjustable with two control dials in the waistband. You get all of the support of a traditional knee brace in a comfortable pair of tights.
The K1 Breathe is designed to move with you and to provide support thanks to the placement of the cables in a way that mimics the support from your muscles and ligaments. When your knee goes into a compromised position, the cables pull tight, helping to restore natural alignment.
The Stoko K1 tights also offer moderate levels of graduated compression, with dynamic benefits and support to particular areas such as your knees, quads, and calves during exercise. Compression is known to enhance proprioception (your ability to sense when your foot is about to touch the ground) and to increase blood flow, which gives a feeling of confidence, in-turn leading to better performance.
Throughout my running career, I’ve had knee pain on and off when increasing mileage too quickly or when generally training for a marathon. While I’ve never received professional treatment for the injuries/soreness, I have used patella knee straps, and have done exercises recommended by fellow runners to get rid of the pain, to no avail. When the opportunity to test out the K1 tights came up during our Canadian Running gear meetings, I jumped on the opportunity to try them and see for myself. Maybe this is the product I need during the key buildup phase of marathon training.
Putting on the Stoko K1 Breathe tights feels a bit like putting on a superhero suit, and gets easier with practice. Once on, the boa-like control dials on the rear of the tights control the cable tightness throughout both the left and right legs. With repeated wearings, the tights conform to your body and become increasingly more comfortable.
The first time I tested the tights on a run, they felt tight, but I learned how to adjust the tension on the fly (and between individual legs, with more tension on one leg than the other, if you like).
After running in the K1s a few times I could feel a difference in the support around my knee versus running without. My knee felt wrapped and stabilized from the first step out the door to the last. Having only tried the K1s a few times prior to the time of writing, and having not sustained a previous serious knee injury, I can’t for sure say that they would eliminate my knee pain. However, I do feel that the K1s would help me during my next marathon build up to get ahead of any possible injuries.
Overall I found the Stoko tights were best for long, easy runs and kept my entire lower body aligned and in sync. The added stability around the knees and through the legs almost forces your body into a more fluid and efficient lower body running form. The K1 would be great for spring, fall and winter, while the K1 Breathe would be preferable for early-morning summer runs, when the temperature is cooler. I am looking forward to testing out the Stoko K1s on some more uneven terrain during my next trail running session. The only drawback I could find was the lack of pockets/storage for phone and keys—an improvement I imagine we will be seeing on future models.
Stoko is for people who want to protect their knees, promote recovery or help protect against injury, and specifically to provide support for ligament instability. The Stoko K1s are available for purchase at www.stokodesign.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.
Want to win a free pair of Stoko K1 knee support tights? Canadian Running and Stoko are hosting a contest until September 17th, 2022. To enter visit the contest page here: Stoko | Canadian Running – K1 Contest