If you’re anything like me, the leaves changing means the start of ski season—at least, that’s when it feels somewhat acceptable to dust off the gear, hope for a sneak snowstorm, and figure out what upgrades need to be made before the snow really starts to fall. And, if you’re like me, you’ve probably suffered an injury somewhere along the line—blown-out knees, broken bones. So, October also marks the beginning of training —to do anything in our power to prevent those injuries, and to ensure a long and successful season.
I blew out my knee five years ago while skiing—torn ACL, meniscus, and broken tibia. I was in college, practicing for the Ski The East Freeride World Tour stops, going faster and bigger than I ever had before. I hit a cliff, landed backseat and in a hole, and heard a pop. It was my first big ski injury, and the worst to date. I knew exactly what I had done, but I was unable to truly accept the long recovery ahead. These days I still feel pain in that knee, and notice weakness in the quad.
Stoko’s inaugural product, the K1, is the world’s first supportive apparel. The K1 is a compression tight that mimics the body’s natural structures, muscles, and ligaments while using its patented Embrace System™ technology to give the knee the support of a traditional brace without the bulk. To do this, Stoko used body mapping to integrate high-strength and lightweight cables into the fabric. These cables are adjustable, with two dials—one for each leg—at the back of the waistband. The K1 is a non-assuming garment that looks like any other pair of tights, but with medical-grade technology that provides the same, if not better support than traditional knee braces. Because Stoko works closely with athletes, the K1 is functional—a knee brace for skiing, while also acting as a baselayer.
This past summer I was asked to test out Stoko’s K1 Breathe. During the months of May through October, I work as an Interior Outpost Caretaker in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. I live in the wilderness and act as an educator, first responder, and trail worker, while hiking some of the most remote and rugged mountains in the Northeast. Testing out Stoko’s K1 Breathe in the backcountry, and was blown away by the support I felt while coming off of these tall and steep mountains. My knee pain subsided, and I felt myself using both legs equally, instead of favoring my stronger, non-injured one. Both of my legs felt stronger and more supported wearing the K1s.
After my experience in the mountains, I decided to start wearing the K1s while training for ski season—squats, jumps, lunges, stretches, and other exercises both in my home and at my local gym. The K1s take a little getting used to—the first time getting them on takes some time, but with every wear, the cables and fabric align to your body. While at the gym, I feel great wearing such non-assuming apparel—eyes aren’t averted to a brace. The K1s give me extra strength and stability, allowing me to do the exercises I typically give up on or stop doing because of pain and weakness.
I’m looking forward to wearing the K1s on slopes as well. As a ski patroller, I’m on skis just about every day of the winter, between working and recreationally skiing. When I’m at work, most of the skiing I do is tough—checking trails and taking patients down the mountain in rescue toboggans. At the end of the day, sometimes we’re skiing the mountain in its worst shape, after all the snow has been scraped off and the moguls are slick and almost as tall as I am. On those long rough shifts, I’m really looking forward to the extra support the K1s provide. You also don’t need to have suffered an injury to wear the K1s, they provide extra back and hip support for anyone who wants to prevent injury, or just ski longer days without feeling as fatigued or sore.
This winter remaining injury free and active is essential. For my fellow skiers who have suffered from a knee injury, the K1s can’t be beat, they’re a fantastic solution when a bulky knee brace just isn’t practical. If you’re not sold yet, Stoko offers a 30-day risk-free trial and 1 year warranty so you can try them yourself. If your experience is anything like mine, they’ll quickly become a part of your kit and your pre-season routine.
Article by: Caitlin Kelly