Stroll through the finish area of any running race and you’ll likely see people hobbling around on stiff legs, maybe leaning on a friend or family member for support and looking like their legs somehow just aged by decades in a matter of hours. If you’ve been there yourself, you know how daunting a staircase can be the day after an extra-hard run, or how excruciating the simple act of sitting down on a chair … or a toilet … can be. And while these experiences can be amusing — because you know you’ll be signing up to do it again as soon as the pain eases — it’s no wonder there’s a thriving and prolific marketplace of recovery tools for runners and other athletes.
Navigating the world of recovery can feel as overwhelming as trying to find your way through the finish area at the end of a big race. There are spikey balls for your feet or hips — sometimes attached to a rope or cord, rollers of every shape and size — some like sticks, others like hooks, some with handles, others with various textures. And then there are foam rollers, vibrating and percussive instruments, compression technology, and … even recovery sheets for your bed. And that’s just the category of tools! Don’t even get us started on protein and recovery mixes.
There’s no doubt, the world of exercise recovery is a big one.
And that’s why we’re here to help. We’ve researched and tested the best recovery tools on the market, and we’ve ranked them here to help you choose the tools that will work best for you. First, however, we had to narrow the scope.
To keep this guide manageable (and helpful), we limited our focus to four kinds of recovery tools that can be used on the entire body: foam rollers, massage sticks, percussive massagers, and compression boots.
For more background information on this guide, see our buying advice, testing methodology, and frequently asked questions below our top picks.
Use these links to skip quickly to the products you’d like to learn more about:
- Best Foam Roller: Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller
- Best Runner-Up Foam Roller: TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
- Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: RumbleRoller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller
- Best Soft Foam Roller: Pro-Tec Athletics 35″ EVA Bold Foam Roller
- Best Foam Roller for Travel: Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller
- Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Therabody Wave Roller
- Best Massage Stick: Addaday Pro Stick Massage Roller
- Best Massage Stick for Deep Tissue Massage: Brazyn Life Morph Stick
- Best Massage Stick for Myofascial Release: Tiger Tail USA The Original 18”
- Best Percussive Massager: Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro
- Best Runner-Up Percussive Massager: Ekrin Athletics B37S
- Best Budget Percussive Massager: Therabody Theragun Mini
- Best Compression Boots: Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs
- Best Runner-Up Compression Boots: Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots
Best Foam Roller: Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller ($60)
The Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller has a firm density and gentle surface texture that makes it a great all-around foam roller for anyone — and it’s our top choice overall. Although it’s built with a high-density foam that’s on the firmer end of the range, the subtle diamond texture and rounded curves make it easy to dial in the intensity. A center groove for aligning the spine and neck helps target the back and shoulder muscles. The groove also works well for rolling out the triceps, forearms, iliotibial bands, Achilles tendons, and hip flexors.
In testing, we found that the center and sides were ideal for targeting specific areas and applying higher intensity pressure, while the curved dip on either side of the center worked well for large muscles or created more gentle pressure. That said, the foam rolling options with this roller are as broad as your imagination. One thing we noted with this foam roller’s surface material is that it tends to attract dog fur and dust from the floor — so if you’ve got furry running buddies in your household, you may want to place a yoga mat underneath while rolling.
To learn more, read our in-depth Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller review.
- Firm, lightly textured foam surface
- The foam material collects small amounts of dust and dog hair
- It’s a spendy investment for first-timers
Best Runner-Up Foam Roller: TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller ($37)
The TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller, with its compact size and soft textured surface, is our runner-up for the foam roller category. This lightweight foam roller is made with a soft, textured foam that’s backed with a hard, hollow core — creating a feel that’s soft to the touch yet firm enough to reach deep into the muscle tissue. The surface grid pattern is designed to mimic the feel of a massage therapist’s hands — helping to move blood and oxygen to damaged tissue. While we wouldn’t recommend foregoing massage therapy in lieu of this foam roller, it can help keep muscles happy day to day.
We appreciated the balance of soft and firm in this foam roller. It gives the user the ability to apply a wide range of pressure and intensity levels, thus appealing to beginners and advanced users alike. In addition, its compact size makes it easy to maneuver while rolling out muscles — or to toss in the car for race weekend or after a long run.
