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Treat your feet post-run or on rest days with these comfortable slides, slip-ons, and sandals.
Recovery is one of the most critical phases in running. You put stress on your back, legs, and feet over the course of thousands of steps and numerous miles, causing tiny amounts of damage to your tissues—and then you rest, allowing your body to repair those muscle fiber breakdowns so you can come back stronger and faster than before. And while recovery is more about taking time off than buying the right gear, it can help to have comfortable shoes to change into after a race so your feet can relax and begin the rebuilding process. For that reason, we like dedicated running recovery shoes—few things feel better after a long, grueling race than peeling off your sweaty running shoes and changing into something that lets your toes stretch and breathe.
To help you find the best recovery shoes, we spoke with longtime running coach Budd Coates about the art of recovery and what to look for in supportive post-run shoes, sandals, and slip-ons. Below are eight of our favorites.
“Having something soft is important for a recovery shoe because you’re beating up your feet so much while running—but you need to make sure your foot still has the arch support it needs,” Coates says. All the shoes included here have that support built into the sole or footbed of the shoe. However, that locus of support isn’t customized—sometimes a dramatic arch can hit your foot in the wrong place. Coates recommends throwing in an orthotic if the arch in your recovery shoe doesn’t line up with the arch in your foot.
Comfort is everything in a recovery shoe, so you’ll want to look for a pair that lets your toes breathe, splay, and relax—particularly if they’ve been hammering against pavement for the previous three hours. A wide forefoot or toe box lets hot, exhausted, and swelling feet recover from the stress of running. And, of course, open-toed sandals and slides will be best for overall breathability.
More Ways to Treat Your Feet: Best Walking Shoes • Best Hoka Shoes • Most Comfortable Running Shoes • Shoes for Flat Feet • Running Shoes With Arch Support
“Active recovery” refers to staying active with easy, low-intensity activities like stretching, walking, yoga, and easy running. Passive recovery means just letting your body rest. (For more on which is better for improving performance, check out this article on active vs. passive recovery.) All the shoes below allow for some level of active recovery, but closed-toe shoes like the Topo Athletic Rekovr 2, Oofos Oomg Long Shoe, and Kane Revive will allow for the most active movement. If you’re planning on doing easy runs on your recovery day, try the Hoka Clifton 8.
The products here were selected based on my personal experiences with them, recommendations from other runners in my network, and positive reviews from the Runner’s World gear team. I also used the guidance of running coach Budd Coates to evaluate the effectiveness of shoes I haven’t personally tested, and scoured online reviews for pros and cons. Good recovery shoes need to be comfortable and also provide plenty of structure and arch support for walking and other active recovery efforts. Additionally, I considered durability, breathability, and fit when making my picks—and tried to include a variety for different budgets and intended uses. There should be a shoe here for everyone, no matter your recovery plans.
Whether you just finished a long trail race and can’t wait to peel off your running shoes and unclench your toes or you’re taking a zero-mile day to just lounge around the house, these recovery slides feel amazing underfoot. The Ora has a thick bed of soft cushion and a wide platform that allows tired feet to relax and splay. It also has Hoka’s signature rounded Meta-Rocker sole, which gives the shoe a smoother ride, and more arch support than you’d expect from a slide-style flip-flop. Some wearers have even found that they ease plantar fasciitis pain.
These lightweight sandals work well for runners with high arches, with a curvy, foot-hugging mold that follows the contours of your soles and reduces stress on your knees and lower back as you walk. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has even awarded them the APMA Seal of Acceptance for promoting good foot health. The entire shoe is made of a squishy, odor-resistant foam, which can be washed in the machine. Unlike the toe strap on many flip-flops, the Oofos Oolala’s strap feels soft and doesn’t rub or chafe.
If you like the Oofos Oolala’s impact-absorbing foam footbed but find yourself tripping in sandals or want something a little more substantial for all-day casual wear, the Oomg Low Shoe is the cozy, welcoming recovery shoe for you. The shoe is made with a breathable, four-way stretch mesh upper that’s easy to slide your foot into. The footbed has the same thick, squishy foam as the brand’s sandals, which can help ease foot and joint pain. These aren’t shoes you’d want to wear for active recovery or even a long walk, but after a hard workout or race, they’re comfy and luxurious feeling for running errands or wearing around the house.
