So What Are Gravity Boots- And Are They For You?
The benefits of inversion therapy have been known for years and you're likely to be familiar with inversion therapy in the form of the inversion table, however, did you know that gravity boots are another versatile, useful and popular inversion tool.
Gravity boots saw their heyday in the 1970s and early 80s, helped on their way to workout fame by mention in a slew of popular movies, but they seemed to fade into obscurity again as the rise of alternative fitness crazes crested in the late 1980s and early 90s.
However, they've seen a recent resurgence in popularity, particularly as they were brought to high-profile attention by Dan Brown [author of the popular and controversial da Vinci code novels].
Today, we're giving you the low down on these nifty inversion tools and their uses. In addition, we take a look at the best gravity boots available on the market today and provide our own unique thoughts and reviews for each.
The Top 5 Gravity Boot Reviews
They do still fit squarely into the ‘middle’ range of the spectrum, too, so they are not overly painful on the pocket if you’re looking for a durable and hard-wearing inversion boot. Where the Xtreme Monkey inversion boot really scores, however, is with the padding. While no gravity boot is going to be 100% ‘comfortable’, users report that the Xtreme Monkey comes close with thick and supportive padding satisfying almost every customer.
Users also report that they’re easy to get on and off despite the double locking mechanism. Overall, the Xtreme Monkey Inversion boot is a market winner and out number one pick for the mid-range category.
The double lock system on the boots ensures your safety at all times, whilst most users find them solidly built and properly constructed. Their ankle straps do allow some adjustment of the ankle size, whilst they also ship with adjustable calf loops designed to help spread the load of your weight.
The Teeter Hang Ups Gravity boots are comfortable in design- reportedly; some users can even use them barefoot. They don’t sacrifice durability for that comfort, though, and they’re lightweight too. They come with a calf handle already designed in, to assist you in getting upright again [see our tips about straps below if you choose a different brand].
Very few people have bad things to say about the Teeter Hang Ups gravity boot, and it remains an industry leader. It isn’t entirely friendly to the budget as far as gravity boots go, though, and one other company particularly stands out in the gravity boot market.
The Body Solid Inversion boot range aims for comfort. Offering extra pads to customize your fit and a single-action lock that should be compatible with any pull-up bar. They’re not designed for use with an inversion table, as are some other brands, but rather as a stand-alone product. The boots are sturdily made, but users caution not to use them without socks and they won’t be ideal for a smaller person or a more delicate ankle.
Some users do feel that, out of the top brands available on the market, the Body Solid GIB2 inversion boot is not one particularly inclined to long periods of use, so depending on your exact needs they may not be the best for you.
However, they score a solid 4 stars with Amazon users. The only consistent complaints are the bulk and comfort. Some users do mention that this is a very heavy boot as well, so likely not the best if you intend to take them with you to the gym rather than use them in a home scenario. In general, knowledgeable users suggest they are best for male users, and particularly highlight their use for larger users. These are a solid choice for entry-level boots provided they are a match for the size you require.
Some also mention a decrease in quality from earlier versions of this same range, although overall they still seem to satisfy users. While they offer a decent lower budget option for those beginning to break into the gravity boots, they’re not the best choice on this list, especially if you intend to use your boots a lot.
They are not for heavier users, male or female, and the canvas construction has decidedly less of a secure feel to it than most other gravity boots. Most users report choosing to boost the padding for both comfort and security. The hooks are narrow, which does not inspire confidence in most users, and a lot of them feel that the grip of the hook on the bar is minimal. In short, these would only suit a user who expects to use them minimally over a short period, and even then you may be better advised to shell out a few extra dollars on the notably superior budget offerings available.
They are not for heavier users, male or female, and the canvas construction has decidedly less of a secure feel to it than most other gravity boots. Most users report choosing to boost the padding for both comfort and security.
The hooks are narrow, which does not inspire confidence in most users, and a lot of them feel that the grip of the hook on the bar is minimal. In short, these would only suit a user who expects to use them minimally over a short period, and even then you may be better advised to shell out a few extra dollars on the notably superior budget offerings available.
In short, these would only suit a user who expects to use them minimally over a short period, and even then you may be better advised to shell out a few extra dollars on the notably superior budget offerings available.
What's the deal with inversion therapy?
Poor posture and sedentary lifestyles take a toll on our spines, no one will deny that. Sitting crunched into all the wrong positions for spinal health, then exacerbating the problem by remaining stationary for hours crouched over our computer screens and keyboards is the leading cause of stiff, painful backs and joints.
Inversion therapy seeks to address these compression forces and relieve the pressure on the spine by stretching out the spaces between joints using the force of gravity. In particular, suspension from the feet- as with both gravity boots and inversion tables- allows each joint of the spine to decompress under equal but opposite loading of forces and this can alleviate painful pinching in the joints.
Gravity boots, which are also marketed as inversion boots, offer a few other useful facets too- namely as a core training aid- which we’ll also explore below.
Inversion therapy is good for back pain
This concept of alleviating pain via decompression of the spinal joints means, of course, that inversion is often recommended to help those battling with back pain and spinal issues. But as we mentioned there's more to the use of gravity boots than just those already suffering from joint pain. In addition to being a great way to maintain your spinal health, many hard-core weight lifters use gravity boots after heavy lifting sessions to decompress and relax the spine.
Inversion can be beneficial after any workout by relieving body pressure and encouraging circulation, especially blood flow to the heart. If you like shredding your abs with mean workouts and are looking for a new challenge, inverted crunches and more make for a fabulous core challenge you literally can't beat- even the most hardcore trainer will melt after 10 or 15 reps inverted.