- Small and lightweight
- Soft, textured foam
- Lower price
- We can’t really tell the difference between the various foam patterns
- 13-inch width might feel a little narrow for some bodies
Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: RumbleRoller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller ($50)
With its spiky textured surface, the RumbleRoller 12” Compact Original Textured Foam Roller may look a little intimidating, but those large foam bumps do a great job reaching deep into muscle tissue to work out kinks and knots. As the muscles are rolled over the textured surface, the firm-but-flexible foam bumps knead and stretch the muscle tissue, releasing trigger points and helping to restore flexibility. For even more intensity, users can rock side-to-side on the foam bumps.
While it’s softer than it looks, we wouldn’t recommend this foam roller to first-timers. It’s more intense — and therefore less versatile — than other foam rollers. Also, its intensity can be too much for super-sore muscles. However, for consistent users who are looking for a daily tool to reach deeper into the muscle tissue, this roller is the ticket.
- It feels softer than it looks
- Reaches deep into muscle tissue
- Intense on sore or sensitive muscles
- Not an ideal introductory foam roller
Best Soft Foam Roller: Pro-Tec Athletics 35” EVA Bold Foam Roller ($40)
For beginners and those looking for a tool to facilitate gentle massage and stretching, the Pro-Tec Athletics 35” EVA Bold Foam Roller is our top pick. Made with slightly textured, closed-cell EVA foam, this roller is lightweight for its size, highly maneuverable, and easy to clean. Its size and soft foam surface make it an ideal tool for promoting flexibility and blood circulation through myofascial release and stretching.
Thanks to its generous 35-inch length, this foam roller is great for other exercises, too, such as chest and hip openers. Users can lie down lengthwise on top of the roller, lining up their spine against the supportive foam, and then stretch their arms out to either side for a chest opener. This alone can offer a deep stretch, and rocking gently side to side can help work out the shoulders and back muscles. Additional exercise suggestions are included with the foam roller.
- Ideal for stretching the length of the spine
- Great introductory foam roller for first-timers
- Not the best tool for reaching deep tissue
- Not easily portable
Best Foam Roller for Travel: Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller ($70)
For globe-trotting runners that live for adventure travel and destination races, the Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller deserves a dedicated spot in their luggage. This lightweight, compact foam roller is a strong performer in its own right — but its ability to collapse into a two-inch-wide flat board is what truly sets it apart. And did we mention it’s super easy to operate? To collapse the foam roller, push the aluminum plates inward on either end. When you’re ready to roll, pull the looped cords on each end until they lock into place.
Bamboo planks and aluminum in the core provide necessary firmness, while soft EVA foam on the outside delivers cushioned pressure to your muscles as you roll them over the surface. We found that this foam roller performs just as well as other comparable options. That said, it’s on the more expensive end of the foam roller price range if you don’t need the collapsible benefit.
- Easy to collapse and put back together
- Lightweight, packable
- It’s spendy if you’re not planning to travel with it
- Doesn’t roll as fluidly as traditional foam rollers
Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Therabody Wave Roller ($150)
The Therabody Wave Roller combines the best of both foam rolling and percussive massage treatment. This Bluetooth-enabled vibrating foam roller features a soft foam surface over a firm core that holds a rechargeable 12-volt lithium-ion battery. It has five different vibration speeds and can be operated using buttons on the side of the roller or with the Therabody app. The app also provides a variety of routines to assist with your recovery and wellness needs. One of our favorite attributes of this roller is that it’s quiet at even the highest vibration level thanks to outer foam that muffles the sound while providing a cushioned surface to roll on.
The small and light 12- by five-inch roller only weighs 3.3 pounds and is easily portable, whether you’re packing it in your duffel for post-race or bringing it to the gym to use after a workout. Its battery lasts for three hours before it’ll need to be plugged in and recharged. One thing to note is that the roller gets a little bit slippery on smooth floor surfaces, especially at its higher frequency vibration settings. Using it on a yoga mat helps to keep it from vibrating out of position.
- Soft foam surface with a firm core
- Five levels of quiet vibration
- Smart connectivity via Bluetooth to the Therabody app
- It’s a little slippery at higher vibration settings
- Can’t discern an obvious benefit from the wave texture
Best Massage Roller: Addaday Pro Stick Massage Roller ($48)
The Addaday Pro Stick Massage Roller is our top pick for stick massage tools. Like other stick massage rollers, it is a handheld recovery tool that can be used on most large muscle groups, as well as tendons, trigger points, and other tight spots. It features three different rings — soft-density blue and white, medium-density blue and gray, and smaller firm-density red — that allow the user to apply different levels of pressure with precision. Firm hand grips on either end provide leverage and control, further enhancing the ability to dial in pressure and target specific muscles.
