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The Best Recovery Tools For Runners

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Recovering after a workout is just as important as the actual workout itself. If not more so!

Easing muscle soreness and getting your blood flowing gets the body ready for the next hard effort. And ultimately it helps you work harder for longer so you don't get injured or burn out in the middle of your season.

Runners can use a variety of exercise tools to help the recovery process, but how do you know what are the best tools for recovery? Lucky for you, I've tried out a ton of running recovery tools over the years, so if you're looking to up your recovery game here are some of the best pieces of recovery equipment for athletes.

best recovery tools for runners

What Does Good Recovery Do For Runners?

Does focusing on recovery really help you? Do recovery runs actually work?

The answer to these questions is a resounding YES, but I understand wanting to know a little more detail behind it.

Besides just feeling well rested, utilizing proper recovery techniques can help you be a better runner (and run faster) in so many ways.

Here's an overview of the important things to know about why you need the best recovery methods for athletes if you want to succeed:

  • loosening tight muscles protects the body from injury and helps the body perform to its potential

  • relaxing your mind and body by activating your parasympathetic system

  • improved blood flow offsets inflammation

8 Types Of Muscle Relieving Tools For Runners

I have a whole bin of recovery tools in my home that I absolutely love. At this point can't live without them because they make my running workouts a million times better.\

A recovered body is a happy, high-performing body!

These running recover tools help me with:

  • self-massage

  • stretching

  • relaxing my sore muscles

each and every week.

Let's talk about them! You can also shop this post as you go or at the end. Time to get your recovery on!

1) Sleep

The number one exercise recovery tool is sleep; you can check the research on it.

Alternatively, you could cut a few hours out of your sleep each night and see how that goes for your training.

Of course I'm entirely kidding and I do not think you should do that. I don't want you to get hurt.

But you definitely would learn the power of sleep!

Because of how important this recovery tool is for runners - and all athletes and people in general - there are also tons of recommendations out there for improving your sleep.

I utilize a bunch each day to make sure I'm getting the best sleep possible. You can learn more about what I do (that really, really works) in my post on Easy Tips For Improving Your Sleep.

You probably came here for more specific running recovery tools, but this had to be mentioned.

If you're not prioritizing sleep as your number one recovery tool as an athlete, the rest of these techniques won't matter much anyways.

muscle recovery machine gun

2) Stretching Rope

Rope stretching is a great technique to use for active, otherwise known as dynamic, stretching.

Help your muscle reach their full natural range of motion by giving it a gentle tug at the top of the stretch.

The theory of rope stretching is that it prevents us from over stretching our muscles. This then causes the protective reflex muscles activate when fearful of tearing. Which means you can't stretch it as good as it needs.

Contracting the muscle opposite of the one you're stretching (ex: hamstring - quad) also helps the working muscle relax and get further in its range of motion.

Give my quick post-run rope stretch routine a try for your next workout! You can also figure out what works best for you and try it before your workouts, after, or even on off days.

best recovery tools for athletes

3) Vibrating Massage Tools

When massage places were closed during quarantine, Hyperice products became my new best friends.

Vibrating massage tools can give you an extra hand when you can't make it to a massage place.

Most muscle recovery guns come with quite a few interchangeable heads and the machine itself has different speeds or you can do a lot with these tools.

I use both the Hypervolt Massage Gun and the Vibrating Massage Ball Mini from this brand and they've really helped me out.

These recovery tools help athletes get benefits similar to being worked on by a massage therapist.

The perk is that you can do it yourself at home, saving time and money.

I still like my massages (always will!) but having this in between or in place of has been crucial in my running recovery routine.

The downside to these recovery tools is you can get really comfortable just using them...however.

While running them up and down your legs might do something, try researching techniques to get the most out of them. I have a quick video explaining how I use the gun on YouTube.

4) Lacrosse Ball As A Recovery Tool (And Others!)

Simple and small, but really powerful! Don't underestimate the power of that random golf or tennis ball in your garage.

These tools are perfect for use on the lower part of your body (feet, calves, shins).

Rolling on a lacrosse ball helps dig into these smaller, stabilizing muscles that are oh-so-important for athletic performance.

If you need a different size or are in a pinch, golf balls and baseballs are also super effective.

