The Benefits of Recovery Shoes for Runners’ Feet

Give your feet some extra love in the form of foam and support.

putting on recovery shoes

Trevor Raab

Despite running providing great benefits for your heart, metabolic health, and cognitive ability, those hours on the road don’t always feel good on your feet. These days, however, there’s an easy way to show them some love: recovery shoes.

Designed to both softly cradle and firmly support your feet, recovery shoes simply feel good to slip into after a run. Because of the advertised promise of these shoes, more runners have bought into them.

One caveat for the buyer: There is not yet reliable research on their effectiveness. So before you run out to purchase a pair, use this podiatrist-backed breakdown of the benefits of recovery shoes and potential drawbacks to find the pair that’s right for you.

The Benefits of Recovery Shoes for Runners

Your feet and ankles work in overdrive when you run, which puts stress on every part of your lower legs. “The combination of supination and then pronation in a running gait uses all of the muscles of the foot and ankle, including the intrinsic muscles,” explains Dennis R. Frisch, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Boca Raton, Florida. Intrinsic muscles are the smaller muscles located deeper in your body, and they do a lot to make sure your foot remains steady.

With all the pounding your feet take on the run, the muscles need to recover from the work they do, Frisch adds.

This is where recovery shoes come in. Designed to counter the effects of time and pressure on your feet, most recovery shoes absorb the impact of walking thanks to their highly cushioned outsole. They also tend to have more fill in the arch, giving your foot support. Basically, recovery shoes combine the softness of slippers, support for tired arches, and the foamiest running shoe in one package, Frisch explains.

While this all sounds good, the catch is that there’s currently no academic research on whether recovery shoes promote better performance or even improve recovery time in runners. (There is at least one study in the works, though, to determine their effectiveness.)

Furthermore, no study has compared the effectiveness of wearing recovery shoes post run versus wearing other comfortable shoes. So while slipping into a pair may simply feel good (and that might be good enough reason for you to buy them!), you can probably gain the same benefits from a pair of cushioned shoes you already have at home.

What about just walking around barefoot to aid in recovery? Robert Frimmel, D.P.M., one of the founding owners of Sarasota Foot Care Center in Sarasota, Florida, tells Runner’s World that he doesn’t recommend this because feet need support from shoes, especially after a hard workout.

What to Look for in Recovery Shoes

Rather than ordering shoes online, the doctors recommend going to a shoe store to try on a few pairs, just as you would running shoes.

Frisch suggests finding a shoe size with adequate width and room in the toe box, a sentiment shared by Frimmel. To do that, walk around in the shoes and make sure you can wiggle your toes freely. Also, put your finger down at the top of the shoe to make sure there is about a thumbnail space between your longest toe and the front edge.

Most importantly, Frimmel says, ignore the size listed on the box and what you think you should wear. “Get what fits best, not what the shoe size number says,” he adds.

Also, standing while checking the size of shoes helps to guarantee the right fit. You may think that shoes that are slightly too large will give your foot space to relax, but this could potentially cause aches and blisters if you slip around too much.

While you may assume the shoe with the most cushion is the best for recovery, it may not be the most stable, and if you’re going to wear the shoes while you walk, look for a combination of stability and cushion.

Also, both experts advise runners try on a variety of shoes to choose the amount of arch support that feels right for them.

Finally, if you have consistent foot pain, consider seeing a podiatrist or physical therapist to find out if you would benefit from personalised orthotics, which you could potentially wear in both your running shoes and your recovery shoes.

Downsides to Recovery Shoes

The biggest downside to recovery shoes is what we’ve mentioned: There’s no reliable evidence that they actually help with recovery. So you may be spending extra money on a pair of shoes that doesn’t necessarily get you back to running faster.

Also, just because these shoes feel good doesn’t mean you should wear them all the time. They aren’t designed for extended walks or gym workouts, says Frisch. Instead, wear them around the house or to run a few errands.

If you are going to wear them outside, be sure they are secure to your foot so you don’t slip, the docs say, as they aren’t made for stability.

Of course, runners shouldn’t rely solely on footwear to get ready for their next workout either. Ultimately, a run recovery plan should focus on increasing blood flow, which helps shuttle nutrients to areas of the body that you worked, and getting adequate rest.To that end, Frimmel recommends yoga, stretching, and massage therapy as recovery strategies. These low-intensity activities allow structures in your body that have been stressed to calm down and get back to normal status and, therefore, ready for your next run.

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