If you’re like most triathletes, you’ve probably been putting in a lot more running and riding than swimming this summer, and because of that, you’re probably beating up your feet pretty badly (especially if you’re running on trails). There’s something to be said for pure comfort—a pair of silk pajamas, a scalp massage, etc.—but sometimes there’s that rare intersection between comfort and recovery: something that feels nice, but also prevents injury later down the line. While we’ve been looking at a lot of percussive massagers lately, those can definitely bring a little more discomfort per recovery dosage. On the other hand recovery footwear provides max comfort while also giving some important recovery that has been known to prevent possible potential injury. Let’s take a look.
What Does Recovery Footwear Do?
Each brand has their own terminology and sometimes function, but the idea for most recovery footwear is that the shoes or sandals allow your toes and foot bones to splay out after being so tightly packed into a pair of running or riding shoes. Particularly if you’re running on trails, which require a lot of weird gripping from your toes and foot muscles to ensure traction on uneven terrain and over bumps and rocks, you can end up with very fatigued feet at the end of a workout. Even if you’re on the roads or riding, the simple fact is that your foot (toes in particular) is bunched up inside tightly tied or buckled shoes. Our feet were not designed to always be bound up like that—hence some theories about barefoot running, but we’ll leave that alone for now—and some people develop injuries based on those bound-up feet. In fact, there are a few shoe brands, Altra for example, who insist that a natural toe splay is so important that they widen the toe box to allow for that natural movement while running. There are arguments for and against that type of design, but most recovery footwear is made in an effort to help your foot “spread out” post run. While recovery footwear can do more than one thing, other types of designs do things like use soft foam to support the foot and relieve impact on joints—or even use textured material on the insole to stimulate nerves on the bottom of your feet that have been beaten into a pulp while you run.
What Kind Of Recovery Footwear Is Best For Me?
Well, it depends. If you live in an area that’s often cold and slushy, you’ll probably want a full shoe and/or something that’s insulated. Cold feet after a run are a sure-fire way to open yourself up for sickness, and require a lot of energy to warm up that your body would probably be better off using to recover. Similarly, if you live in a warmer area and/or you drive to runs, sandals are a good option because your feet won’t overheat, and you can toss them in a bag without taking up a ton of space. Like most gear, the best recovery footwear is only good if you actually use it a lot. Also, some brands have certifications from groups like the American Podiatric Medical Association. This is good to look for because this means the footwear is more than just a “comfy pair of slip ons” and could have some intrinsic physical therapy value. Finally, since your footwear could be used immediately after some mucky, stinky runs, think about getting a pair that could be hosed off easily, making them appropriate for in-house wear, even if you make them messy apres-run.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some top recovery footwear picks by Podium Runner’s Lisa Jhung:
Recovery Footwear Picks
Olukai Ulele Flip Flops
The notable arch support of these cool flips feels great underfoot. They’re made of lightweight, compression-molded EVA foam with synthetic straps that are lined with soft microfiber. They’re completely water-resistant so can double as pool, beach, boating, or public shower shoes. The non-marking outsole grips wet surfaces, too. – LJ
Hoka Ora Recovery Slide 2
In true Hoka fashion, these slides have a beefy, super-cushy midsole that makes them extremely comfortable. They’re given the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval, a distinction awarded to products for their effectiveness in allowing for normal foot function and promoting good foot health. – LJ
This particular recovery footwear option might not be screaming cutting-edge style, but the orthotic shape of the Aftersport’s footbed is basically a Superfeet insole, providing targeted support for maximum comfort. They’re made of smooth polyurethane (so water slips right off them) around an energizing foam midsole. A textured footbed both keeps feet from slipping and feels good on tired soles. – LJ
Bogs B-Moc Slipper Low Wool
In cooler temps and even snow, stepping into these cozy, fleece-lined shoes post-run feels great. The bomber traction joins a waterproof exterior and a comfortable midsole to make these a great option for late fall through spring. And don’t worry about stink; they’re treated with both sweat-wicking and odor-fighting technologies. – LJ
Oofos OOmg Low Shoe
Like the Hoka Ora Slide, the OOmg Low Shoe has the APMA seal of approval for allowing “normal foot function and promoting good foot health.” The squishy foam used in the midsole is said to absorb 37% more impact than traditional footwear foams to reduce stress on joints, and feels great on feet. This lightweight shoe features a breathable, four-way stretchy upper and is machine-washable. – LJ