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The Best Recovery Tools for Trail Runners

Gadgets to help you rest easy and manage stress in between workouts.

Jessica Bernhard

January 3rd, 2024

9 min read


When you’re prepping for a big effort, whether it’s a looming workout or a race you’ve been planning to run for months, training and recovery go hand in hand. You likely won’t perform if you don’t put in the work. And you can’t put in the work if you don’t let your body recover. 

“When we exert ourselves, we put stress on our body and our psychological self,” said Cat Mooney-Myers, a Seattle-based physical therapist and cross-country coach. “This requires us to rest long enough that our body can get back to its baseline or normal levels of functioning.” 

There are lots of tools that market themselves as aiding recovery, Mooney-Myers said. But the secret to recovering well is training appropriately and then letting your body rest—like fully rest (as in not working out, and giving yourself time to recover). Eight-plus hours of sleep and proper fueling are key, as well. On the hunt for the best recovery tools for trail runners? We rounded up a list of top picks to help you train hard, sleep well, manage stress, and gear up for your next big run. 

Disclaimer: The product links included on this page are affiliate links, meaning may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps support our team in bringing you awesome trail running content and events.

The Best Recovery Tools for Trail Runners 

A Self-Massage Ball That Hurts So Good

Trigger Point MB 5” Massage Ball

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a ton of science to suggest that passive movements (like stretching) or active movements (like cooling down after a run) aid recovery, Mooney-Myers said. But that isn’t a reason to avoid stretching or self-message. In a 2018 study that observed 46 runners after a half-marathon, participants who practiced cold-water immersion and self-massage perceived a quicker recovery—and mindset around recovery can make all the difference when it’s time to gear up for the next effort.

Do what feels good, Mooney-Myers said. “One of my go-tos is using a lacrosse-like ball for pinning down a muscle and stretching it, she said.” For that, meet the Trigger Point MB 5” Massage Ball. Its EVA foam surface offers targeted pressure minus the irritation that can come from harder massage tools. 

However you recover—whether it’s self-massage or some gentle yoga—keep in mind that the more you exert yourself, the more time and energy it will take for your body to return to its baseline and allow you to perform your best. $29.99

A Small But Mighty Massage Gun

Power Plate Mini+ Massager

Sometimes a tiny massage ball doesn’t quite cut it. At those times, we turn to the Power Plate Mini+ Massager, which features four unique power settings and two interchangeable attachments to let you personalize your post-run massage. The super lightweight, compact design (note: there’s also a full-size version) fits in most gym and shoulder bags, making it easy to make massage part of your daily routine. That’s a plus since any movements that offer relief like massage can mean better stress management, which may in turn help you sleep better—all factors that go into a more effective recovery, Mooney-Myers said. $129.99

A Wearable for Collecting—And Applying—Smart Data

COROS Pace 3 Sport GPS Watch

The secret to recovering well is training wisely, according to Mooney-Myers, and a GPS watch can give you information about how hard you’re training and how much time you need to take to rest. The Pace 3 from COROS is a worthy training companion when it comes to that kind of feedback. Access the app and Training Hub to build customized workouts and monitor your progress. Then, gain added feedback from sleep tracking and recovery advising, so you know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to back off and recover. 

You can accomplish similar things using a scale of RPE (rate of perceived exertion). It’s super simple and works like this: Following your workout use a one to 10 scale to rate how hard you pushed yourself. If the number is closer to 10, you’ll want to scale back your efforts the following day. If the number is closer to one, you know you can push a little harder the following day, if you choose. “If you have two days that are back-to-back of high-exertion training, you really shouldn’t add a third day. That should be your recovery day,” Mooney-Myers said.  $229

Recovery Slides to Cushion Sore Feet 

Hoka Ora Recovery Slide 3

Podiatrists agree: Wearing supportive footwear can provide relief after a big run, not to mention the rhythms of daily life. Runners swear by the all-gender Ora Recovery Slide 3 from Hoka, and it’s easy to see why. Max cushioning and a bouncy sugarcane-based EVA midsole combine to cradle feet in comfort. Plus, airflow channels allow tired (and sometimes sweaty) feet to breathe. “After every run I throw these on,” wrote one happy customer. “It became so much [a] part of my routine I had to buy a [second] pair for everyday.” $59.95 

A Full-Length Foam Roller 

Pro-Tec EVA Bold Foam Roller

You’ll be hard-pressed to walk into a gym or PT office that isn’t home to at least a couple foam rollers. Stretching and rolling on a foam roller in between workouts can help you stretch and find sweet muscle relief. It’s tempting to opt for a compact version you can throw in your carry-on for destination races, but the 36-inch Pro-Tec EVA Bold makes it easy to target large muscle groups like your lats, quads, and calves. A textured surface prevents slippage so you can fully melt into every stretch. $39.95

A Portable Ice Massager for Cooling Relief

Pro-Tec Ice-Up Portable Ice Massager

Some like it hot, some like it cold. If you fit into the latter category, the Pro-Tec Ice-Up Portable Ice Massager could be just the thing. A carrying case chills the tool for up to 12 hours so you can apply ice to sore muscles, ligaments and tendons directly following a run, even when a freezer is nowhere in sight. An ergonomic handle makes the ice easy to apply, though some users suggest bringing along a small towel to make it easier to grasp the ice and clean up when you’re done. $19.95

Sweet Snacks for Before, During and After an Effort

GU Energy Stroopwafel Flavor Mix 16-Pack

Proper fueling and hydration are essential to recovering after a run. But the real work happens before you even lace your running shoes. Eat something with plenty of carbs that’s easy to digest before your run, and bring along another snack when you’re on the go, experts advise. We like Stroopwafels from GU Energy for their sweet, salty recipe that’s packed with electrolytes. Plus, they’re easy to tuck into a gym bag or hydration vest. Finally, be sure to eat something with a good balance of protein, and carbs following your run to help repair your muscles. $24

Compression Socks to Offer an Added Ounce of Support 

CEP Compression Socks Mid 4.0 (Women’s; Men’s)

Some runners swear by compression socks to support tired feet and avoid lower-extremity injuries. For that, we opt for the foot-hugging design and anatomical padding of the CEP Compression Socks Mid 4.0. Fifteen millimeters of mercury (mmHg) of compression delivers a gentle squeeze and a crew height means the socks are a cinch to incorporate into any running wardrobe. $19.95

A New Pair of High-Performing Trail Shoes

We know you know: You should replace your running shoes every 300 to 600 miles. If it’s been a minute since you bought a pair, consider doing so to set yourself up for success. You’ll be more likely to stick to your training plan—and training well, while resisting overtraining, is the best way to have a successful race and recovery, according to Mooney-Myers. 

Want even more info about how to recover well? Find tips and tricks here: 

Disclaimer: The product links included on this page are affiliate links, meaning may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps support our team in bringing you awesome trail running content and events.

One thought on "The Best Recovery Tools for Trail Runners"

  1. shawn Frederiksen says:

    Hoka Recovery Slide – life changing. I have 3 pair in rotation now. an everyday, a work in the shop and a pair for special occasions and pool pair. LOVE them!! buy a size bigger than the shoe. AND, I liked last year’s better than this year’s. BUT, still love them!! great choice.

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