It seriously feels like every month there’s some awesome new recovery product on the market. They always promise to be the magical ingredient to your training regimen… you’ll never be sore again! Goodbye, shin splints! Kiss your runner’s knee goodbye! More like, kiss your money goodbye, amirite?? (Full disclosure: I LOVE recovery tools for some reason, and I’ve collected a few more than the average runner needs, so I’ll be sharing some of my own experiences!)
WHAT is a Recovery Tool?
- Tools mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues, involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.
- Foam Rollers
- Stretching assistance tools
- Deep Tissue release tools
- See below for specific tools!
WHY use recovery tools?
- May help reduce pain and muscle soreness by massaging the muscles increases blood flow and oxygen to the tissue, helping the natural healing process
- May help with flexibility
- Together with stretching and rehabilitation, can help lengthen your muscles
- May also promote faster healing by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation
We’re going to look beyond the standard foam rollers and sticks in this article, so let’s dive in and check out a few of the trendier recovery tools out there. We’ll address their claims, the expected results, the price, and personal experience!
Vibrating Core Rollers
When oscillating rollers started to hit the market, they were *the* thing. Everyone was talking about the miracle of vibration technology and how it would revolutionize recovery tools. Manufacturers claim that adding vibration to your foam rolling routine will help increase your range of motion, blood flow, and flexibility, that the vibration acts kind of like a jackhammer to break apart muscle adhesions.
There are plenty of versions of oscillating rollers out there. Some are small cylinders that can fit into a hollow-core foam roller, there are 3-5” orbs meant for digging into harder-to-reach spots, and even collapsible rollers that fold flat for easy travel. They typically run off a battery that is easily charged, and usually have a couple of different speeds to choose from, depending on the intensity you’re looking for. As someone who has a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, I love rolling my feet and calves over a moderate pulse– it helps me to dig a little deeper than I’d be able to with a traditional foam roller.
Nicole’s Take: AH-MAZE-ING. It’s pricey but after long runs, it’s pretty fantastic. A great gift because this is typically one of those items runners may not want to spend themselves.
Price Tag: $$ ($50-200)
Also called percussive therapy tools, massage guns are becoming more and more popular as recovery tools. At a recent race expo, one of the booths had a few demo guns going and the sound was so deafening it was almost impossible to hear the rep talking about the benefits! The device is small enough to be handheld (about the same size as a portable drill, not quite as heavy) and has a protruding wand, typically with a golf-ball sized ball on the end. When you turn the device on, the ball pulses back and forth, essentially punching your muscles into submission.
Manufacturers claim that massage guns utilize percussive massage therapy to decrease muscle soreness, aid in recovery, and even provide natural stress relief. Once you get past the shock of being punched as a form of recovery, the effect is pretty nice.
Coach Nicole’s take: Honestly, not worth the price tag. But maybe you can borrow one from a friend 😉
Price Tage: $$$ ($100-$350)
A quick scroll through the #compressionboots tag on Instagram will show you hundreds of photos of elite runners, pro athletes, celebrities, and normal people suited up in thigh-high moon boots, with captions talking about recovery, self-care, and and the like. Move over, simple foam roller! There’s a new (expensive) recovery tool in town!
There are a few different versions of these boots, but the premise is pretty much the same. Slide your legs into the thigh-high sleeves, pump the sleeves up with air to conform to your leg size, and compressed air moves up and down the sleeves, providing pressure at specific intervals to encourage blood flow and flush out metabolic waste. It’s kind of a lazy way to recover — sit back, relax, and let the pressure waves do their magic!
Coach Nicole’s take: Physiologically, we’re not getting much here. BUT the placebo and relaxation effect is pretty great. In my honest opinion, I’d rather go on a traveling race vacation than buy one of these guys.
Price Tag: $$$$ ($1000+)
So bottom line: if you’re looking to get the most benefit and bang for your buck, keep it simple with your standard foam roller or massage tool! We sure can have a lot of fun in the meantime!