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Socks

Greg Hoscheit and his business partner, Damian Loth, moved Lifestyle Medical Group from its former location in St. Charles to Caledonia. The company produces specially designed compression socks, with one of its models worn by 12 NFL football teams. (Henry-HCN)

There must be something in the water. Caledonia, which for several years has been known as the home of Miken Sports, a leader in composite bat manufacturing, is now the host of another company whose products — both athletic and medical — are being used in equally impressive arenas.

Lifestyle Medical Group LLC recently moved its headquarters from its former office in St. Charles to the city of 3,000. However, Caledonia wasn't a random draw by Greg Hoscheit, one of three partners in LMG. He's returning to the city where he was born and raised on the family farm outside of town.

"We needed to make a business move because we needed a larger building," Hoscheit said. "We certainly could've moved across the street in St. Charles if there would've been a building big enough, but it was an opportunity for my kids to come back to Caledonia and go to school here where I grew up."

The business, which moved into the former Pladsen Ford building on Hwy 44/76, specializes in custom-designed compression socks that enhance circulation below the knee. Many customers find relief using the company's SmoothToe Energizing Sock, but what catches most peoples' attention is its new VO2fx high-performance legwear, which is being worn by players on 12 National Football League teams, National Hockey League players and 12 NASCAR drivers. Athletes in men's and women's lacrosse leagues, as well as fast-pitch softball players, also wear the sock.

Hoscheit started LMG with two partners in 2008 when he purchased the SmoothToe brand and the graduated compression technology from Osborn Medical of Utica, where he previously worked. Since the SmoothToe's release in 2003, Hoscheit has refined and improved the product in cooperation with vascular specialists at Mayo Clinic and Dr. Maggie Fournier of Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center.

Of those older than 40, half have venous issues such as swelling and edema, said Damian Loth, an LMG partner from Vancouver, British Columbia. Those issues can get to the point where there is no treatment for them. The goal of SmoothToe is to treat circulation issues before they become unmanageable.

"These things are tougher to deal with, but they're a lot easier to prevent," Loth said.

"We know how to take care of the diabetic foot. That's how we got started," Hoscheit added. "The circulation in their feet becomes compromised after so many years of managing diabetes."

Because of the medical benefits, doctors at Mayo and others across the country have prescribed compression socks for their patients, and major airlines are providing them to their pilots, who must sit for long periods of time, Hoscheit said.

The way it works is with graduated compression, the tightest part of the sock starts in the foot, and pressure gradually loosens as it moves farther up the leg. That pressure forces blood from the foot up through the leg, allowing oxygenated blood to circulate naturally back down through the calf.

"That's the healing power. That's what feeds our muscles, tissues and joints, is fresh oxygenated blood," Hoscheit said. "If you compress the calf, you're minimizing muscle vibration when you're running, which creates tissue breakdown, which creates soreness."

Over the years, Hoscheit found there were as many athletes wearing the sock as there were people for which it was medically necessary. With that in mind, the company designed the VO2fx athletic compression sock, which is designed to increase players' speed, improve their endurance and slash their recovery and rehab time. Retired quarterback Brett Favre was the first player in the NFL to wear the model.

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The tight-knit, knee-high sock is designed with padding in key areas — depending on the sport — to protect against injury. It's the only piece of legwear below the knee that can be worn to protect the shins, Hoscheit said.

"Athletes want lighter, lighter, lighter," he said. "This is about as light as protection as you can put in it."

LMG built some in-roads with NFL teams, and within 45 days, its socks were in four locker rooms. In that time, Hoscheit and his team learned that recovery socks are critical in getting players healed from injury quicker or simply needed to help athletes overcome fatigue faster after competition.

"It gives them the edge," Hoscheit said. "That's what an athlete is looking for. It's not that they have bad circulation. They just want to perform better and feel better the next day."

Dr. Fournier of Gundersen Lutheran, who is a world-class triathlete, said that as a physician and athlete faced with limited training time, it's important to be able to recover quickly from intense workouts.

"Using graduated compression socks with at least 15 to 20 mmHg of compression definitely helps me to recover faster, which makes it possible to schedule hard workouts closer together without any problems," she said.

Not only have professional athletes benefited from the VO2fx, but so have local competitors. The Caledonia High School football team was wearing the sock as it won its fourth Class AA state championship in five years, as did the Spring Grove High School football team in its state playoff game.

"We want to be sponsoring the local teams in the area," Loth said.

Lifestyle also is in partnership with Miken, and the two companies have combined to introduce a co-branded line of the athletic sock that sports the Miken logo.

"We were very impressed by the VO2fx product and the focus on high performance equipment for high performance players was a perfect fit for Miken," said Mike Rommes, Miken's national sales manager.

Hoscheit said he's happy to have the business in Caledonia and is convinced the business will do well in a small, rural city. A recent open house drew lines out the door waiting for the retail store to open, Loth said. The brand has gotten so popular, Hoscheit said, that as long as there's a post office and FedEx will deliver to them, they have all they need right in Caledonia.

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