This lightweight massage stick is 21 inches in length, including two hand grips that are each 4.25 inches long, making this a tool that’s easy to handle and maneuver. It has a steel core that ensures that it won’t bend or break as you apply pressure deep into the muscles. Its versatility makes it a great recovery tool for any user.
Read our in-depth Addaday Pro Stick Massage Roller review.
- Three different ring sizes allow a variety of applications
- Steel core can withstand strong pressure without bending or breaking
- Even the soft ring is pretty firm
Best Massage Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: Brazyn Life Morph Stick ($28 to $36)
We’re impressed with how much versatility and deep tissue access the Brazyn Life Morph Stick packs into such a small device. With removable foam rings, the stick can be used in a variety of configurations. It comes with two rings, and users have the option of purchasing two more for $10. On its own, the stick has a six-inch-wide center of deeply textured foam and two 3.5-inch handles on either side that can be used for rolling out muscles and tendons. We recommend placing it underneath your work desk and using it as a foot massager, though it can be used as a handheld stick or like a foam roller on the floor.
Adding two foam rings enhances the stick’s ability to target the Achilles tendon, shins, calves, hamstrings, triceps, forearms, and other areas. With four foam rings, the stick works similar to a foam roller — the deep grooves between the rings help the foam dig deeper into muscles. The four-ring configuration also works as an abdominal roller.
With so many options with its 13-inch length, we love this tool for reaching deep into muscle tissue while being easily portable for wherever your workouts and recovery routines take you.
- Removable foam rings
- Small size makes it easily portable
- Doubles as an abdominal roller
- The foam rings require some force to get on and off
- Multiple pieces to keep track of (or risk misplacing)
Best Massage Roller for Myofascial Release: Tiger Tail USA The Original 18” ($40)
The Tiger Tail USA The Original 18” massage stick performs similarly to a traditional foam roller and is a great option for those seeking the benefits of foam rolling in a tool that doesn’t require getting down on the ground. Its smooth foam surface feels gentle against the skin while the rigid construction allows users to apply deep pressure to the muscle tissue, releasing knots and supporting blood circulation. The two grippy handles on each end are four inches long and make it easy to maneuver the 10-inch massage surface, which provides plenty of room for rolling out large and small muscles.
While it lacks the textured surface common to many deep tissue tools, the rigid construction allows for ample pressure application to muscle fascia. In addition, we found that this massage stick’s smooth surface did not limit its ability to reach deep tissue, and its grippy handles are some of the most comfortable we’ve used. If you want further inspiration for recovery routines, tips, and tools, check out Tiger Tail USA’s Happy Muscles Book (purchased separately).
- Simple, intuitive design
- Comfortable hand grip
- Smooth surface delivers consistent pressure
- Not as versatile as other rollers
- Accessing back and shoulder muscles is challenging
Best Percussive Massager: Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro ($400)
Quiet and powerful, the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro is our favorite percussive massager. This handheld massager has a 90-watt motor with five speed settings and can be adjusted using a speed dial on the device or the Hyperice app. The app also includes guided routines and options for customizing and automating your recovery. The five different head attachments make it easy to reach a variety of muscles, tissue, and tendons while homing in the pressure and precision. The massager has a stall force of 60 to 70 pounds, which means that the percussion will stop briefly under too much force – though we couldn’t get it to stall in testing. Three pressure-indicator LED lights on the speed dial illuminate as the applied pressure increases.
The claimed battery life is about two to three hours of use, depending on speed and pressure levels — we found this to be accurate, and we were surprised by how quickly it recharges, too. A battery-level indicator will turn from green to yellow when the device needs to be plugged in.
To learn more, read our in-depth Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro review.