They're also perfect for travel - I'm never on the road without one.

5) Massage Rollers & Sticks

Foam rolling is a myofascial release technique that you can easily do on yourself!

If that made no sense, here's a very quick explanation of what foam rolling does for you:

Fascie do a lot of things in the body, but myofasciae refers specifically to the connective tissues that interact directly with your muscles.

Aka their health is really important for your athletic performance!

Myofasciae help your muscles contract and relax, but sometimes (like after a hard workout) your muscles need a little help relaxing.

When in doubt, roll it out!

Foam rollers and massage sticks are both great for before the workout as well as for cool downs and recovery.

What do foam rollers actually do for runner recovery?

  • relieve tension in muscles,

  • increase range of motion and flexibility

  • help alleviate muscle soreness

  • improve blood flow to heal sore, inflamed areas

The foam roller is hands down the best recovery tool for runners in terms of affordability and usefulness.

AKA it's the easiest for most people to afford that gives you the most benefit. A bare minimum for your recovery methods is to have a foam roller.

My current favorite foam roller is the R4 roller from Roll Recovery. The center grooves and thoughtful shape are actually a game changer.

Roll Recovery also has a foot roller that I use on my feet, calves and even glutes to focus in on tight areas - so good.

While these higher-designed foam rollers do have somewhat of a higher price point, a good old fashioned foam roller is extremely affordable ($15-$20) and totally worthwhile.

running recovery tools

6) Wall Ball

As runners, our legs are not the only things that get tired on our body!

Constantly swinging arms, heavy lifts, etc... our backs and go through it too. On top of that, the daily demands of laptops, phones, or sitting at a desk really stress out our necks and backs.

Please don't only focus on your legs as a runner, the correct arm form matters a lot too...which means so does upper body recovery tools.

Enter: the wall ball!

This just makes self back massages that much easier because it suctions to the wall and you can use it to get hard to reach knots. I love it.

You also can get creative with it, propping it up on different furniture or the floor to get trigger points in your arms, legs, and glutes.

Wall Ball Recovery Tool (may be out of stock)

7) Thera Cane

Another tool I use for those hard to reach back spots is the Thera Cane.

It's been a staple in my runner recovery tool box for years because you can turn it every which way to reach different places on the body.

I mainly use it for beneath the shoulder blades, but you can also use the Thera Cane to get more targeted released on:

  • hips

  • glutes

  • lower back

  • legs

muscle relieving tools for runners

8) Epsom Baths (Or Ice Baths If You Can Do It)

Want to recovery from your run? Take a bath!

Not only is this a relaxing thing to do, it can also really help your muscles recover. Taking an epsom salt bath is actually one of my favorite ways to heal my muscles after a particularly hard workout or training week.

What does epsom salt even do? Epsom salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate. Magnesium does wonders for relaxation and is used in plenty of treatments and supplements for a variety of ailments.

The idea is that this absorbs into your skin and helps your muscles. Pure epsom salt is great, but many salts come with other ingredients too - like lavender, eucalyptus, or spearmint.

This additives can increase the relaxation and recovery of epsom salt baths as well.

If you've never tried it, it sounds a little crazy. I thought so at first too. But when I've had injuries in the past I could feel blood flow going towards the injury while I was in the bath.

Epsom baths should be very warm, opposite of the traditional ice bath.

While we're on the topic, ice baths are a good recovery tool for runners to if you like them. You can also do a "contrast bath," rotating between very hot and very cold water.

One way to do a good recovery contrast bath is:

  • 2 min ice bath

  • 1 min hot bath

  • rotate

  • end on cold

Have The Best Recovery Methods For Athletes In Your Toolbelt

Be prepared to handle the tough workouts that you dream of finishing.

Find a recovery routine that your body responds well to. This is important if you want to avoid injury (which of course you do) and reach new heights in your training.

Always make sure to listen to your body and treat it good - we ask for a lot from our bodies as athletes, so we should do our part to upkeep them!


running recovery tools

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Hi, I'm Madeline

Welcome to Madeline Kopp— your source of inspo for finding a balance between healthy living and going after everything that you want! Here you'll find balanced, healthy lifestyle hacks that keep things simple and stylish. Learn more. x, MK
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