Zamst RK-1 Review
Active Gear Review is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Most endeavors that promise gains also entail risk. In athletics, physical gains from training come with the prospect of injury, the most insidious of which are harms from overuse.
Painful and often debilitating, overuse injuries are serious. But they’re rarely crippling enough to sideline committed athletes. Instead, the pain becomes part of the background of training. It grows more troublesome over time, but for months or years it’s never quite bad enough to put a stop to more overuse. This is the real danger of overuse injuries: they’re easy to dismiss until they result in significant long-term harm that can’t be quickly undone.
The only real cure for overuse injury is cruelly ironic. Healing requires diligent rest. In fact, it’s the very athletes most likely to suffer from “runner’s knee” and iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) who are least likely to fully recover.
I’m one of those stubborn fools. Fifteen years of daily training since a couple of surgical knee reconstructions has been a prescription for significant – but not sidelining – pain. I fit the description of a sufferer of runner’s knee and IT band syndrome dead on. Taking stairs and hills can summon blinding stabs behind my patella. Those sunbursts of pain were once meager annoyances. I also experience persistent tightness along the outside of my knee where the IT band resides. That hasn’t always been the case; I used to notice the tightness infrequently. These are classic trademarks of knee-related overuse injuries. The pain continues to worsen, but I – stupidly – continue to ignore it.
In addition, because of my history of knee surgeries, I have other issues that have aged my joint beyond its years. The scar tissue around my surgically repaired ligaments and cartilage crackles like cheap plastic when I bend my knee past 60 degrees or so. And the old incisions around my kneecap make my skin look like part of a Frankenstein quilting project.
Stretching, yoga, foam rolling, swimming and the like seem to help manage deterioration of the joint. Or, at a minimum, not doing them makes things worse. But they’re no panacea.
So I took great delight in receiving the sleek Zamst RK-1 knee brace. I hoped it would help me out, and I figured if it could help a case like mine, it might be useful for just about anyone with overuse injuries to the knee. After all, this knee brace is specifically designed to help alleviate pain associated with runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. It’s also engineered to provide functional and biomechanical support to actually correct the issues leading to those problems. I hoped a month or so of using the brace would erase some pain and maybe turn back the clock on my aging knee.
Zamst RK-1 Review Summary
How have I fared during the past few weeks of testing? Well, the brace does a great job reducing pain and improving joint mechanics while I’m wearing it. Whether running, walking, taking stairs, or doing squats and lunges in the gym, the brace provides support and reduces pain. My kneecap tracks better, and the outside of my knee seems more at peace. The net result is better movement and less hurt.
Unfortunately, I cannot report improvement in pain levels or joint function when I’m not wearing the brace. I plan to continue using the Zamst RK-1 because of the great support and pain reduction, so I’m hopeful that more time will lead to better results when the brace isn’t worn.
Notwithstanding the absence of noticeable “healing” afforded by the Zamst RK-1, I do recommend this product for those suffering from knee overuse injuries. The brace provides lightweight, low-profile support and seems to help improve knee function while reducing pain.
Zamst RK-1 Materials
The brace is constructed of a blend of synthetic fibers. The fibers are woven into a lightweight material engineered to provide flexibility, breathability and durability.
In my testing, the flexibility afforded by the Zamst RK-1 was a most welcome feature. I’ve tried knee braces in the past that significantly restrict mobility and cause joint movement to feel unnatural. Such braces can make even the most graceful athletes move like the Tin Man. Not so with the Zamst RK-1. Joint flexibility was essentially unchanged except at extreme angles of flexion where the presence of any amount of material is felt behind the knee. The material stretches without sacrificing support.
Breathability is another benefit provided by the materials. Even on warm days when I jogged in the Zamst RK-1, I did not experience high levels of “trapped” perspiration underneath the brace. Breathability is very good.
Durability is likewise high. I have not noticed any wear on the Zamst RK-1 during my trials.
After a few weeks of relatively heavy testing, the product still appears, smells and feels new.
Zamst RK-1 Design
This is an anatomically fitted brace. The product can be purchased for either the right or left knee; a right knee product cannot be worn on the left knee.
Anatomical fitting underpins the Zamst RK-1’s ability to provide IT band syndrome and runner’s knee support. The system of Velcro straps and foam pads incorporated into the brace is designed to maintain proper alignment of the knee joint by reducing internal rotation of the lower leg.
Since excessive internal rotation of the lower leg is believed to be responsible for both runner’s knee and IT band syndrome, the Zamst RK-1 brace attacks the problem at it source.
I found the design of this brace to result in unobtrusive support. The product is easy to put on and, once the Velcro straps are fastened, the system does help keep things aligned properly. It does so with a light touch. This product does not so much restrict unwanted movement as discourage it. In my experience with the product, that level of intervention is sufficient for good results. And, unlike many other braces, the Zamst RK-1 does its work without imposing itself like heavy machinery.
The Zamst RK-1 fits snugly and does not have a propensity to slide down as some knee braces do. Due to its snug fit, wearing the brace for long durations is not recommended by the manufacturer since doing so can impede blood flow.
Zamst RK-1 Observed Benefits and Limitations
From my very first try of the product, which occurred on a medium-pace jog of about three miles, I experienced significantly reduced knee pain. The benefits are most noticeable when I wear the brace while walking uphill or taking stairs. I have continued wearing the Zamst RK-1 for jogging sessions, walks and other aerobic exercise.
The difference in knee pain with and without the brace is remarkable. After exercising pain-free in the brace, I am often surprised by the return of discomfort when taking stairs or hills later without the brace on.
A corollary of this is that I have not yet observed improvements in knee condition when I’m not wearing the brace. Without the Zamst RK-1, walking uphill, taking stairs and jogging are just as painful as they’ve been for some time.
As useful as the brace is while running, I would suggest that the brace has a limited role in the gym. Although I have worn the brace while performing squats and lunges, and although I believe my knee functions better with the support of the brace during these movements, it is in the gym that I notice flexibility limitations the most. Flexibility limitations are very modest, but some weightlifting motions require high degrees of flexion. For these motions, even the lightweight and flexible material of the Zamst RK-1 can feel restrictive.
Who the Zamst RK-1 Is For
Though it seems to be common knowledge that runner’s knee and IT band syndrome are best cured through diligent rest, there are many of us for whom long bouts of inactivity are impossible. For such people – that is, the very people most likely to suffer from runner’s knee and IT band syndrome – the Zamst RK-1 is highly recommended.
The product is high quality, easy to use and wear, effective and durable. I have experienced significant reductions in knee pain while using the Zamst RK-1. I remain hopeful that continued use will help “heal” my knee. Time will tell.
Colors and Sizing
The Zamst RK-1 is available in black.
Sizes available are Extra Small, Small, Medium and Large. Sizes are based on the circumference of the lower leg two inches below the kneecap. For instance, a size Small is recommended for measurements of 12.5 to 13.75 inches. I ordered my Zamst RK-1 according to the sizing scale and found the recommended sizing to be accurate.
For more information, visit www.amazon.com/zamst.