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Recovering from a grueling exercise routine is essential to keeping your body in tip-top shape for your next trip to the gym, the track or outside on your favorite route. Stretching, cooldowns, staying hydrated and targeted massages are all ways to encourage recovery — as is wearing a pair of relieving recovery shoes. "A recovery shoe is a specialized type of footwear designed to aid in the healing and prevention of injuries to the feet, ankles and lower legs," explains Gregory Alvarez, DPM, FACFAS, a practicing podiatrist and specialist at the Ankle & Foot Centers of America.
The best recovery shoes provide critical support for the Achilles tendon, supple cushioning to prevent further inflammation or injury, reduce trapped moisture and sweat and stimulate worn muscles to effectively bounce back. To find these effective recovery tools, footwear experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute identified key elements on more than two dozen shoes through data points collected during real-world walking and post-workout routines of dozens of consumer testers. We've also partnered with two podiatrists who specialize in treating sports-related foot injuries for helpful recommendations for shopping for effective recovery shoes that actually help you heal. Our guide to the best recovery shoes include a wide array of styles for women and men, including slides, flip-flops, slip-on slippers, sneakers, mules and clogs, all designed to encourage active recovery after a tough workout.
You can read more about how our Lab pros evaluate footwear in the Good Housekeeping Institute — plus essential tips and tricks for shopping recovery shoes — at the end of this guide.
Looking for more ways to reduce foot pain while staying active? Check out our rankings on the best walking shoes for women and men, our picks for better running shoes as well as well-designed hiking sneakers, too.
OOahh Slide, Unisex
Ideal for wearing during a post-workout period as well as in and around your home, OOFOS' unisex slide scored high with our consumer testers for its supreme arch support and comfort during prolonged use. The easy slip-on shoe is made with a proprietary material known as "OOfoam," which works to cradle your feet while providing shock-absorbing support on almost any surface. Testers noted this slide provided "cooling relief" with airflow through its ample toe box while the supportive sole helped "evenly distribute weight" during cool-down periods in the gym. Lab Pros in the Good Housekeeping Institute also note that the foam is entirely machine washable, making these slides that much easier to keep clean. "After running constantly for an hour or more, sometimes it's hard to transition to no shoes in the house, so these provide a good in-between to wear around while I recover from runs," one tester shared.
Unisex Adilette Comfort Slide
A time-honored design from Adidas, there's a good reason why these slides have been in gyms and on courtside for years. They're made with a memory foam-like insole that can provide relief from restrictive training or athletic shoes. These slides are pool-friendly as they can get wet, and can be easily cleaned and maintained during warmer summer months. Testers gave these budget-friendly slides high scores for "great traction" on floors and for their "lightweight, cushioning" support. A simple, sleek design, the Adilette slide is a good starting point if you are new to recovery shoes and are unsure if a padded insole is for you.
OOmg Low Shoe
Incorporating many of the brands' beloved design features, this closed-toe walking shoe by OOFOS provides more coverage from the elements than slides — as well as elevated style for casual wear around the office, school and more. OOFOS' OOmg sneaker is made with the same signature foam technology as its other recovery shoes, meaning you can expect the same targeted arch support and shock-absorbing insole structure. While these shoes have yet to be formally scored in Lab tests, both analysts and editors have had access to review samples and find that the generous fit of this sneaker helps ease walking after longer sessions at the gym. While these shoes shouldn't be worn with exercise in mind, they provide solid structural walking support when you're out and about during a busy day.
All Gender Rejuvenate Recovery Sandal
Used by Lab pros and consumer testers alike in periods of post-op recovery, Vionic's ample insole support has earned high scores in formal evaluation for its "cushioning yet supportive feel." These recovery sandals feature the same structural support that Vionic uses in its other shoes, including its walking sandals that our Lab pros have deemed best overall in that category. The sandals' adjustable vamp strap is crucial for both those with narrow feet and those with wide feet that may feel restricted in other slide models featured in this guide. While testers feel supported in Vionic shoes, many of them noted that their design is more utilitarian than fashion-forward, which may be a sacrifice you make in the end.
