Best Recovery Tools for Athletes of 2024

The iRunFar team tested a bunch of recovery tools for athletes and recommends these for your post-workout recovery.

By and on April 23, 2024 | Comments
Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - testing a TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller

Foam rollers, massage sticks, and other running recovery tools can help you prepare for your next big adventure. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

It’s often said that you have to recover as hard as you train, and having access to the best recovery tools for athletes can help you recover from a run quickly to get back at it. Navigating the world of recovery tools 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, and compression technology. While some people are happy with a single foam roller, most runners enjoy having access to a variety of recovery tools.

We’ve researched and tested the best recovery tools on the market and 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 of the best running recovery tools manageable (and helpful), we limited our focus to four kinds of recovery tools: 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.

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller recovering after a run

Foam rollers are a great way to aid recovery after a workout. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Foam Roller: Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller ($60)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller - product photo


  • Sturdy
  • Firm, lightly textured foam surface


  • The foam material collects small amounts of dust and dog hair
  • It’s a relatively expensive investment for first-timers

The Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller has a firm density and gentle surface texture, making 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.

We used the center and sides of the foam roller for areas that needed higher pressure, and the curved dip on either side of the center was ideal for areas that needed more gentle rolling. 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.

Claimed dimensions: 18 x 6 inches | Claimed weight: 2.6 pounds | Materials: High-density EVA foam, engineered ABS

Shop the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller

Best Foam Roller Runner-Up: TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller ($37)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller - product photo


  • 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

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 features a soft, textured foam 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 mimics 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.

This foam roller provides an outstanding balance of softness and firmness. It allows the user 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 a race weekend or after a long run.

Claimed dimensions: 13 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches | Claimed weight: 1.4 pounds | Materials: EVA foam

Shop the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller

Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: RumbleRoller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller ($50)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - RumbleRoller 12 Compact Original Textured Foam Roller - product photo


  • It feels softer than it looks
  • Reaches deep into muscle tissue


  • Intense on sore or sensitive muscles
  • Not an ideal introductory foam roller

With its spiky textured surface, the RumbleRoller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller may look 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. Rocking side to side on the foam bumps can provide even more intensity if needed.

While it’s softer than it looks, we wouldn’t recommend this foam roller to first-time foam rollers. It’s more intense and less versatile than other foam rollers. Also, its intensity can be too much for super sore muscles. However, this roller is the ticket for consistent users looking for a daily tool to reach deeper into the muscle tissue.

Claimed dimensions: 13 x 5 inches | Claimed weight: Not listed | Materials: Not listed

Shop the RumbleRoller 12

Best Soft Foam Roller: Pro-Tec Athletics 35″ EVA Bold Foam Roller ($40)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Pro Tec Athletics 35 EVA Foam Roller - product photo


  • 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

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 ideal for promoting flexibility and blood circulation through myofascial release and stretching.

Thanks to its generous 35-inch length, this foam roller is excellent 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. The foam roller comes with suggestions for different exercises that it can facilitate.

Claimed dimensions: 35 x 6 inches | Claimed weight: Not listed | Materials: EVA

Shop the Pro-Tec Athletics 35" EVA Bold Foam Roller

Best Foam Roller for Travel: Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller ($70)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller - product photo


  • Easy to collapse and put back together
  • Lightweight, packable


  • It’s spendy if you’re not planning to travel with it
  • It doesn’t roll as fluidly as traditional foam rollers

If you want to be able to take a foam roller to races that you’re flying to but don’t have room in your luggage, the Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller is a perfect solution. This lightweight, compact foam roller is a strong performer, but its ability to collapse into a two-inch-wide flat board truly sets it apart. And did we mention it’s super easy to operate? Push the aluminum plates inward on either end to collapse the foam roller. 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 the 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.

Claimed dimensions: 14.5 x 5.5 inches | Claimed weight: 1.5 pounds | Materials: Bamboo

Shop the Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller

Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Therabody Wave Roller ($149)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Therabody Wave Roller - product photo


  • 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

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 with a rechargeable 12-volt lithium-ion battery. It has five different vibration speeds controlled by 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 the outer foam that muffles the sound while providing a cushioned surface to roll on.

