16 Recovery Tools for Runners to Help You Keep Going

Chasing big running goals, but worried about injuries? These 16 tools for runners will help you speed recovery and bounce back faster so you can keep going. 

  • Maybe you think you can run all the miles without a recovery routine. 
  • It might work for a while, but eventually all the pounding will catch up with you. 

Think about it this way:👇👇

“If you want to be able to work hard toward your goals, you need to recover even harder.”

—🏃‍♀️👊WeeViews Ambassador Lucie Hanes and author of Post-Run Recovery: 3 Runner-Tested Tips to Bounce Back , https://www.weeviews.com/rundown/post-run-recovery

She’s absolutely correct: in order to run hard, we must take recovery seriously. 

In the same article, Lucie lists three major areas of self-care that lead to the ultimate trifecta of running recovery: 

  1. Nutrition and Hydration
  2. Movement and Meditation 
  3. Massage and Bodywork

Today, we’ll look at one subcategory of massage and bodywork: Recovery tools for runners. 

Let's take a look at 16 basic and not-so-basic recovery tools for runners to enhance your post-running recovery experience.

1. Golf Ball. A golf ball can be used to release trigger points and tight spots on the bottoms of the feet.

1. Golf Ball

A Golf Ball - can it be as simple as that? For those who have ever had plantar fasciitis or other foot ailments, then yes, a golf ball can do the trick. Bonus: they are highly portable In fact, I like to:

  • Sit one next to my yoga mat to sneak in some quick myofascial release between vinyasas
  • Stow one in my vehicle
  • Carry one in my purse 
  • And keep one on the bathroom floor during ultramarathon training to use while brushing teeth. 

In short, golf balls are an inexpensive, effective tool to keep plantar fasciitis and other foot issues at bay.

Click here for a how-to video for self-myofascial release for the feet.
2. Gua Sha Scraper Tool. A Gua Sha Scraper Tool is inexpensive and easily portable for on-the-go recovery.

2. Gua Sha Scraper Tool

I first learned of Gua Sha from my acupuncturist, who used one to work out my tight leg muscles.

Like the golf ball, the Gua Sha Scraper Tool is inexpensive, portable and effective, but one that can target more than just the feet. 

Also, it works better than the back of a butter knife, which is what I used for years for scraping, before dropping $8 on the real thing. I use the Gua Sha on my: 

  • Shins
  • Ankles
  • Calves
  • IT bands 
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • and Hip flexors 

Click here to learn How To Perform Gua Sha, or ask your local acupuncturist.  

3. Lacrosse Ball. Runners can use a lacrosse ball for myofascial release.

3. Lacrosse Ball

When I first went to a physical therapist years ago, I bought a $3 Lacrosse Ball from Amazon.com to perform the prescribed exercises. 

Again, like the golf ball and Gua Sha tool, I can carry the lacrosse ball just about anywhere.

I can even leave it in my desk drawer so I can pull it out and place it under my hamstrings if they start to feel tight after sitting and working at the computer for too long. 

Click here for 10 Self-Myofascial Release Exercises for Runners 

4. Massage Gun. A massage gun provides percussive massage, just like you might have seen the pros do (or done yourself) right before a race.

4. Massage Gun

For Christmas 2019, I traveled to Colorado to visit extended in-laws and stopped by Independence Run & Hike in Carbondale, where I first tried a massage gun. 

  • Unconvinced and used to the deeper release felt by therapy balls and foam rollers, I left the store with a new pair of trail running shoes, not the strange vibrating gun. 
  • Yet, a couple weeks later, I got a surprise package in the mail from my brother-in-law. It was the Massage Gun by Viwik. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it another try. 

Since then, I’ve found that my preferred way to put it to use is to bring it to the trailhead when I’m meeting friends and pass it around to get the legs fired up pre-run. 

Afterward, I apply it for a minute or two down both legs and glutes.

Though I personally would not invest the $100 or more for this device, I’m thankful for the gift!

The Viwik version comes with several interchangeable heads and has six levels of vibration. 

Click here for the 10 Best Massage Guns to Help You Recover

5. Master of Muscle Foam Roller

5. Foam Roller

In 2012, a prenatal yoga instructor changed my life by introducing me to foam rolling.

How I could have been a runner for so long without ever knowing about a foam roller is beyond me.