Kane's take on recovery shoes features a construction that emphasizes muscle recovery for runners during post-workout periods. Testers lauded Kane's slip-on shoe with high scores for ample cushioning, comfort and the therapeutic effect of the shoe's raised foot bed nodes. The airy shoe received overwhelming praise from marathon runners during reviews for Good Housekeeping's Annual Fitness Awards, earning Kane recognition for being both trendy and effective. While the shoe's design keeps airflow in mind with its targeted perforated body, sticky, sweaty skin after a workout may prove troublesome for some, as the shoe encapsulates the entire foot.
Ora Recovery Slide 3
These slides are similar to Hoka's well-engineered walking shoes, borrowing many of its best elements to provide key balance support in a recovery shoe. A review of these colorful slides found that Hoka's midsole is engineered to be supportive and evenly distributes weight, providing an elevated height for flat-footed wearers who are seeking relief. "They were surprisingly lightweight for how thick they were, and had a soft cushioning feel when walking," one tester remarked. Sizing may be an issue for those with small feet, however, as the same reviewer indicated the strap area wasn't as snug as it should have been, in spite of having narrow, small feet.
REELAX SLIDE 6.0
We have yet to formally review this pair of mules in our Labs, but our analysts have evaluated dozens of pairs of hiking boots and trail running shoes made by Salomon, which has applied many of the same manufacturing standards to these recovery shoes. Mules offer the best of both slip-on shoes and slides, making them easy to wear directly after workout routines while also providing more coverage to the elements. Salomon's stretchy mesh encasing provides increased airflow that doubles as a way to keep your feet snugly fitted to foam insoles that provide solid support. The curved toe design is raised to relieve pressure on strained muscles as you walk.
Women's OOcoozie Mule Shoe
Made with the same signature foam support as its other slides, OOFOS' mule option is a must-have for anyone who runs cold or is navigating post-workouts in chilly temps. "I felt like I was sinking in a cloud; they felt more like slippers than what I anticipated recovery shoes to be," one tester shared. These super soft and warm mules help evenly distribute weight while standing and provide key relief for those who are on their feet all day long. Multiple reviewers indicated that they found this shoe to be particularly effective at reducing knee pain. But since they are fleece-lined, these shoes are extremely warm — sometimes, too warm, testers noted, which in warmer climates can actually contribute to sweaty feet.
Unisex Mellow Slides
The idea of Crocs may not scream "recovery" to you, but these molded slides provide many of the successful design elements to help avoid muscle fatigue and promote recovery after a long workout. We haven't reviewed this exact model of Crocs' shoes in our Labs yet, but just like their iconic counterparts, these slides are supportive, breathable and are made with textured insoles to help stimulate your feet as well. The resin body of these molded shoes are keen on supporting your arches and distributing weight evenly across the foot as you walk. The foam-like insole of the shoe will adjust to your exact footprint as you use them more, just like the classic Crocs you know and love.
How we choose the best recovery shoes:
Through recent and ongoing evaluations, we test dozens of recovery shoes in different styles. Lab pros in the Good Housekeeping Institute have analyzed each of the pairs featured in this guide, a majority of which were tested directly in Lab environments as well as sent to consumers for explicit real-world feedback. Testers wore the recovery shoes featured here for extended time periods, between four days and two months (if not longer!) and provided in-depth qualitative feedback about their comfort, durability and overall style.
For the few selections that were not expressly reviewed in our Labs, editors and analysts chose similarly manufactured shoes from brands that have earned our trust based on performance in other testing categories, including Lab reports for styles like slides and winners in the annual Good Housekeeping Institute Fitness Awards.