The small and light 12 x 5-inch roller only weighs 3.3 pounds and is easily portable, whether 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. Our testers found that the roller can slip when used on smooth or slippery floors, and the issue is worse at higher frequency vibration settings. Using it on a yoga mat helps to keep it from vibrating out of position.

Claimed dimensions: 12 x 5 inches | Claimed weight: 3.3 pounds | Materials: Hypo-allergenic EVA high-density foam

Shop the Therabody Wave Roller

Best Massage Roller: Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller ($48)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller - product photo


  • 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
  • Expensive

The Medi-Dyne 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 pressure levels 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 long, including two hand grips, 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. This recovery tool can provide endless versatility with different ring firmness options for different areas.

Read our in-depth Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller review.

Claimed dimensions: 21 x 2 x 2 inches | Claimed weight: Not listed | Materials: Not listed

Shop the Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller

Best Massage Roller for Deep Tissue Massage: Brazyn Life Morph Stick ($28 to $36)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Brazyn Life Morph Stick - product photo


  • Removable foam rings
  • Its 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

We’re impressed with how much versatility and deep tissue access the Brazyn Life Morph Stick packs into such a small device. The two rings are removable, allowing the stick to be used in several different configurations. Users can purchase two more rings for $10 for increased versatility. 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 like 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.

Claimed dimensions: 13 x 4 x 4 inches | Claimed weight: Not listed | Materials: High-density foam rings

Shop the Brazyn Life Morph Stick

Best Massage Roller for Myofascial Release: Tiger Tail USA The Original 18″ ($40)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Tiger Tail USA The Original 18 - product photo


  • Simple, intuitive design
  • Comfortable hand grip
  • Smooth surface delivers consistent pressure


  • Not as versatile as other rollers
  • Accessing back and shoulder muscles is challenging

The Tiger Tail USA The Original 18″ massage stick performs similarly to a traditional foam roller and is an excellent 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 four-inch handles on each end are grippy, making maneuvering the 10-inch massage surface easy. The stick’s length 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 great 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).

Claimed dimensions: 18 x 2 x 2 inches | Claimed weight: 0.7 pounds | Materials: High-density foam rings

Shop the Tiger Tail USA The Original 18"

Best Percussive Massager: Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro ($330)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro - product photo


  • Five speed levels
  • Five head attachments: fork, ball, cushion, flat, bullet


  • Expensive
  • Slightly heavier than comparable models

Quiet and powerful, the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro is our favorite percussive massager. The 90-watt motor can drive five different speed settings. You can control the 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 reaching various muscles, tissue, and tendons easy while homing in pressure and precision. The massager has a stall force of 60 to 70 pounds, which means 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.

Claimed dimensions: 8 x 2.5 x 10.4 inches | Claimed weight: 2.6 pounds | Materials: Not listed

Shop the Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro

Best Percussive Massager – Runner-Up: Ekrin Athletics B37S ($330)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Ekrin Athletics B37S - product photo


  • 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

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. While we found the frequency change fairly subtle, it can help avoid hitting a plateau in the recovery process. A blue light at the top indicates the pressure 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 prevents overuse, it can be an annoying inconvenience for those in the middle of a full-body recovery routine. Overall, we found it a versatile percussive massager that’s lightweight, ergonomic, and quiet.

Claimed dimensions: 12 x 4 x 10 inches | Claimed weight: 2.2 pounds | Materials: Not listed

Shop the Ekrin Athletics B37S

Best Budget Percussive Massager: Therabody Theragun Mini ($200)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Therabody Theragun Mini - product photo


  • 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


  • It lacks some of the bells and whistles
  • Slightly less powerful than top-end, full-size percussive massagers

The Therabody Theragun Mini is a powerful handheld percussive massager that’s a fantastic recovery tool for the price and easy to pack for traveling. While small, this device has nearly the same power as other 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; just one button is used for powering the device on and off and cycling through its speed levels. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 150 minutes before recharging, which takes approximately 80 minutes. The single ball attachment is slightly limited compared to other percussive massagers with various attachment options. However, while it’s pared down, we found that the important features, power, portability, and ease of use still exist. As a result, it is an excellent introduction to percussive massage and a great gift for any athlete.

