Featured Image: Matt Power
Skiing and knee injuries are far too common. ACLS, MCLs, meniscus tears—if you ski long enough, you’re usually on the list. Not only do these setbacks take us away from the hill, they leave us hesitant when we return: Getting back to “normal,” getting back to skiing fast and taking chances all comes less easily than before.
Looking at recovery, bulky knee braces are still the norm; you know, those robotic-looking, cumbersome stanchions. And, for skiers who haven’t had an injury, there’s just no way you’d wear a brace like that to proactively prevent knee/leg injuries from happening. So, how can skiers recover faster and, better yet, prevent injuries like these altogether?
That’s where Stoko Design enters the conversation. Brand new to the scene, born out of Vancouver and founded by athletes like you, Stoko is introducing the genre of “supportive apparel.” Its flagship product—the K1 Tight—is, at first glance, a form-fitting compression legging. But there’s more than meets the eye: Throughout the tight is a thin cable that wraps the legs snugly, winding from the waistband down to the calves, back up each leg and connecting once more to two dials in the waistband. And this is the magic of the K1 Tight; almost invisibly, this cable system supports each leg independently in the same fashion as a standard brace.
The Embrace System, it’s coined, naturally moves with you throughout your entire range of motion, becoming a comfortable, low-profile solution to knee support. Simply put, when your knee enters a compromised position, the cables tighten, bringing the joint back into natural alignment.
When I first heard about the K1 Tight, I had to give it a try. I tested the product on training runs in Denver and on multiple ski days at resorts in the Front Range. I’ll say upfront that I haven’t experienced a knee injury, so these trials were more about the fit, comfort and preventative aspects of the product. Putting on the tights (which fit snug, akin to a wetsuit), I immediately felt the support of the product on both of my legs and, with the two dials along the lower back of the waistband, I could tighten/loosen the amount of support the tight provided.
Leaning into turns and hopping around the mountain, I had full range of motion and didn’t feel bogged down by the fact that I was wearing a brace; the K1 Tight fit so naturally I actually forgot I was wearing it. On couple-mile runs, I felt the same effect: The support was present and I felt stronger in my strides, confidence boosted because of the extra support. Wearing the tights as a preventative measure, the biggest takeaway from my time testing was how I felt poised, calm and more focused on the task at hand, not worrying about a wrong step or a funky turn in chopped up snowpack.
But, for skiers on a grander scale, there’s even more to discuss. The K1 Tight is lightweight, packable and can easily replace a baselayer bottom thanks to its 3D-knitted, breathable, stretchy Repreve fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. And it provides protection for both knees: When wearing conventional braces, you’re usually focused on support for just one knee, completely ignoring the other. The K1 Tight secures both knees, so you can either prevent injury or recover from it without sacrifice. Last but not least, the legging is easily machine-washable.
All in all, Stoko and the K1 Tight might be a godsend for skiers with (or without) injury. Providing the same level of protection as one of those “old school” braces, in a package that’s 60-percent lighter and more comfortable to wear while in-motion, the Stoko K1 Tight might be the ultimate knee protection for skiers.