Amplitude: 14 millimeters
- Five speed levels
- Five head attachments: fork, ball, cushion, flat, bullet
- Slightly heavier than comparable models
Best Runner-Up Percussive Massager: Ekrin Athletics B37S ($330)
Our favorite runner-up percussive massager is the Ekrin Athletics B37S. Nearly as quiet as the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro reviewed above, it has five speed settings ranging from 2,000 to 3,200 repetitions per minute (RPM) and can apply 36 to 52 pounds of force. The highest speed level automatically varies from 2,400 to 3,200 RPM every ten seconds to create muscle confusion and avoid hitting a plateau in recovery, though we found that the frequency change feels subtle. A blue light at the top indicates the amount of pressure being applied at each speed level.
To operate the device, press and hold the power button at the top, and then press the same button to level up the speed. Ekrin Athletics recommends using the massager for up to two minutes at a time per muscle group. After 10 minutes of continuous use, the device will automatically shut down, though it can be immediately restarted by pressing and holding the power button.
While this automatic shutdown is to prevent overuse, it can be an annoying inconvenience for those in the middle of a full-body recovery routine. Overall, we found it to be a versatile percussive massager that’s lightweight, ergonomic, and quiet.
Amplitude: 12 millimeters
- Five speed levels
- Six head attachments: flat, bullet, cone, fork, round (silicone), and round (foam)
- Up to eight-hour battery life (and rechargeable)
- Automatically shuts down after 10 minutes of continuous use
- The silicone head attachment will collapse with moderate pressure
Best Budget Percussive Massager: Therabody Theragun Mini ($200)
The Therabody Theragun Mini is a powerful handheld percussive massager that’s a fantastic recovery tool for the price and one that’s easy to pack for traveling. This compact device has three speed levels and is nearly as powerful as full-size percussive massagers. Its triangular shape is ergonomic and comfortable to hold for the entirety of your massage session, and it’s surprisingly agile as you maneuver it around to reach different muscle groups.
A simple and intuitive design, there is just one button that is used for powering the device on and off as well as cycling through its speed levels. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 150 minutes before it needs to be recharged, which takes approximately 80 minutes. The single ball attachment makes it slightly limited compared to other percussive massagers. However, while it’s pared down, we found that the important features, power, portability, and ease of use were all still there. As a result, it is a great introduction to percussive massage and also makes a great gift for any athlete.
Amplitude: 12 millimeters
- Three speed levels: 1,750, 2,100, and 2,400 percussions per minute (PPM)
- Small size is highly portable: 6 x 5.3 x 2.25 inches
- Great value
- Lacks some of the bells and whistles
- Slightly less powerful than top-end, full-size percussive massagers
Best Compression Boots: Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs ($800)
The significant drop in price of the latest version of the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs is a big factor in making it our top choice in the compression boots category. While these innovative and high-quality boots have always impressed us, the price tag has kept them unattainable for most folks. The newest model, however, delivers the same premium recovery experience that we’ve come to expect from Normatec boots by Hyperice but at a more competitive price. These recovery boots use dynamic air compression to circulate blood and massage the muscles. The experience is exceptionally relaxing, and it helps reduce swelling — refreshing the muscles and speeding up recovery.
The system includes two zippered leg sleeves, a control unit for adjusting cycles and pressure, and a hose that connects the control unit to the two leg sleeves. To operate the system, pull the sleeves onto both legs and zip them all the way up, then plug the hose into both boots and the control unit. On the control unit, select which attachment you’re using (attachments for the arms and hips can be purchased separately), and then choose the amount of pressure, the zone you want to place extra time and pressure on, and the time.
Then lean back — we recommend a recliner if you have one, though a couch or bed works just as well — relax, and enjoy the slow, compressive massage. We love using the boots after a hard workout or weight-lifting session, post-race, or anytime our legs are feeling extra tired. We’ve noticed that they’re especially effective in giving us a “leg up” when we’re dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after pushing a little too hard.
Read more in our Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs review.
Includes: Hyperice Normatec 3 control unit, two leg attachments, hose for connecting leg attachments to control unit, power adapter for charging. Carry case sold separately ($150). Arm attachments ($400) and hip attachment ($250) are also sold separately.
- Rechargeable (up to three hours of battery life)
- Highly portable
- Connects via Bluetooth to Hyperice app
- A pricey investment in muscle recovery
- Carry case not included
Best Runner-Up Compression Boots: Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots ($900)
We love the wireless design of the Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots, which makes them the most portable compression boots we’ve found. The system includes two leg sleeves, a charging cord, and a pouch for storage. To operate the boots, slide one on each leg and power on the control panels at the top of each boot. Once you turn both control panels on, they’ll sync automatically, so you only need to input your desired cycle time and pressure level once and both boots will activate and start their compression cycle at the same time.