Claimed dimensions: 6 x 5.3 x 2.25 inches | Claimed weight: 1 pound | Materials: Not listed

Shop the Therabody Theragun Mini

Best Compression Boots: Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs ($800)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Normatec 3 Pro Legs - product photo


  • 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

The significant drop in the price of the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs over the past couple of years is a significant 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. This can help reduce swelling, refresh muscles, and increase recovery speed. The whole experience is exceptionally relaxing as well.

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. Pull the sleeves onto both legs and zip them up to operate the system, 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, weight-lifting, post-race, or when our legs feel extra tired. We’ve noticed that they’re especially effective in giving us a “leg up” when 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, the 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.

Shop the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs

Best Compression Boots – Runner-Up: Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots ($900)

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots - product photo


  • 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
  • Expensive

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. The two boots will synchronize automatically after you turn the control panels on and simultaneously start their compression cycles.

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 adjustable pressure levels 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 must plug the boots in to recharge them. Note that only one boot can charge at a time, but they 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 whenever you want to use them. Overall, these are an excellent 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

Shop the Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots
Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots relaxing on the couch post-run

Relaxing with the Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots and a book on a chilly spring day. We awarded these boots the best runner-up compression boots. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Comparing the Best Running Recovery Tools

Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller $60 Foam roller
TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller $37 Foam roller
RumbleRoller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller $50 Foam roller
Pro-Tec Athletics 35″ EVA Bold Foam Roller $40 Foam roller
Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller $70 Foam roller
Therabody Wave Roller $149 Foam roller
Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller $48 Massage stick
Brazyn Life Morph Stick $36 Massage stick
Tiger Tail USA The Original 18″ $40 Massage stick
Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro $330 Massage gun
Ekrin Athletics B37S $330 Massage gun
Therabody Theragun Mini $200 Massage gun
Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs $800 Compression boots
Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots $900 Compression boots

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 the 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 muscle stiffness several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise. Using a set of compression boots like the Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots can help reduce DOMS.
  • 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 to the Best Recovery Tools for Athletes

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 more give and usually feel more comfortable, especially against sore or tender muscles. They’re also a good option for beginners learning foam rolling techniques for the first time. Foam rollers are one of the best recovery tools for athletes because of their versatility and ease of use.

Firm-density foam rollers like the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller and the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller can more effectively reach the muscles, release muscle adhesions, align muscle tissue, and alleviate tightness or pain. Additionally, firm-density foam is more durable and lasts 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. You might consider transitioning to a firm-density foam roller as your technique evolves and your muscles adapt.

Foam Roller Texture

Foam rollers can be smooth or have a variety of textures. For example, the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller is mostly smooth with a subtle diamond-shaped texture, 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 designed to mimic massage therapy’s feel. 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 an excellent 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.

A textured roller will be a great recovery tool if you prefer a more intense foam rolling experience that lets you access deep into your muscles. However, if you like a gentler, less intense foam rolling experience, a minimally textured or smooth foam roller will be your best choice.

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller foam rolling for recovery

Hallie Taylor uses the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller to roll out her hamstring muscles. The TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller was awarded our best runner-up foam roller. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

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 long, 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, 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 if you wish to take it with you to the gym or while traveling.

Recovery Tools and Travel

As mentioned throughout this guide, some of the best recovery tools for athletes lend themselves to travel, 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. 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.

It might be worth taking them on long international trips where leg swelling can be an issue. 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, the amplitude is important to pay attention to because it tells you how deep the percussive massage will go into the muscle. To reach deep tissue, a premium percussive massager should have at least 10 millimeters of amplitude. 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. The Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro and the Ekrin Athletics B37S have LED lights to indicate the pressure you’re applying at each speed level.

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - Brazyn Life Morph Stick using a massage stick after a run

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks rolls out her quads post-run with the Brazyn Life Morph Stick, which we named the best massage stick for deep tissue massage. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Why You Should Trust Us

The iRunFar team comprises road, trail, and ultrarunners with 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 guide’s scope 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 product models are routinely discontinued in the recovery equipment world, 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 and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. Most products will likely remain the same when we update any buyer’s guide. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Running Recovery Tools

Why is recovery after running important?

