2018-2019 Normatec Pulse Gen 2 Review - Gen 2 Pulse vs Gen 1 Pulse (2015-2017)

Enjoying the new 2018
Gen 2 Normatec Pulse System
Although on the surface the 2018 Normatec Pulse looks and functions just like the original Normatec Pulse (2015-2017), there are some nice upgrades to the new unit that are not clearly visible and marketed, but nonetheless are beneficial to the customer. Normatec has been shipping what I am calling the "Gen 2" 2018 Pulse since at least November 2017 so if you bought one after this date then you probably have it, but I thought I would take the opportunity to highlight a few key benefits of the new 2018 system.

My thoughts on this 2018 unit are my thoughts after 6+ months of use with 80+ hours of runtime. I can definitely say that this is the best Normatec Pulse unit yet and fixes the battery issue which was the one gripe I had with my original Pulse. It is worth mentioning that while I discussed the battery limitation in my original review of Normatec vs Air Relax, I have since updated that article to reflect the improved battery. This isn't a complete detailed review of the Normatec system akin to the likes of DCRainmaker's Garmin reviews, but I am happy to answer any questions you have.

2018 Normatec Pulse Gen 2 vs 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse

While the changes to the 2018 Pulse may not seem obvious, there are some significant changes in the 2018 model. The biggest include:
  • Improved Battery - The old Normatec Pulse had a battery that was always in a "low-power" mode even when off.  This led to situations where you might charge the unit but it was dead when you went to use it. This was highly annoying if you were traveling and didn't have access to power outlets such as in an airport, in the car, or on a soccer field. This issue has been fixed in the 2018 Pulse.
  • Enhanced Durability - The legs have been reinforced further making them stronger to handle the continuous cycle of expanding, holding pressure, and decompressing, and then doing it over and over, for weeks, month, and years. This may not seem like much, but every pro athlete I know depends on their recovery compression boots to get them thru their biggest training blocks. Failures do happen and it is nice to know that Normatec has worked on increasing durability.
  • Increased Warranty - With the durability enhanced, Normatec was able to extend the warranty from 1 year to 2 years. However, if you have an AMEX card then I highly recommend using it for this purchase. AMEX will double your warranty for free which increases the warranty to 4 years. I have gone thru their claim process a couple of times (usually with Garmins) and it is a great benefit to cardholders.
  • Decreased Price - Despite the improvements, the new 2018 Normatec Pulse is more affordable than ever. Normatec has been reducing the price of the Normatec Pulse over the past few years. While originally it was priced at $1695, it is now $1495. 
Battery Testing - 2 hours 51 minutes at level 5 with standard size leg boots

Along with testing the battery to make sure it held a charge over extended periods of time, I also wanted to test battery life. This test was conducted after many months of use and charge/discharge cycles. Battery life will vary on boot size, pressure level, and your own leg size. Personally, I got 2 hours and 51 minutes at level 5 (max is level 7) from a standard set of legs. Normatec claims 2 hours of battery life. 

Leg Fluid Edema Testing - 90 minutes in the boots at level 5, 6, and 7 reduced my calf diameter from 41mm to 39mm

Baseline (top) / After 90 mins (bottom)
Normatec was originally designed for patients with leg edema (swelling). I don't suffer from edema, but I figured I would test how much difference it made on otherwise healthy legs.

For this test, I took a baseline measurement and photo and then sat in the boots for 60 minutes at level 5. I photographed and measured them again and then I got back in the boots for 30 more minutes with 18 mins at level 6 and 12 mins at level 7. I used a Sharpie on the front of my legs to draw support lines to make sure the tape measure was being placed in the same spot for consistent measurement. The results are as follows:

Baseline: 41cm  (left) / 40.6cm (right)
60 minutes at level 5: 39.5cm (left) / 39.6cm (right)
30 additional minutes - 18 mins @ level 6 & 12 @ level 7: 39.0cm (left) / 39.1cm (right)

Normatec Leg Sizing

As a reminder, Normatec leg sleeves come in three sizes. Keep in mind it is not only the leg length but also the width that is affected.
  • Short for under 5' 3"
  • Regular 5'4" to 6'3"
  • Tall for people over 6' 4"  

Tall / Regular / Short

Identify the 2018 Normatec Pulse (Gen 2) vs the 2015-2017 Normatec Pulse

One can easily determine which Pulse they are getting via a sticker on the back of the unit. You want to see a manufactured date of 2017 or later, plus a sticker at the bottom, with a "Rev 2".

2015-2017 Normatec Pulse vs 2018 Normatec Pulse

Final Thoughts

Lebron James in his Normatec MVP

The 2018 Normatec Pulse is a nice upgrade to a system that was already very nice. Never in my life has a product category been embraced by so many professional athletes in so many sports, including triathletes, marathoners, cyclists, cross-fitters, NBA, NFL, NHL, golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, track and field, and even Hollywood celebrities (Snoop Dogg included). The overwhelming majority of these athletes aren't being paid for their endorsement. Lebron James is probably the biggest sports name and it was reported he spent $3 million dollars in 2017 on his recovery.

Personally, as a tinker but minimalist, I have been surprised by how often I am willing to travel with recovery compression boots. They simply go everywhere with me and I write this as I am in them. While there is still a place for many other recovery modalities in the athlete toolbox, no tool is as convenient and relaxing as recovery compression boots. They are just too easy to get into and I really do believe they help athletes recover faster and feel fresher. I believe the best recovery tools are the ones that don't seem like a chore and recovery compression boots are definitely not a chore to me.

For those that are looking for a more affordable set of boots please take a look at my original Air Relax vs Normatec review. Air Relax is a competitively priced system that has also become the choice of many champions and in many sports. Some triathletes using Air Relax include Ironman Champions Romain Guillaume, Jozef Major, Guy Crawford, Kate Bevilaqua, and Susie Cheetham (6th at 2017 Ironman World Championship).

When companies have competition the consumer wins. Normatec, Air Relax, and Rapid Reboot will all help push the boundaries of what the human body can accomplish.

Relevant Links
Normatec on Amazon - $1495 and ships via Amazon Prime
- Normatec ($1495) vs Air Relax ($370) - original review
Amazon Basics Zero Gravity Chairs - $39.99 - great chairs for lounging in Normatecs
Normatec on eBay - Used and New (Various prices generally $700-$1200)

- Air Relax - $400
- Rapid Reboot - $995

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