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Do Runners Need Recovery Sandals?

A simple question answered: Are recovery sandals worth the investment?

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After a hard effort, like a workout or a race, recovery is key. The sooner you can recover, the quicker you can be right back at it. Those days when your body feels a bit beat up—your feet are swollen, you have minor blisters, and your muscles are inflamed from the strain of your run—are when a supportive sandal or light, breathable shoe can help with comfort.

But you might be wondering, after buying a nice pair of running shoes, are recovery sandals another must-purchase for runners?

“Recovery sandals are definitely much better than slipping into your run-of-the-mill flip-flop,” says Dr. Priya Parthasarathy a member podiatrist and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. “They usually provide more cushion and support than a regular sandal.” There is some research, often put out by shoe brands, that show that recovery sandals reduce some pressure and demand on feet and joints after exercise.

Dr. Robert Wayner, PT, DPT, and director of the Ohio Center for Running Performance, views recovery sandals as a matter of personal preference, because they are not shown to improve recovery over other methods (like compression socks or mobility exercises). “I have had runners who love recovery sandals after a long or hard run, especially if they do have to be up on their feet afterward.” 

When shopping for a post-run shoe, choose something that is lightweight and breathable that contours to the foot, as well as provides cushion and support. The shoe should also have a curved sole and be wide enough to allow for movement. 

Find something that feels right for you—even a house slipper might be exactly what you need after pounding the pavement for so many miles. Birkenstock, Oofos, and Chacos were brands that Dr. Parthasarathy recommended and wears herself after a workout. 

More Tips for Strong, Healthy Feet

There are other ways to help your feet recover after a long run or race. “Stretch or foam roll so you are ready for your next run,” says Dr. Parthasarathy. 

Dr. Wayner also recommends light self massage with a lacrosse ball (or something similar, like a tennis or golf ball), as well as some active mobility drills, and time spent with feet elevated wearing compression socks.

An ice bath can also be helpful for painful feet. “The evidence doesn’t necessarily support ice bath as a recovery modality to reduce damage,” says Dr. Wayner, “but it does help with pain and the runner usually feels good afterward.”

Spend some time barefoot, but not too long. “In theory, it would be nice after a run to kick your shoes off on grassy terrain, so your feet can breathe and you can use your small intrinsic muscles,” says Dr. Parthasarathy. Being barefoot is a time to train your feet. “A well-rounded strength program focusing on all the muscles that are involved in absorbing the forces associated with impact in running should be performed, and that includes the foot,” says Dr. Wayner. Consider adding toe yoga and single leg balance drills to your routine. 

However, spending all day barefoot, as you might be tempted to do especially if you work from home, increases stress on the feet. “I strongly suggest at home footwear,” says Dr. Parthasarathy. This is another instance where a sturdy sandal can come in handy. 

Treat your feet right for all the good work they do for you!