TRUE STUFF OR FLUFF: Do recovery sandals really help recovery?

After a workout in the gym, a person sits down to recover

Recovery Sandals — The What

Recovery sandals are purported to aid recovery after intense workouts or long-distance runs. Averred to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, to improve circulation and promote comfort, they are specially designed to support the feet and legs. (1)  Providing cushion and support, they are typically lightweight and breathable constructed with flexible and soft materials that conform to the foot.  

Recovery Sandals — The Science

According to Steven Neufeld, M.D., a foot and ankle surgeon at the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Falls Church, Virginia “there is really no good scientific research that shows these shoes (or sandals) make a difference.” (2)

According to Oofos, their arch design reduces ankle exertion by up to 20 percent and the foam they use absorbs 37% more impact than traditional foam footwear materials.  However, it should be noted that this data comes from a University of Virginia lab study that was brand sponsored by Oofos.  

A 2018 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports showed that the MBT Asneakers with unstable rocker soles were shown to enhance recovery in lower leg and thigh muscles from damage induced by marathon running. (2)

Oofos sandals in flip flop version

Recovery Sandals — The Verdict

“The shoes may correlate with recovery, but there’s no certain causal relationship,” says Mark Cucuzzella, M.D., a professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine and director of the Natural Running Center. (3) The issue being there is no real way to measure recovery.

Of course, our feet matter and are best served by paying attention to the forces placed upon them. However, it is the full lower chain (feet, ankles, knee, hips and all associated muscles) that deals with the ground reaction forces of a hard workout or a long run. It does make me ponder if foam under our feet is more effective than compression socks, foam rolling or topical creams. Perhaps it is a “Yes and …”

My first pair of Oofos sandals were a gift. I was a doubter of their “ability to aid recovery,” but they sure felt good on my feet, especially if I had to have on shoes following a long run. I am a barefoot gal, thus my preference after a work out or run is to let the ground massage my feet, let them splay and breathe. However barefoot is not always possible. I am now the proud owner of at least 4 pairs of Oofos, both sandals for fun, and clogs which I wear to work – they are just so comfortable on my feet, yet provide just enough arch support to assist in neutral foot posture. 

Recovery Sandals — Your Personal Choice

Dr. Robert Wayner, PT, DPT, and director of the Ohio Center for Running Performance, views recovery sandals as a matter of personal preference, because they are not shown to improve recovery over other methods (like compression socks or mobility exercises). “I have had runners who love recovery sandals after a long or hard run, especially if they do have to be up on their feet afterward.” (4) 

In the end, do recovery sandals really work? No one will ever know your body and what works for it like you do. Let trial and error be your guide. Whether it be recovery sandals of your liking, compression socks, taping, foam rolling, massage, hot tubbing, or topical lotions – if it feels good and works for you, then it works!

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