Gravity boots have even been used to increase blood flow to the brain, and some practitioners believe they can assist with decreasing headaches for the same reason.
Where do gravity boots fit into the inversion world?
Gravity boots deliver pretty much exactly what it says on the box- they're ankle and calf supports designed to allow you to hang inverted, whether for simple spinal therapy or as an addition to your exercise routine.
A properly fitting pair of gravity boots should lock securely up the ankle and calf with some support, whilst the also come with a sturdy hook designed to facilitate suspension from any suitable surface- most users use a normal pull-up bar as they're designed to take the full suspended weight of the body already. You can also buy custom designed bars especially for specific boot brands and most available systems either ship with one or offer one in their range.
As we mentioned, gravity boots had the late 70s/early 80s heyday due to popularity in Hollywood movies and other popular culture. The modern gravity boot, however, is miles away from these humble precursors and has had great recent successes in weight lifting chains, gyms, and even the modern military.
You know a product's tough if the army boys can use it- but as with any piece of gym equipment, make sure you choose a quality product and use it with sense and caution.
How do I use my gravity boots?
In addition to therapeutic use for back pain, gravity boots can add a significant degree of challenge to your core workout. If you want even bigger gains, consider using light weights to maximize your results further. A classic example of adding gravity boots to your core workout is the humble crunch.
Due to the effects of inversion, your calves, hamstrings, and quads will have to do the work of stabilizing the exercise, so it works out far more muscle groups than a normal ground-based crunch.
Additionally, you're fighting the pull of gravity on your whole body, instead of merely your upper torso, so even the most accomplished of athletes will find an inverted crunch challenging.
Exercising with gravity boots doesn't begin and end at crunches, too. There's a whole range of core movements you can take into the air to maximize your gains- and add fire to your workouts. Even simple variants on the superman pose and other fairly low-key movements can become a challenge when inverted.
Just be sure to keep all of your movements slow and concentrated- don't jerk around like a fish out of water as you could potentially injure yourself. Inversion is not the place for fast ballistic movements. Remember, too, that using lighter weights than you would when working on the floor is recommended, as the process of inversion brings a whole new and different dynamic to your training.
Don't be too proud to start light! Even inverting without weights will have a profound effect on your training. You want to get great results and help the spine, not injure your back for the sake of your pride.
Remember that gravity boots don't have to be a stand-alone product. As well as the inversion bar [for use if you don't already own a pull-up bar], there are options to own an inversion rack or to use gravity boots in conjunction with an inversion table for maximum comfort and benefits. These are particularly useful add-ons if you happen to be buying the boots for therapeutic reasons more then exercise ones.
Tips for choosing the best boots
The gravity boot market suffered during their decline in popularity, and many companies stopped producing them. The net effect is a market dominated by one brand in particular- we’ll look at that below- and without a great deal of difference in products. However, there are some features any decent gravity boot should share:
- Double check the method of installation that comes with your boots and be sure it will suit you.
- Make sure you buy the right size boot- they generally come in standard and extra large sizes. One size fits most, but you will need to look at the extra large options if you’re particularly tall, have particularly muscular legs, or have thick ankles or long feet.
- Your safety buckles are paramount. You should only consider a system that uses double buckles, where there’s a manual release safety buckle in the event of failure. They should be easy to manipulate too, though- imagine being stuck with a stubborn buckle whilst suspended!
- The style of the boot is up to you- some prefer types that only grip at the ankles but mostly one that continues with some support up the calf is going to be a better choice. If you have issues in your back or legs, you need to consider this carefully and chat to your medical practitioner to get the best recommendations.
- The weight rating of your boot is not negotiable, however. Make sure the boot can support your weight.
- Overall, you want a lightweight, comfortable boot with durable construction. Look for padding and more or less flexible materials to suit your taste and needs.
Things to remember about inversion
Many experienced users of gravity boots offer one specific tip- use a strap over the bar if the product doesn’t already come with a loop. This is there for those instances where you’ve worked so hard you cannot comfortably pull yourself back up, and need a little help.
Start off your inversion training on the easy setting. It may take some days for your brain and blood pressure to adapt to hanging upside down, so ease into this new facet of your exercise program, and you don’t want to make yourself excessively dizzy. Always listen to your body.
There are some people for whom home inversion is contra-indicated, and gravity boots are no different from inversion tables. If you have concerns from glaucoma or other eye diseases, GERD, heart and cardiovascular problems and blood pressure concerns or are elderly you may wish to only pursue inversion therapy under the watchful eye of a trained physician.
Obviously, it's also recommended that pregnant women and those with ankle and knee injuries proceed with caution, and it's always advised for newcomers to be certain they have someone standing by in case you need a helping hand with the equipment. In particular, if you’re turning to gravity boots for spinal issues and have existing back, pelvic, hop or leg pain, work closely with your chiropractor or physio and get their recommendations on training safely to maximize your results.
You may have heard scare stories about increased risk of eye problems and strokes, but rest assured they were the result of false hype and inaccurate reading of one study that concluded no such thing. Numerous scientifically controlled studies on inversion have been done, and the so-called potential negative side effects are negligible risks- lifting weights actually, carries more!
As long as you wear your boots correctly, within the specifications of the product, and keep to appropriate uses, the benefits of using gravity boots will far outweigh the negatives.
Gravity boots occupy a niche market, catering to users with specific needs and goals to meet. They can be a great choice for users looking for alternative back therapy, or those wanting to add an extra dimension of challenge to their abs workouts.