This article was sponsored by Stoko
Knee pain and injury are common ailments for hikers, climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. The traditional rigid knee brace hasn’t changed in design for over 50 years—until now.
We’re sharing advice from two Canadian Olympians—gymnast Scott Morgan and alpine skier Allison Forsyth—who both work for Stoko, a supportive apparel company that has designed a game-changing medical-grade knee brace built directly into a pair of compression tights.
Here are four ways to decrease and avoid knee pain or injury while hiking and adventuring:
1. Find Balance
Scott’s experience as an Olympic gymnast allowed him to understand the necessities of living a balanced lifestyle. He suffered a shoulder injury and needed surgery immediately following the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I lost a piece of my identity when I stopped gymnastics. It was hard,” Scott reveals.
“I always felt my fittest when I had balance. I wasn’t doing just one sport. Different methods of training, switching things up, eating well, sleeping well and spending time with my friends. When I had an injury, I’d be working out different areas of my body. You can get really depressed when you focus exclusively on one thing. And sometimes you just need a break.”
2. Strength Conditioning
Allison Forsyth competed in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy—where she crashed going 105 kilometres an hour, tore her ACL and MCL and broke her femur and tibia. Within 18 hours, her ACL was reconstructed, and she entered an accelerated program to get ‘back on snow.’
“In alpine skiing, it’s not ‘if’ you’ll tear your knee, but ‘when,” Allison says. “The day I retired, I woke up the next morning wondering, ‘now who am I?’”
Today, Allison trains young athletes. She says for strength conditioning, “your body weight is all you need. Put your body into new positions. I love the TRX machine. Do a push-up before a bench press. Focus on muscular endurance training over maximum strength.”
She encourages diversified functional movements that replicate real life. “Never underestimate the power of recovery, stretching and complimentary movements,” she says.
“Start to focus on things you never liked to do. If you’re a road cycler, you’re hunched over and creating a curve in your back. You need to do the opposite when you’re not on the bike. As we get older, it’s more important to warm up and cool down; be a bit smarter—don’t do silly things—and work on your balance. Just stand on one leg and close your eyes.”
3. Listen to Your Body
“Prepare your body for whatever activity you’re about to do with proper hydration, nutrition and gear. Set the conditions for you to explore. Get the right people around you and train for it. Just because you’re fit doesn’t mean you’re fit in every new sport,” Allison says. “Listen to your body. It will tell you when it’s time to stop.”
Be realistic with your abilities and don’t be afraid to rest or turn back. “Don’t plan for an ambitious endpoint on day one of a multi-day trek,” Scott recommends.
“My biggest takeaway from my athletic career is that everyone is individual and has their own unique challenges and experiences,” Scott adds. “What someone may eat on a backpacking trip may not fuel another person the same way. It’s important to gain self-awareness around your body, how you support it, the type of food you eat, the trail you’re going on and what you need. Those are all factors to take into consideration.”
4. Invest in Equipment That Works
From your shoes to your hat, the gear you wear affects your body and can help you avoid injuries. “People experience most of their pain when hiking down. It’s the highest impact,” Scott explains. “Knee injuries typically happen halfway through or at the end of an activity when someone is in burnout. When you’re fatigued, your joint mechanics change.”
Trekking poles, sturdy boots, backpacks with lumbar support and braces can all help with knee pain and joint support.
When Allison was prescribed a custom rigid knee brace, it wasn’t a comfortable solution. “I felt clasped and held in, but I couldn’t get into the right positions [when skiing]. The brace would catch on my other leg or slide up and down or the Velcro would come undone. I refused to wear it. Something in my gut told me this wasn’t the right answer.”
Stoko, a Canadian brand born in Vancouver, creates supportive apparel. Their flagship products are the K1 and K1 Breathe, which revolutionize the technical knee brace providing functional joint support within a pair of compression tights.
“People didn’t want another brace,” Scott says. “They wanted the experience of never having to wear one.”
Allison got involved with Stoko after retiring from skiing. “The K1s allowed me to feel like that 25-year-old Olympian again,” says Allison, who tested the product extensively before joining the team. “Who doesn’t want to feel like that?”
How Does the K1 Work?
“When your knee goes into a compromised position where you might tear something, the Embrace System, made up of over 30 metres of lightweight cables, supports your knee and helps prevent injury," Scott explains. “You still have a full range of motion, so people don’t even know the K1s are there."
On developing the K1s, Scott says, “we developed an advanced 3D scanner to scan different profiles and genders of the human body to be able to understand how the skin moves. Through regular ranges of motions—flexion, extension—there are lines, specific pathways, along your skin that don’t stretch and don’t shrink. We strategically placed the cables along those lines of the body so you can go into a lunge or squat—but when your hip goes through a rotation and your knee buckles or deviates side to side, the cables are pulled tight and ‘lock’ or support from that compromised position.”
Stoko offers a 30-day sweat-it-out guarantee, so you can try the K1s risk-free.
“Stoko is about reaching your potential with the confidence you truly desire,” Scott says, “stoking the fire within, and getting stoked to get back to doing what you love.”
At Stoko, we know there is an athlete in all of us. Whether you are fighting back from an injury to an elite level of sport or just love to move, we get you and we’ve got you.
The K1 is a brace. But not. Instead of trying to make a bad product a little better, we researched and analyzed how your body moves, and built a full medical-grade support system into the type of clothing you are already wearing for your athletic endeavours.