The compression cycle feels like the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs reviewed above — the boots slowly inflate, starting from the feet and working up to the top of the thighs before deflating and starting again. They have four levels of adjustable pressure and use a 60-second flush cycle to increase the number of cycles during a session. The boots can be set to 20-, 40-, or 60-minute cycles, or a continuous nonstop cycle. The battery life lasts up to four hours before you’ll need to plug the boots in to recharge them. Note, only one boot can charge at a time, but they seem to recharge quickly.
Even though the boots automatically sync, we noticed that sometimes their timing is slightly off, particularly when deflating. This didn’t bother us, but it’s worth noting since it could be an issue for some. Additionally, since each boot has its own built-in control unit, they’re much heavier than other compression boots at about four pounds per boot, depending on size.
Of course, the upside of this is that there isn’t a separate control unit and cord that you must carry around and reconnect every time you want to use them. Overall, these are a great compression boot option, especially if you like to travel and want to take them with you.
Includes: Two leg sleeves with integrated pumps, charging cord, and storage pouch
- Fully wireless with minimal equipment
- Rechargeable (up to four hours of battery life)
- Control panel on both booths
- Each boot is surprisingly heavy
- Sometimes the boot cycles get slightly out of sync
Running Recovery Tools Glossary
- Deep Tissue Massage – Deep tissue massage targets scar tissue and muscle adhesions, or knots that inhibit circulation and cause pain and inflammation.
- Fascia – Fascia is thin connective tissue that wraps and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber, and muscle in your body. Fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin, and tight fascia can restrict movement in muscles and joints.
- Myofascial Release – A massage treatment that attempts to release tension in the fascia caused by trauma, posture, or inflammation.
- Trigger Points – Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers formed in muscles after injuries or overuse. A trigger point in a muscle can cause strain and pain throughout the muscle.
- Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – Pain and stiffness in muscles several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.
- Tendonitis – Inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Tendons are the thick, fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone.
- Compression Therapy – Compressing the muscles helps blood flow more efficiently and prevents it from pooling in various parts of the body. Compression therapy helps reduce swelling and pain.
How to Choose: A Buyer’s Guide for Running Recovery Tools
Foam Roller Density
Foam rollers can range in density from soft to firm. Soft-density foam rollers, like the Pro-Tec Athletics 35” EVA Bold Foam Roller, have a little bit more give and usually feel more comfortable, especially against sore or tender muscles. They’re also a good option for beginners who are learning foam rolling techniques for the first time.
On the other hand, firm-density foam rollers like the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller and the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller can be more effective at reaching deeper into the muscles and releasing muscle adhesions, aligning muscle tissue, and alleviating tightness or pain. Additionally, firm-density foam tends to be more durable and therefore last longer than soft foam. If you’re new to foam rolling, soft-density foam rollers are a good idea as you get the hang of it. As your technique evolves and your muscles adapt, you might consider transitioning to a firm-density foam roller.
Foam Roller Texture
Foam rollers can be smooth or have any variety of textures. For example, the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller is mostly smooth with a subtle diamond-shaped texture, along with two rounded ridges and a center groove. This design gives the foam roller more versatility in rolling out the spine, neck, triceps, forearms, and other muscles.
Similarly, the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller has a varying and subtle grid texture that’s designed to mimic the feel of massage therapy. On the other hand, the RumbleRoller 12” Compact Original Textured Foam Roller is covered in foam bumps that massage deep into the muscle tissue.
As a rule of thumb, smooth foam rollers tend to feel more comfortable and are a good option for beginners. As the texture on a foam roller increases, so does the intensity. Personal preference will dictate the level of texture you want on your foam roller.
If you prefer a more intense foam rolling experience that lets you access deep into your muscles, a textured roller will be a great recovery tool for you. However, if you like a gentler, less intense foam rolling experience, then a minimally textured or smooth foam roller will be your best choice.
Foam Roller Size
Foam rollers are typically four to six inches in diameter, and their length varies more broadly. Most foam rollers are at least 11 to 13 inches in length, though longer ones are common. At the lower end of the size range, foam rollers are lightweight, portable, and easy to maneuver. However, if they are too small, they become less effective on large muscles like quadriceps and hamstrings.
