Medical grade bracing woven into a base layer.
Sponsored by Stoko | Written by Bennett Slavsky
On a windswept and icy day in the early Colorado ski season last winter, my overstoker self rocketed off a side hit and landed completely flat on bullet-hard ice. I crumpled over my snowboard and winced in pain.
I strained my IT band in my left leg, sending a shooting and persistent pain from my outer mid-thigh, down the side of my knee, and into my calf. Instead of nursing the knee with rest and PT, my powder-thirsty insensibilities drove me to buy a cheap compression brace and proceed to ride for the rest of the season.
But my injury and my cheap brace set me back drastically. My front leg was incredibly weak and in constant pain while riding, causing me to overcompensate by loading all of my weight onto my back leg. By the end of most days both my knees were wrecked—my left from injury, my right from unnecessary wear and tear. I became extremely timid on my board, always going slow and small. Not to mention that my brace was uncomfortable and inhibited motion, I could barely bend my left leg with it on. Not exactly a recipe for a fruitful winter.
I reckon that if I had the K1 from Stoko my season last year would’ve had a wildly different theme. The K1 has reinvented the knee brace by weaving medical-grade bracing within a pair of tights—concerted support without the bulk or inhibition of a traditional brace.
The K1 utilizes Stoko’s trademarked Embrace System: Ninety feet of Dyneema cabling run through the tights from hips to calves and are adjustable with two dials on the waistband, one for each leg. With bracing in each leg, the K1 offers bilateral support, meaning you won’t wreck your uninjured knee by overcompensating for the weak one.
The cabling in the tights mimics the natural structures of the body—your ligaments and muscles—and when the knee is pushed into an injury-prone position, the non-extensible cabling pulls it back into alignment, without inhibiting the regular motion of your joints. This allows for fully unencumbered movement and functional support when you ski.
Even though I’ve mended my injured knee since last season I felt as though the benefits of the K1 while riding were immediately apparent. On my first day out I rode hard at Eldora Mountain Resort, seeking and eating the biggest bumps on the mountain, making hard stops, and intentionally landing flat-off jumps and side hits. It became evident that the K1 is not only good for supporting an injury but will also be key in injury prevention. It was like having an extra network of ligaments outside my skin.
The K1 takes a bit more time to put on than a regular pair of tights, but once the K1 is placed it stays put, unlike traditional knee braces that have a tendency to walk out of place. While it’s not quite as cush as a normal pair of tights, it is leagues more comfortable than wearing a regular knee brace, and the freedom of movement is invaluable.
The morning after my day at Eldora I caught the dawn patrol for a tour in Indian Peaks Wilderness. The K1 fared beautifully across miles of skinning. On top of adding extra support, it also performed well as a baselayer, being breathable, moisture-wicking, and insulating. An hour into the skin track when my legs started to get jello-y, I cranked up the tension in the Embrace System and felt an immediate boost in stability.
The K1 is an excellent tool in the kit for any athlete, whether you have an injury or not. After wearing it back to back days at the resort and in the backcountry my joints don’t feel the slightest bit strained. For those who’ve suffered a knee injury or have chronic pain, the K1 is an asset, allowing you to perform at the highest level that your body will allow.