But I made up for missing out on its benefits by using it every single day. 

  • It alleviated pregnancy-related piriformis syndrome at the time, and countless other niggles since. 
  • After using a smooth foam roller for several years, I finally got the Master of Muscle Foam Roller for its “matrix foam module” and like it as a not-too-soft, not-too-hard option.
Click here for a 10-Minute Foam Rolling for Runners video
6. Toe Separators

6. Toe Separators

Sometime in 2010 while living in Southern California and practicing at Bikram, Ashtanga and Anusara yoga studios once, sometimes twice a day...

...I was introduced to the Ped Egg Gel Toe Separators  

My fellow yogis suggested I get a pair, so I did, and they helped to stretch out my tired toes from rock climbing and running on the beach. 

Now I use them at bedtime while reading with my kids

  • Why? They're a wonderful way to release the feet after a long day. 
  • Just five minutes reduces tension in the toes and feet and helps me relax before falling asleep.
7. Roll Recovery

7. Roll Recovery

I first discovered the Roll Recovery R8 at a running store in Wisconsin in 2016 and was instantly sold. 

  • I didn’t drop the $120 in-store but searched online for a deal and found one at around $80. 

I love bringing the Roll Recovery to the trailhead to clamp around my thighs and hips before and after a run.

TIP: It’s easier to use than a foam roller or massage ball at the trailhead, because I don’t have to get down on the ground and can use it while standing. 

8. Rumble Roller

8. Rumble Roller

Looking for a deep tissue, grit-your-teeth type of foam rolling experience? 

  • Then look no farther than the RumbleRoller, which is currently my favorite recovery tool. 

Sometimes I roll, and sometimes I place my tight calves on top of it and fold forward, staying for minutes at a time.

TIP: This one will loosen all of the tightest running muscles, if you remember to breathe into the intense sensation.
 

  • Take deep breaths in and exhale all the breath out to manage the deep pressure.
Click here for the Best 5-Minute Foam Rolling Recovery Routine for Trail & Ultra Runners
9. Shakti Mat (acupressure mat)

9. Shakti Mat (acupressure mat)

The Shakti Mat was another tool I picked up while living in southern California and fully immersed in the yoga culture, during 2009-2011.

“Acupuncture is awesome, so why not give the Shakti mat a try?” I thought.

After all, Yoga Journal magazine advertised the Shakti Mat on its pages, making it look so good, thus I went for it.

What I love most about the Shakti is that if I lie with a bare back on the mat, I fall asleep instantly. That’s right, it leads to deeper, better sleep, at least for me, and nothing leads to rapid running recovery than good sleep.

Other ways that I use it:

  • By walking my feet up and down, like walking on small rocks
  • By lying down face-first in my bed with my bare quads on top of it

Click here to learn about the benefits of the may and more ways to use it

10. TRS Gemini

10. TRS Gemini

Physical Therapist Dr. Justin Deskovich of the Human Movement Institute, Chalk Hill, Pa., introduced me to the TRS Gemini, as well as the next two recovery tools in this list, and the last, the Voodoo Floss Band.

  • Much like a peanut ball, I use this to place on either side of my spine for an upper and mid-back release. 

TIP: The book Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett provides instructions on how to use the Gemini, from head to toe, practically, covering all the muscles and body movement issues. 

11. TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm

11. TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm

Dr. Deskovich, mentioned above, also showed me how to use the TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm for large muscles like the:

  • Glutes
  • Leg muscles
  • Upper back

It applies harder pressure harder than most foam rollers and rolls easily in all directions, which I like, especially when working on the glutes. 

Learn how to use the TRS Supernova 2.0, 120 mm, from Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett 

12. TRS Supernova 80 mm

12. TRS Supernova 80 mm

Before purchasing the TRS Supernova 80 mm, I bought a $3 lacrosse ball (mentioned above). 

  • While the lacrosse ball works just fine, the ridges in the Supernova provide more benefit by pulling the muscle away from the bone and working out extra sticky areas. 

While I like using both sizes of the Supernova...

  • The smaller 80 mm size provides more targeted relief. 
  • Because of their different uses, it seems that you can’t have the 120 mm without the 80 mm, and vice versa - they are meant to work side-by-side, in a sense.

TIP: Like the golf ball and Gua Sha tool, I pack the Supernovas for races and road trips when space is tight, because packing a foam roller and the bulkier recovery tools doesn’t always work. 