Large foam rollers, such as the Pro-Tec Athletics 35” EVA Bold Foam Roller work well for large muscles and for stretching and rolling out the spine. The trade-off, of course, is that it’s less portable and requires more space while rolling. As a result, choosing the right foam roller size comes down to personal preference, how you want to use it, and whether you want to be able to take it with you to the gym or while traveling.
Recovery Tools and Travel
As we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, some of the recovery tools we’ve listed lend themselves to traveling and others are not as portable. As you weigh the most important factors in choosing recovery tools, consider how much you travel and whether you’ll want to take your recovery tool with you. Travel could include anything from trips to the gym, family holidays, adventure travel, or destination races.
If you want to take your recovery tool with you, then some of the tools on this list will work better than others. For example, while all the percussive massagers claim to be Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-approved for carry-on luggage, one of them — the Therabody Theragun Mini — is much smaller and lighter than the rest. The Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs are TSA-approved for carry-on luggage and don’t need an outlet to operate, but they don’t come with a carrying case and they’ll take up a chunk of space in your bag.
For long international trips where leg swelling can be an issue, it might be worth taking them. Aside from these battery-operated instruments, it will be a matter of space for taking most foam rollers, massage rollers, and other tools along.
Percussive Tools and Amplitude
When choosing among percussive massagers, amplitude is an important number to pay attention to because it tells you how deep into the muscle the percussive massage will go. A premium percussive massager should have at least 10 millimeters of amplitude to reach deep tissue. The percussive massagers on our list have either 12 or 14 millimeters. How deep into the muscle tissue you get will depend on the force you apply. Both the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro and the Ekrin Athletics B37S have LED lights to indicate the amount of pressure you’re applying at each speed level.
Why You Should Trust Us
The iRunFar team is composed of road runners, trail runners, and ultrarunners with a collective 150-plus years of running experience. We began this running recovery tools buyer’s guide with extensive research into the running recovery marketplace.
From there, author Alli Hartz narrowed the scope of the guide and refined a list of the top choices. She then tested a variety of tools over many weeks — after long runs, hard workouts, and strenuous powerlifting sessions. As she built up her mileage while training for a 100-mile race, Alli put these recovery tools to the test, racking up many cumulative hours in compression boots, with foam rollers and massage rollers, and, at times, with a percussive massager in each hand. In fact, she wrote this roundup with a recovery tool in hand more often than not.
Please note that in the recovery equipment world product models are routinely discontinued, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running… they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this – product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures – in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing as well as research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most of the products are likely to remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear that you’ll be using for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running Recovery Tools
Why is recovery after running important?
To put it simply, every time you exercise, you are breaking down muscle fibers, adding stress to your body, and depleting energy stores. Your body needs time to recover so that it can adapt to the additional load and become stronger and more resilient. Running recovery can include nutrition, sleep, rest days, gentle movement like stretching, hot and cold therapy like an ice bath or sauna session, massage therapy, acupuncture, foam rolling, percussive massage, compression therapy, and more.
The running recovery tools we cover in this guide are generally intended to support running recovery by facilitating blood circulation, releasing muscle adhesions or knots, and supporting flexibility and mobility. Recovery helps reduce the risk of injury from things like inflammation, overuse, or tightness, and generally helps muscles feel better faster.
To take a deeper dive into the topic, check out our article, “A Million Modalities: The Science of Exercise Recovery.”
What is the best recovery after running?
The best recovery immediately after running — especially a hard workout or a race — is to jog slowly or walk. Stretching and foam rolling while your muscles are still warm is also a good way to help boost post-run recovery. Next, think about fueling and hydrating — water and a mix of protein and carbohydrates will help your muscles begin the process of repairing and rebuilding.
After a hard workout, consider an ice bath to help reduce inflammation and swelling, or jump in a cold lake at the end of a hot summer run if you can! Finally, getting adequate and high-quality sleep will support recovery.
How long does it take to recover from running?
The time it takes to recover will depend on the individual, their fitness and experience level, and the length and intensity of the run. For example, a long run at a high effort, such as a marathon or ultra-distance race, will take a significant amount of time to recover from. It may also take someone who isn’t properly trained or who’s running a long distance for the first time longer to recover than someone who regularly trains for and runs that distance.