What to look for in a recovery shoe:
When it comes to shopping for a pair of recovery shoes, runners and athletes alike will need to readily identify the following design features for the best results. If you're interested in pain relief and injury prevention, choose recovery shoes that feature:
✔️ Ample arch support and sole cushioning. More important than most other design features, the best recovery shoes incorporate more structural support in order to better aid your joints, muscles in your feet and tender ligaments. Padding at the heel (and sometimes at the tip of the shoe, towards the toes) may help you relieve stress on your feet as you naturally roll weight from your heel to toes in each step. You may not wear recovery shoes for as long as you do other running shoes or walking sneakers, but they should feel equally (if not more) supportive as the foundations in the shoes you wear during workouts.
✔️ Size and flexibility. Unlike sneakers or training shoes, experts say recovery shoes should not feel constricting in any way, including along the width of your foot and in the toe area. While padded sole support is key, you should be able to walk as naturally as possible (almost as if you were not wearing shoes at all). Ensuring a good fit on your slides, slip-ons or sandals will help blood flow and circulation in your foot, as well as help relieve any tenderness in your feet after a tough workout.
✔️ Breathability. Most of the best recovery shoes promote airflow in one way or another, to ensure any sweat or moisture retained during a workout can effectively dissipate after you leave the gym. Whether that's through intentional design features — like a perforated vamp or cutouts, or the use of airy materials, like mesh — it's important to keep your feet cool and dry.
✔️ Durability. While you should never wear recovery shoes while doing strenuous activities like running, biking, hiking or playing intramural sports, they are often worn outside and should be able to stand up to the elements. Look for textured outsoles (the bottoms of the shoe) that provide good grip and the use of high-quality materials to ensure these shoes last.
✔️ Style: There is a myriad of recovery shoe styles that you can choose from, all built with similar support structures in the sole and toe regions. Think about whether you'd like to walk in slides or sandals, if you'd prefer a slip-on sneaker or even a more enclosed mule, which provides more coverage from the elements when outside.
What exactly is a recovery shoe?
"A recovery shoe is a shoe designed with cushioning and support with the goal of helping athletes recover faster from activity," says Anne Sharkey, D.P.M., a practicing podiatrist in the North Austin Foot and Ankle Institute in Texas. How exactly do these specially designed shoes do this? It's all in a few key features, including the sole cushion and support, increasing blood flow in feet and a structure that allows seamless weight shifting from heels to toes in fluid motion.
"The elevated heel helps reduce strain on the Achilles tendon, alongside additional cushioning and arch support which reduces stress on foot muscles and ligaments," says Dr. Alvarez, a specialist within the Foot & Ankle Centers of America. "Many models feature extra wide toe boxes which allow for better distribution of pressure across the toes, while also providing more room for swelling if needed."
All combined, the design of a recovery shoe may help you reduce pain after strenuous exercise, as well as muscle fatigue. It can lower injury risk while aiding rehabilitation for those who have previous injuries, Dr. Alvarez adds.
Why are recovery shoes useful for runners and athletes?
Put simply, recovery shoes are especially crucial for those who are training for physical events or undergoing training regiments as they contribute to alleviating fatigue after exercise. A recovery shoe is an important resource among other tools that allow people to train hard frequently or even daily, and then feel rested before the next training rolls along, explains Dr. Sharkey. Runners, in particular, experience joint soreness in legs and feet after long runs — recovery shoes help ease the strain on these joints.
"Recovery shoes provide additional cushioning and comfort that can help reduce the risk of injury," says Dr. Alvarez, who adds that some healthcare providers encourage those with existing injuries to wear recovery shoes to reduce stress on implicated areas. "In wearing recovery shoes during training or competition, it's possible to extend running distances and speed up recovery times… Over time, wearing recovery shoes will enable runners to stay healthy and reach their full potential as an athlete."
Because they are key in reducing soreness and providing extra support for over-strained joints, recovery shoes streamline the body's effort to bounce back from hard workouts. And since faster recovery aids performance, many athletes and runners alike turn to well-made recovery shoes to help them improve performance in the long run.
When should recovery shoes be worn?
