Anyone who followed this blog before archery, during my half marathons, mountain bike and cyclocross racing days (probably ZERO of you reading this today), knows I believe in providing readers with 100% honest reviews of products. In the past, I was asked to review a lot of different products, on a pretty regular basis. I spent a lot of time putting them together because I can’t stand biased or completely one sided reviews that you find all too often on the internet these days. It is my goal as I try to start incorporating more reviews back into this blog, to share with you the pros and cons of any product I review. Just because a product works for me, doesn’t mean I think it is for everyone out there (and the opposite is also true). So with that, let me jump into my review of the Active Tense compression clothing, a review that is LONG overdue!
First, let me start by saying what Active Tense is. It is compression tops and bottoms with essentially built in kinesiology tape made by Errea. You can check out their website here. They have a few color options, short/long sleeve shirts, and shorts/capri bottoms. For archery I decided to go with the full length sleeve shirt (for full arm support) and the capri bottom (for knee support). I also choose the white color, as I was told it was a slightly thinnner/lighter weight material than the black.
Sizing is a bit tricky, but it is VERY important. The first set I ordered based of the size chart was a little too big in the top and a little too small in the bottom. The company was very great about letting me send them back and get the correct sizes (because I had the tags still on and hadn’t worn). I highly suggest if you are interested in this product you 1)find a tournament they will be at to try them on 2)find a friend who will let you try for size or worst case 3)make your best guess but try on right away before removing any tags. I want to stress how important fit is on these for full benefit. Trust me, I hate shipping things back and dealing with returns. So much so that I almost decided to just keep the wrong sizes I originally ordered, figuring they were close and it would work ok. After getting the correct sizes and really getting a chance to test them, I can honestly say that would have been a HUGE mistake and I probably wouldn’t have really used them, making the wrong sizes almost worthless to me.
As a female making the switch to recurve, compression tops are my new favorite thing. Yes, I wear a chest protector, but I’ve found adding a layer of compression makes a huge difference for me in eliminating string contact. The AT shirt gives me that plus some added bonuses. Anyone have a stomach that is a little bigger than they’d like, the AT is great for hiding and smoothing ;). Now in all seriousness, going back to the features beyond simply compression, the first time I wore the shirt, I was so sore the next day. This may not make sense to you, as I know you are probably thinking isn’t that counter intuitive for what the shirt SHOULD do. Not exactly. I’ll be one of the first to admit I have poor posture. One of the benefits of this shirt is the taping in the shirt pulls your muscles into good posture. So essentially I was using muscles I wasn’t used to using which is why I was sore the next day. For this reason I definitely wouldn’t recommend trying this out for the first time at a tournament (or right before one).
So I’ve had a lot of people ask me, how well does the taping actually work. Here are my thoughts. It’s a more convenient, easier way to get the benefits of kinesiology style tape, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. If you are someone who lives alone or doesn’t have someone to tape them regularly, then AT products would be great for you. On the other hand, if you like the flexibility of being able to tape exactly for the muscles you want, then this product probably isn’t for you. That leads me into the price. Some may think this clothing is a little on the expensive side, however, its roughtly the cost of 4 rolls of kinesiology tape. Anyone who regularly tapes themselves, knows how quickly you can go through that. So if you are looking for a one and done purchase, then these products are probably for you. If you are more of the type to pay for things slowly over time, then tape is probably the way to go.
I’ve mainly focused on the shirt so far, and that was what I thought would be the most useful for archers, however, I was pretty surprised when I found I got just as much benefit from the capris a I did the top. I have bad knees, due to years of sports abusing them and genetics (I’m knock kneed meaning all my weight falls directly on my knees). I’ve struggled with throbbing knees after a long day of archery, especially standing on concrete floors and having to wear flat shoot with virtually no support. Unlike other sports where I’ve taped my knees bc I had to, I never even thought about it with a standing sport like archery. Yes, I would use compression knee sleeves and things at night to help, but I haven’t been great about even doing that, except at tournaments and when traveling overseas. When I made the switch to recurve, the first few days I noticed my legs were way more sore than my upper body. Unlike my soreness experienced after the first day of wearing the Active Tense shirt, I found my knees didn’t ache near as much, if any, after wearing the capris the first time. Many, myself included, tend to forget how important our legs are in this sport, especially with recurve (and even more so if shooting NTS imo). The capris not only help eliminate pain and soreness, but I find they help hold my legs in a more stable position, giving me the sturdy base I need to shoot as well as I can.
Now if you have paid attention to photos of me from events, you will see I was wearing the AT shirt at most indoor competitions (I did go without for a few, so I could truly test the difference), and although you can’t see them, I also had the capris on under my pants. I definitely saw (and felt) a difference between wearing and not wearing the Active Tense compression clothing, however, I can’t speak to clothing vs taping directly as I didn’t do a direct comparison. However, you might have noticed I was NOT wearing this clothing in AZ Cup for my first outdoor competition. And that brings me to my one big negative with the product. I am someone who is ALWAYS hot. Anyone who has spent time around me knows, I always seem to overheat. Indoor tournaments are usually (but not always) kept at temperatures where I am warm but not dying, so I had no trouble wearing the AT clothing as it is thin and very breathable. However, outdoors where I already stuggle with overheating issues, I can’t get away with a long sleeve and capris, no matter what the material is made out of. Yes, there are tournaments where the temperatures can be on the cooler side, however, neither the top or bottom is something I can easily remove if the temperatures begin to climb, so for this reason, the Active Tense is virtually useless for me at outdoor tournaments (though I can still use it on cold days in training). I do know that many people do not have heat issues like I do, and may actually like that extra layer of protection from the sun, etc.
So as you can see, there are definitely pros and cons to the Active Tense clothing line. I also must mention that the current line is designed for use while doing physical activity, but they are also working on a new line designed for recovery to be worn after activity, with high levels of compression and different material. With that said, here are the highlights:
-compression fabric sucks everything in
-throw on, take off, wash, repeat (no need for help from someone)
-tops and bottoms available
-cheaper than tape over time
-multiple color and material thickness options
-sizing can be tough, yet vital to get full benefits
-added layer means added warmth (could be pro for some)
-higher upfront cost
-probably not practical for daily use (unless want to own handful)
-no ability for customizing taping for your needs
And if you’ve tried Active Tense, I’d love to hear your feedback!