Learn how to use the TRS Supernova 80 mm, from Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett 

13. TENS Unit

13. TENS Unit

A runner friend with a low-back problem swears by the TENS Unit, which she recommended I try when healing from an injured big toe muscle. 

At $35, it felt like a minor chunk of change to give up when I desperately wanted my big toe and arch to feel better.

  • Boy was I surprised at the pain relief after just 20 minutes using it. 
  • I was able to take a step without a sharp, shooting feeling, so...

I continued the following routine each day to heal the strained muscles:

  • Soaked feet in a mixture of apple cider vinegar, Epsom salts and essential oils
  • Dried feet thoroughly and applied the TENS Unit for 20 to 40 minutes
  • Removed the TENS unit and applied CBD oil pain relief cream and compression socks

Within four weeks, I was running again: I’m no doctor, but I can attest that this at-home self-care routine sped my recovery of overworked running muscles.

Since then, I’ve used the TENS Unit for other niggles, like a sore shoulder and knees.

What I like best about the TENS Unit is that it requires little to no effort, unlike the rollers, balls and other devices. I simply:

  • Settle into my desk chair
  • Apply the pads
  • Choose one of the many modes
  • And let it do its thing while I do my thing in working from the computer

Click here to learn more about TENS: Maximize Recovery with Electrical Nerve Stimulation

14. Thera Cane Massager

14. Thera Cane Massager

The Thera Cane Massager was popular amongst the rock climbing and kayaking communities to which I belonged.

It's also one of the first recovery tools ever gifted to me in the late 2010s.

Like most therapy tools...

  • It comes with a how-to booklet with images depicting how to use this candy-cane shaped device, which I definitely followed when I first got it.

TIP: I like this one best for upper body relief, especially between the hard-to-reach area around the shoulder blades, which can get tight during long, steep runs wearing a pack. It’s also useful for the IT bands. 

Click here to learn how to do Myofascial Relief & Self-Massage with a Theracane
15. The Stick

15. The Stick

Another portable, easy-to-use tool is The Stick (travel stick), which I learned about from a running magazine while training for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon.

It’s another tool that I bring to the trailhead.

  • Why? Foam rolling in wet, dirty, sometimes snowy parking lots just doesn’t work.  
  • Rather, I can stand up and get all the lower-body spots with this slim device, without having to work so hard by using bodyweight. 

Thus, you exert less energy using The Stick  than you do with foam rollers and balls...

  • A perk for many runners who might skip myofascial release altogether if it’s too much work. 

Click here for instructions on how to use The Stick

16. Voodoo Floss Band

16. Voodoo Floss Band

Finally, let’s talk about the Voodoo Floss Band, a game-changer, in my opinion. 

During the highest mileage blocks of training periods, I tightly wrap the Voodoo Floss Band around my:
 

  • Feet
  • Calves
  • Knees
  • Upper legs...
  • And perform certain prescribed exercises as needed, once a week, sometimes twice.

Immediately after using the Floss, which restricts blood flow in order to bring fresh blood flooding back to an area...

  • I feel increased range of motion and relief from restricting tightness, as if I just had a massage or soaked in a hot bath. 

TIP: Like the Gemini and Supernovas, Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett provides in-depth instructions on how to use the Voodoo Floss, covering all the muscles and body movement issues. 

Final thoughts on recovery tools for runners

In order to be a healthy, well-balanced runner, we must employ a sustainable recovery routine, one that we’ll practice, no matter what. 

Our hope is that this list provides you with various ways to recover, so that you can find what works best for you.

Happy running, and happy recovery!

What recovery tools for runners do you recommend?

Rate This:


Share This:

Subscribe

and never miss our new running content!
(you also score chances to win gear)
574
Brynn Cunningham
Ambassador

Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, cross country and backcountry skier, yogi, mom and writer. www.inhaleexhalerun.com

Comments

Login to your account to leave a comment.

Related Articles

Trending WeeViews

User uploaded image of Clifton 8
User uploaded image of Pacas
User uploaded image of Anchor Down Ultra
Full Review
User uploaded image of Clifton 6
Full Review
User uploaded image of Chicago Marathon

Join the Community

It’s FAST and FREE. Create a short profile and link any desired social media accounts, personal websites or blogs.

Search