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I tried this $579 hot-and-cold knee brace that is supposed to ease knee pain — does it actually work?

The Hyperice X Knee is a high-tech way to treat knee inflammation, but is it better than an ice pack?

Hyperice X Knee on knee and close up shot of Hyperice X Knee, A review of the Hyperice X Knee: according to a distance runner with sore legs (Photos via Hyperice).
A review of the Hyperice X Knee: according to a distance runner with sore legs (Photos via Hyperice).

I’m not sure when it happened, but hot and cold therapies have become all the rage. Voguish cold tub clubs like Toronto’s Othership are thriving. People are installing saunas in their houses. Cold plungers are chucking themselves in the ocean by the hundreds. And the newly fixated on freezing waters and steam rooms are not just blowing smoke: there is much evidence that cold and hot therapy promotes healing (heat brings blood flow to injured tissues, and cold reduces excess inflammation). It perhaps even carries mental health benefits like lowering anxiety.

At its simplest level, hot and cold therapy is highly accessible. You don’t need to immerse yourself in Icelandic hot springs to participate in the trend; you can simply pour yourself a bucket of cold water, heat a hot pack, and apply them to your injured area in sequence. But there is also a range of products that offer more sophisticated versions of the therapy. As an often-injured runner, I had the chance to test out the Hyperice X Knee, an adjustable, electronic knee brace with pods that modulate temperature. Here, I share my thoughts on how it works, what it’s good for, and whether or not it’s worth the buy.

The Hyperice X Knee connects to your phone via Bluetooth and delivers tailored hot and cold therapy at the push of a button.

  • Tailored therapy
  • Mess-free
  • Comfortable and powerful
  • Versatile: temperatures ranging from 7 to 45°C
  • Expensive
  • Can be itchy on skin
  • Mediocre battery life
$579 at Hyperice

The Hyperice X Knee is a digital, portable hot and cold therapy device that fits like a sleeve on the knee. It comes with five pods capable of emitting heat and cold that form a ring around the kneecap and altogether weighs in at a breezy two pounds. Putting it on is simple: slide the Hyperice on the knee, align the kneecap with a white ring in the middle, and tighten the three velcro straps at the back. The device has a battery life of 90 minutes and also comes with an AC cable and 9V charger.

The sleeve is surprisingly digital: it was my first Hyperice product, and I did not realize that most of their devices (which include therapy guns, massage pants and shoulder sleeves) are controllable through an in-house app. So I downloaded the Hyperice app, which asked me to insert a few details like my weight, age, and sports I do, and even let me connect my Strava account, which I use to document my running and training. The idea here is to deliver a more “tailored” hot and cold experience based on my specific needs.

man wearing Hyperice X Knee in black with black shorts on
Is the Hyperice X Knee worth $579? (Photo via Alex Cyr).

From there, I can choose my own hot and cold therapy program. There is one for pre-exercise warm-up, injury maintenance, general pain relief, and more, and each of them offers a unique combination of heat and cold (injury maintenance is a pleasant alternation of hot and cold, whereas pre-exercise is mainly heat therapy). To begin, I connect my phone with the Hyperice sleeve via Bluetooth, select a modality, and then wait a few seconds for the hot or cold to begin blasting toward my muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Who knows if the placebo effect is in play here, but the Hyperice X feels effective: the quick change from hot to cold without creating puddles of ice is hassle-free, and the pod placement allows me to treat all knee areas at once without constantly shifting ice packs around. It also makes therapy simple. Even after years of knee issues (I had surgery in 2018, and inflammation comes and goes), I still wrestle with therapy questions like: how long should I apply ice? How hot should a hot pack be? Should I alternate therapies before a workout? After a workout? The Hyperice X takes all that guessing away and does the work for you.

I tried the Hyperice X Knee — here's my honest review (Photo via Alex Cyr).
I tried the Hyperice X Knee — here's my honest review (Photo via Alex Cyr).

The target market for such a high-tech, at-home recovery tool is people who are not afraid to invest in their physical well-being. It is also a boon for those who are busy and want to self-treat their injuries throughout the day without manual effort or much thought or the athlete who wants round-the-clock injury care. Of course, the device is not a replacement for proper physiotherapy and general strength and conditioning, but it’s a helpful recovery aid.

The Hyperice Knee X is a sleek, mess-free device that feels good on my knee and helps me work out its kinks. That being said, I have trouble convincing myself to pay $580 for a higher-tech version of cold water and a hot pack: this piece of tech is not for the penny pincher or bargain hunter. However, I do recommend it to someone prone to knee pain who wants to up their hot and cold therapy game without fitting a sauna into their house or having to join an expensive club.

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