Finally, other things like fitness, genetics, fueling, and compounding factors like stress will influence an individual’s recovery time. Generally, it takes a couple of days up to a few weeks to fully recover from a hard run.
How can I improve my recovery from exercise?
Running recovery is a broad topic and can encompass everything from doing an adequate post-workout cooldown to foam rolling and stretching, sitting in an ice bath, or getting a massage, and managing nutrition, sleep, and life stress. Improving running recovery starts with treating it with equal importance as your running and training, and giving it the same attention and emphasis that you would to a workout or a strength-training session.
Building in time for post-run recovery is a great way to start making recovery part of your regular routine. What that recovery looks like will depend on your goals and preferences. Foam rolling is one addition to your regular routine that can make a big difference.
Nutrition is another — making sure you’re properly fueling with the right mix of carbs and protein after each run. Sleep, especially as your training volume goes up, cannot be overemphasized. It’s the best opportunity for your body and your brain to rest and recharge.
For more tips and to explore recovery-related topics, look at our article on running and recovery.
There are so many recovery tools! How do I decide which workout recovery tool I need?
While there are endless options for enhancing your running recovery, we recommend keeping it simple, especially when you’re just getting started on your journey into the world of running recovery tools. One of the most practical and easy-to-use tools is a foam roller, and it happens to be both versatile and less expensive than high-tech equipment like percussive massagers and compression boots. Massage sticks are also a simple and relatively inexpensive way to roll out your muscles and begin discovering the best recovery routine for your body.
Other considerations when choosing the best recovery tool include your specific goals, including both performance goals and health or wellness goals. For example, someone who’s injury-free and has a full calendar of races may have different needs and goals than someone who’s dealing with chronic tendonitis and trying to get back to consistent training. Finally, if you work with a coach or physical therapist, we’d recommend consulting them before making a big investment in something like compression boots.
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
Foam rolling can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation, and increase range of motion in the joints. It can also help increase blood circulation, facilitating the movement of oxygenated blood to help restore depleted muscles. Regular foam rolling can also increase flexibility and improve posture, helping to reduce the risk of injury.
How often should I foam roll?
You can foam roll every day if you want to, and many athletes incorporate foam rolling regularly into their training routine. However, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting a recovery routine, and you should stop foam rolling if you experience pain.
Read about the importance of trunk mobility for running, and how foam rolling can help, in our article, “Performance Flexibility: Trunk Mobility and the Foam Roll.”
What are the benefits of percussive massage?
Percussive massage therapy incorporates rapid strikes into the muscle tissue to increase blood flow, relax the muscles, break up adhesions, and release fluids, such as lactic acid, out of the muscles and into the circulatory system. The result is reduced soreness, inflammation, and tension, and more relaxed muscles.
To dive deeper into percussive massage, check out our discussion and in-depth product review from a physical therapist’s perspective in our Addaday BioZoom Edge review.
Do compression boots work?
For one, compression boots force you to sit down and stay still for at least 15 minutes, which is a benefit on its own. But that’s not all — compression boots enhance blood flow and circulation. For example, the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs use dynamic air compression, which means that the boots slowly fill with air, squeezing the legs and reducing blood flow.
As they release, blood rushes back in and replenishes muscles with nutrients and oxygen. The boots operate in cycles with the air compartments up and down the legs filling and emptying, flushing out toxins and encouraging the flow of fresh blood. The result is decreased inflammation in the muscles and improved feelings of recovery.
Compression boots also help reduce the swelling that can occur from inflammation, extended time on your feet, or from the many micro-tears that muscles incur during exercise. Finally, the experience of sitting in compression boots and having your legs slowly squeezed and released is relaxing. This ability to deeply relax further enhances and speeds up overall feelings of recovery.
The above said, scientific research has not linked compression boots with sports performance improvements.
In summary, researchers have documented that these devices decrease subjective feelings of fatigue and soreness, and decrease the presence of muscle inflammation and toxins with use post-exercise. However, there doesn’t seem to be a link between using compression boots and boosting your running performance.
Call for Comments
- Do you have a favorite recovery tool?
- What’s your go-to recovery routine? Do you have recommendations or tips?
- Let us know in the comments how you recover after you exercise?