The ridgy, textured Ortholite cushioning in the footbed of these slip-ons feels like a little nerve massage for your feet as you walk off the stress from your latest trail excursion, while the high-traction Vibram outsole makes the shoes durable enough for all terrain. You can walk, hike, and even briefly run in the Rekovr 2s—though the shoes are comfy enough to serve as slippers, they’re also rugged and supportive enough for active recovery efforts. A cozy wool upper makes it so you can happily sport these without socks.
If a few miles at easy pace is your chosen form of recovery, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more suitable and forgiving shoe than the Clifton, a max-cushioned daily trainer that’s deceptively lightweight. The shoe has Hoka’s Meta-Rocker sole, which helps you maintain a smoother stride for walking or running, and an EVA foam midsole with enough thickness and bounce to take the edge off sore muscles impacting with the pavement. The breathable mesh upper gives your toes plenty of space to spread out.
The Kane Revive is a new shoe developed in collaboration with renowned foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Daniel Geller and built with 75 percent eco-sustainable material made from Brazilian sugarcane. Designed to be worn for active recovery, the Crocs-style slip-on has little rubber nodes in the footbed to stimulate your muscles and activate blood flow, while also providing a bouncy, well-cushioned platform underfoot with just enough arch support. It has a stiff upper with little holes for breathability, and a chunky style that’s surprisingly lightweight. We found it to be great for running errands and light hikes and love that the shoe is 100 percent recyclable. You can read our full review here.
If you like the freeing feeling of being barefoot but also appreciate a little protection and arch support underfoot, these minimalist sandals are a Hawaiian-inspired, hand-crafted dream. Designed to imitate the shape of a wet foot in sand, the shoes are anatomically molded with a contoured footbed that follows the curves of your soles. They’ve got the appearance of real leather sandals but are far more supportive and water-resistant, with enhanced traction.
If you’re struggling to find a recovery shoe that feels right for you—or if you just want to turn any old shoe into a “recovery shoe”—Coates recommends these adjustable arch-height orthotics, which provide a custom-feeling fit at an over-the-counter price. Designed by podiatrists, the inserts find the sweet spot between fancy, custom orthotics and cheaper gel inserts, and are supportive without feeling stiff or unforgiving. Runners with plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and arch pain have reported they helped alleviate symptoms while in use.
RW: What if you have unconventional feet that don’t fit well into any recovery-shoe options?
B.C.: If you can’t find one recovery shoe that works for you, consider getting creative like Coates. He has a Morton’s toe that was cramped by the regular Hoka Ora recovery shoe. To make it work, he cut the heel out to get a better fit and added a Foot-Chair Plus insole. “It’s an over-the-counter insole that gives you the opportunity to adjust the arch height, so you can form-fit it to your foot,” Coates said. “And it only costs $43, not $600. So, I modified the Ora to be a custom-fit slide.”
RW: What do you do if you have foot pain after running?
B.C.: Recovery shoes can go a long way in making your feet more comfortable after a workout. But if they’re not enough, and you have active foot pain while running, finding the right recovery shoes isn’t your biggest issue—you need different running shoes, says Coates. “Nine times out of 10 that means you have an inflammation, and you need to get that inflammation down with an ice bath and moving on to a different pair or different size of shoes.”
That said, if you just have foot discomfort after running but not active pain, Coates says to massage the bottom of your foot by rolling it around over a tennis ball or golf ball. “You want to stretch the tendons in the foot arch from the heel to the big toe, the heel to the second toe, the heel to the third toe—get them all,” he says. “All that stress will affect your Achilles tendon and your calves. But once you make them more relaxed, it will take the stress off the metatarsal and your whole foot will feel relief.”
RW: What is active recovery—and why is it important?
B.C.: Walking, yoga, or even running at a very easy pace—all of these are methods of “active recovery,” and can give your body the rest it needs while still maintaining blood flow to your muscles and tissues. Getting the muscles moving helps you increase circulation, which improves healing, because the vitamins and minerals are going into your muscles and joints, Coates says. He recommends walking as a minimal-impact activity that helps your body recover, or easy running for a bit more intensity. Just make sure to put the emphasis on the easy part. “I’ve trained with runners who didn’t want to run with me because I ran too slow on my easy days,” he says. “But some of them never broke into faster times—and often ended up injured. So the two most important things to remember about rest days are ‘don't be afraid to take a day off running,’ and ‘don't be afraid to run easy.’”