Running recovery tools provide a great deal of benefit for every runner – whether you’re just getting started or are a professional. However, with so many options on the market, it can feel overwhelming trying to select the right one to enhance your training.
Recovery needs vary depending on the type of training, level of fitness and frequency of runs. But whether you run 1 mile a week or 100, your body can benefit from some form of recovery.
What is the best recovery tool for runners?
It can be hard to narrow down the absolute best running recovery tool, since our recovery needs vary depending on our training and goals. Luckily, though, many of the best and most effective recovery tools are actually free.
Some of the best, most effective post-run recovery tools are sleep, fuel, and stretching.
5 Free Running Recovery Tools
It’s hard to beat anything that’s free – especially when it’s effective! Some of the cheapest running recovery tools actually cost nothing at all. And best of all, they can easily be incorporated into our regular running and training routines.
Arguably one of the most effective recovery tools for runners is sleep. Logging 7 – 9 hours of sleep regularly is a great way to ensure you stay healthy throughout training. During the peak weeks of training, many professional and elite athletes prioritize sleeping 10+ hours every night.
While we sleep, our muscle fibers make new connections, rebuilding and becoming stronger than before. Our minds are refreshed and our body is hard at work to improve. Sleep is essential for making progress in just about any conquest.
Carb + Protein Fuel
Another effective recovery tool is as simple as refueling correctly. Just about every runner eats something to refuel after a tough workout, and finding the right balance of carbs and protein can take your meal or snack to the next level.
Aim for a carb to protein ration of 3 to 1 or 4 to 1. Find something with a heavy carb base, such as bread, pasta, crackers or even fruit, and pair it with a little bit of protein. A simple fruit smoothie with protein powder, toast with peanut butter, or crackers and cheese are all great options.
Perhaps the most well-known recovery tool for runners (and all athletes for that matter) is stretching. Stretching is incredibly effective and known for helping prevent various injuries that can occur due to muscle tightening.
Simple stretches such as standing calf stretches, seated hamstring stretches, arm stretches and more might be all you need to keep your muscles fresh during training – the key is consistency.
Many runners swear by the benefits of an ice bath after especially hard workouts or long runs. Ice baths take the old method of icing an injury to an entirely new level. Simply soaking in a tub filled with cold water, ice, or even a chilly river can help expedite recovery.
Oftentimes proactivity is the best way to prevent injuries. One of the best ways to stay proactive and prevent injury is to regularly incorporate some mobility work. This can be as simple as practicing a few dynamic warm up exercises prior to each run, or including some balance exercises in your cool down.
Regularly circulating through some targeted exercises will help prevent muscle inactivity as well as strengthen some of the frequently overlooked muscle groups.
9 Affordable Post-Run Recovery Tools
Including a combination of these free running recovery tools in your training routine might be all it takes to stay healthy and at the top of your game. However, when training for a specific goal or long distance race, it might be necessary to invest in a few extra recovery tools to enhance your running.
Here are a few recovery tools for runners that can take your post-run routine to the next level. Luckily, most of these tools are very affordable, with the majority cashing in around $20-$30.
Not only is it affordable, but an incredibly common recovery tool for runners is a simple electrolyte drink. These drinks serve to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat during a tough run in order to aid muscle rebuilding.
Electrolyte drinks can be as simple as Gatorade, or can be purchased in the form of tabs or powders which are then added to water.
One of the most portable running recovery tools (and another affordable option) is “the stick”. This stick is easy to bring along when traveling and a great alternative to the foam roller. Simply roll out your muscles with the stick post-run to increase blood flow to the area, reduce lactic acid build up, and expedite recovery.
Another highly accessible recovery tool is a lacrosse ball (or golf ball or any other small, sturdy ball you have at home). Lacrosse balls are particularly beneficial if you have a tight spot or painful muscle during training.
Rolling the ball underneath your calf, glutes, hip, thigh, foot, or any other area that is causing pain can help reduce knots by promoting blood flow to the area and encouraging the muscle to release.
Many runners use Epsom salt baths after hard workouts or long runs to help reduce swelling, inflammation and soreness. It’s easy to purchase Epsom salts in bulk so you can have them on hand to use in your post-run recovery routine as needed.
Foam Roller – High Density or Trigger Point
If you’re hoping to maintain the same post-run routine, but simply purchase a recovery tool to take it to the next level, a foam roller is a great choice. The foam roller is a great way to enhance your stretching routine by rolling against any particularly tight spots to help the muscle release.
High density foam rollers are a popular option because of their affordability and versatility. However, if you’re planning to really put the foam roller to use to alleviate tension and tightness, a trigger point foam roller has added grooves and bumps to enhance the pressure during use.
Compression Socks or Sleeves
Some of the easiest, most hands-free recovery tools for runners are compression socks or sleeves. Simply wearing these socks or sleeves can encourage blood flow to help promote muscle repair and growth. Compression is a great option for immediately after a hard run, or on a rest day.
A running recovery tool that has been gaining popularity recently is the brand Oofos. Oofos creates various different kinds of shoes that are designed specifically to encourage recovery and support your feet when you’re not on the run.
These shoes are comfortable and provide extra cushion and stability for the rest and recovery moments. Many runners who suffer from chronic foot pain or injuries such as plantar fasciitis use these shoes when they are recovering from injury, suffering from pain, or simply hoping to prevent it from occurring in the future.
One popular recovery tool for elite and professional athletes is a massage. While booking consistent massages can get pretty pricey, scheduling at least one during the peak of training can be incredibly beneficial.
4 Advanced Recovery Tools for Runners
Whether you’re training for a destination race, a goal race, or actually hoping to place, sometimes it is worthwhile to invest in more expensive running recovery tools. If you’re committed, these tools are well-worth their price and can greatly enhance the recovery process.
The Roll Recovery R8 tool is a relatively new one that is quickly gaining popularity. This tool has two rollers that you place on either side of the muscle, which can be tightened so they are as close together as feels comfortable.
Using the handle, you can then move the rollers up and down the muscle, tightening them as need to get a deep massage. This tool can be painful, but is incredibly effective and getting deep into the muscle to access those trigger points.
Massage guns such as the TheraGun are a powerful recovery tool for runners and all athletes. The TheraGun uses percussive motions to deeply access your muscles for incredibly effective stimulation and massage.
A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Muscle Stimulator uses electrodes to pass electrical stimulation to the muscles. The electrical impulses can actually reduce pain signals, which in turn help the muscle relax.
If you’re looking for a passive form of recovery that you can do while relaxing on the couch, these recovery boots may be your answer. The NormaTec Recovery Boots are just that – boots. While you wear them, they use air compression and pulses to activate the muscles, compress them and improve blood flow to the area.
How to Choose the Best Running Recovery Tool
With so many running recovery tool options, it can be difficult to narrow down the best fit for your body and your training. Many runners find success uses methods that are completely free, while others are willing to make a larger investment to enhance and speed up their recovery.
To be sure you choose the best recovery tool for your running needs, it’s smart to always start with the free, easily accessible options. Always begin with stretching, rest and fuel. Once your rest and fuel are adequate, you can try adding some of the cheaper, easier options to assess whether or not they improve the quality of your recovery. Foam rollers, the stick, massages and massage balls are great options.
If you’re aiming for a big goal and willing to invest a bit more, purchasing one of the more advanced recovery tools will certainly be of benefit.
Making recovery a priority is important for runners of all ability levels – whether you simply complete a few stretches or use a muscle stimulator. These recovery tools are here to make life easier, more efficient and keep you healthy during even the toughest training season.