Simply put, every time you exercise, you break down muscle fibers, add stress to your body, and deplete energy stores. Your body needs time to recover to adapt to the additional load and become stronger and more resilient. Running recovery can include nutrition, sleep, rest days, gentle movements 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 best recovery tools for athletes we cover in this guide generally 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 inflammation, overuse, or tightness and generally helps muscles feel better faster. Using a foam roller, like the Pro-Tec Athletics 35″ EVA Bold Foam Roller, is one of the simplest ways to improve recovery.

To dive deeper 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 an excellent 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 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. Using a pair of compression boots, such as the Hyperice Normatec 3 Legs, can improve recovery and is also a great way to relax after a workout.

Best Recovery Toos for Athletes - using a Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller

The Brazyn Life Morph Collapsible Foam Roller goes from round to flat, making it easy to travel with. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

How can I improve my recovery from exercise?

Running recovery is a broad topic encompassing everything from doing an adequate post-workout cooldown to foam rolling and stretching, sitting in an ice bath, 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 and having access to some of the best recovery tools for athletes is a great way to start making recovery part of your routine. What that recovery looks like will depend on your goals and preferences. Foam rolling is one addition to your routine that can make a big difference. Our team named the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller our favorite foam roller for its versatility.

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 increases, cannot be overemphasized. It’s the best opportunity for your body and 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 starting your journey into the world of running recovery tools. One of the most practical and easy-to-use tools is a foam roller, which is versatile and less expensive than high-tech equipment like percussive massagers and compression boots. The Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller is our favorite foam roller on the market. Massage sticks, like the Medi-Dyne Pro Stick Massage Roller, are also a simple and relatively inexpensive way to roll out your muscles and discover the best recovery routine for your body.

Other considerations when choosing the best recovery tool include your specific goals, including performance and health or wellness goals. For example, someone who’s injury-free and has a full calendar of races may have different needs and objectives than someone dealing with chronic tendonitis and trying to get back to consistent training. Finally, if you work with a coach or physical therapist, we recommend consulting them before investing in compression boots.

Do I need multiple recovery tools?

Different types of recovery tools are designed to serve various purposes. Foam rollers, like the Therabody Wave Roller, can stretch muscles and tendons, help reduce soreness, and increase flexibility. A massage stick can serve very similar purposes. For those looking to keep their recovery routine simple, a single foam roller or massage stick can go a long way. A percussive massager, such as the Ekrin Athletics B37S, can stimulate muscles to increase blood flow for improved recovery. For those who want to maximize their recovery, a set of Therabody RecoveryAir JetBoots can help increase circulation to the legs and provide a relaxing experience.

For many, varying their recovery routine can keep it interesting and motivating.

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - using a massage stick

Rolling out with a massage stick recovery tool. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

What are the benefits of foam rolling?

Foam rolling can help relieve muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation and increase the 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. A large foam roller like the Pro-Tec Athletics 35″ EVA Bold Foam Roller can be used on many different parts of your body.

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, tension, and more relaxed muscles. The Hyperice Hypervolt 2 Pro is our favorite percussive massager.

Best Recovery Tools for Athletes - using the Sidekick Flare Vibration Roller

iRunFar’s Ben Kilbourne tests a foam roller after a run. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

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 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 fresh blood flow. The result is decreased inflammation in the muscles and improved feelings of recovery.

Compression boots also help reduce the swelling from inflammation, extended time on your feet, or the many micro-tears 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.
Alli Hartz

Alli Hartz is a member of the gear review team at iRunFar. She’s been writing about outdoor gear, outdoor adventure, and adventure travel for 10 years. Aside from iRunFar, Alli contributes gear reviews and adventure stories to Switchback Travel, Travel Oregon, and other outlets. She also works as a ski guide during the winter season and has dabbled in run-skiing on the Cascade volcanoes. Alli is based in Bend, Oregon, where she loves to run from her front door up into the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Alli Hartz

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.