In addition to wearing them after completing routine exercise (especially an exhausting workout!), you may be referred to recovery shoes if you are experiencing foot pain caused by a movement-related injury. Wearing comfortable, supportive footwear while dealing with a foot injury — or actively recovering from recent podiatric surgery, ranging from fracture repairs to reconstructive procedures — is best in order to promote proper healing. "The shock absorbing and cushioning characteristics of recovery shoes can aid in pain reduction for these patients," Dr. Sharkey explains.
Most commonly, recovery shoes are recommended for extended use for those patients recovering from:
Plantar fasciitis: "This condition is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue which runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes," Dr. Alvarez explains. "Wearing recovery shoes can help reduce strain on the inflamed area, while cushioning the heel and providing arch support as well as extra room for swelling in the foot."
Achilles tendonitis: Often triggered by runners who have pushed themselves too far, Dr. Sharkey adds that the key support in recovery shoes can help soothe an inflamed band of tissue (the Achilles tendon) that connects your back calf muscles to your heel.
Metatarsalgia: If you've overextended what's known as your metatarsals (or the bones connecting your ankle to your toes), which normally support the bulk of your body weight while you're walking or running, padded support from a good pair of recovery shoes can help your body stave off painful symptoms as you recover.
Can I walk around in recovery shoes?
Yes! In fact, recovery shoes are ideally only ever used for walking, minus extended distances. While you are safe to wear recovery shoes between the gym and your home — or between the field, track, court, pool or stadium and your car, for example — they should never be worn during exercise routines, given that some recovery shoes don't offer the same stability that sneakers and running shoes do. You should not be using recovery shoes for heart-pumping physical activity, Dr. Sharkey adds, but for the interim cool-down period after a hard workout and when you return to your daily routine.
Can I wear recovery shoes all day long?
There isn't a set time limit for wearing recovery shoes — as they are meant to be worn in the hours after intense exercise, to help your feet and legs feel better — but you should not replace all of your footwear with these specially designed shoes. Elevated heel support and added cushioning may cause the Achilles tendon to shorten over an extended period of time, hampering your flexibility, if you become too accustomed to wearing recovery shoes. "Wearing too much cushioning or arch support may create an imbalance which could lead to further injury," Dr. Alvarez adds.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
The products featured in this guide were selected by Grace Wu, the Textiles, Paper & Apparel Lab product analyst in the Good Housekeeping Institute. With extensive coursework in both textile engineering and chemistry, Grace has worked on performance apparel, smart clothing and adaptive wear within various academic laboratories and non-profits. Since joining Good Housekeeping, Grace has honed her in-lab testing skills and worked with consumer testers on evaluating products such as the best hiking shoes, slides for women, compression socks and workout tops, among many other categories.
In his role as Health Editor, Zee Krstic works hand in hand with analysts in the Good Housekeeping Institute to highlight consumer-facing input from leading health experts; he interweaves doctors' and healthcare providers' expertise into shopping guides to better educate readers about their purchases. He also independently reviews new products in the wellness and fitness space for Good Housekeeping, which he has done previously for Martha Stewart Living and Cooking Light.
For this story, Zee interviewed two patient-facing podiatrists who treat a wide array of patients that are at various activity levels, including those who have experienced sports-related injuries. They are:
Dr. Gregory Alvarez, DPM, FACFAS, a podiatry specialist with the Ankle & Foot Centers of America currently treating patients in midwest Georgia, just south of Atlanta. He has treated patients at Southern Regional Medical Center and Piedmont Fayetteville Hospital, after receiving his doctorate at the Ohio School of Podiatric Medicine and completing a residency at Atlanta Hospital. Dr. Alvarez is affiliated with the American Podiatric Medical Association, Georgia Podiatric Medical Association, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, and the American College of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Medicine.
Dr. Anne Sharkey, DPM, a Texas-based podiatrist working in the North Austin Foot and Ankle Institute. She specializes in clinical care surrounding ankle sprains, stabilization, Achilles tendon disorders, bunion correction, and heel pain. Dr. Sharkey received her medical degree from the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and completed her residency training in podiatric surgery at Saint Joseph Hospital in Chicago.
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