Running a marathon is hard. Really hard. But once you've crossed the finish line the next part of the journey is recovering as quickly as possible. For that, you'll need some help from some of the best recovery kit out there.
Running all that way has some lasting effects on the body, especially in the way of muscle soreness. This can last for days or even weeks depending on how well you’ve prepared and how you go about your marathon recovery.
- Essential reading: The best marathons in the world
We can’t help you too much with the preparation side of things – you’ve got to get out there and log those training miles – but we can point you in the right direction when it comes to the best recovery products you can use to ease your aches and pains after a race.
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Some of the key products are gear like compression tights and recovery shoes or sliders, which provide a little extra support to your muscles and keep the blood flowing while you lie back on the sofa and eat as much pizza as possible. Then there’s nutritional supplements than can kickstart your recovery before you have a chance to order that pizza.
The best recovery sliders and shoes
OOfos OOahh Sport Flex Black
One of the first things you’ll want to do at the end of a marathon is get your feet out of the sweaty trainers that you’ve just worn for at least one hour and 59 minutes. Probably longer, unless Eliud is reading this. However, it’s not smart to thrust your feet into basic flip flops or any shoes that don’t offer much support, because your feet and legs need all the help they can get when you’re limping around after a marathon.
OOfos has a range of excellent recovery sliders, sandals and shoes, of which we rate the Sport Flex Black as our favourite. The velcro strap top means you can adjust it for a comfortable fit, and the slider design means you can wear it with or without socks, depending on the temperature.
The OOfoam sole is comfortable and absorbs the impact of any walking you do have to do after your race, and there’s plenty of support for your arches. And if you do opt to wear them bare-footed you can rest assured that it’s easy to clean the slider, which is machine washable. To be honest you'll probably be wearing them even if you haven't even done a marathon.
HOKA ONE ONE Ora Recovery Shoe
HOKA ONE ONE is a brand renowned for making some of the most cushioned and comfortable running shoes on the market, so it stands to reason that its recovery shoe also excels on both those fronts.
The Ora boasts a thick slab of EVA cushioning underfoot to help support your feet after a race in situations when you might prefer to not wear a slider or sandal. The slip-on shoe also has a breathable upper that stretches to fit the foot snugly without being restrictive.
That upper also collapses against the sole for packing, so if you’re lining up an overseas marathon you’ll be able to slip the Ora into your bag without it taking up too much space.
The best recovery compression gear
2XU Refresh Recovery Tights
A set of quality compression tights should be an essential part of any marathon recovery plan you put in place. While the benefits of compression gear during exercise are unproven, it has been shown to speed up recovery, and tights will keep the blood flowing around your beleaguered leg muscles after a marathon.
This is especially important if you have to travel a long way, or just sit for a long time, after your event. Getting up after your post-marathon meal is often the moment you truly realise the trouble your legs are in, after all, so pop these tights on as soon as you can once you’ve crossed the finish line.
The 2XU tights provide graduated compression that’s firmer around the key muscles you need to support, but they’re still comfortable enough to wear for long periods, and even when sleeping. The tights are also treated with Polygiene’s anti-odour technology, so you can wear them for several days after your race without any fear that they’ll start to smell.
CEP Socks For Recovery
If you find the feeling of wearing full tights too restrictive after a marathon, but still want to get some of the benefits of compression gear, opt for these knee-high socks instead. Your calves tend to bear the brunt of the impact of running, so slipping them into these firm socks will do them a world of good after the race.
The level of compression in the socks is firm enough to improve blood circulation in the muscles without being too tight to wear for long periods, and CEP’s SMART INFRARED tech in the yarn is designed to use your own body heat to support muscle recovery, which is very SMART indeed.
The best recovery supplement
SiS REGO Rapid Recovery Powder
If you’re anything like us, one of the key thoughts that will keep you going through the last few miles of your marathon is the idea of the massive meal you’ll get to enjoy afterwards. And by all means, you should go out and gorge on pasta, pizza, burgers or whatever carb-heavy food you fancy after your race.
Unfortunately, you won’t get to enjoy that meal for an hour at least as you have to collect your bag, wait for friends to finish, and maybe head home for a quick shower. In the meantime, it’s smart to chug down one of these recovery shakes.
SiS’s REGO powder contains 20g of protein to help repair your muscles, 22g of carbs to start replenishing the energy reserves you’ve expended running all that way, electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat, and a boatload of vitamins and minerals, because it’s always a good idea to get those in after putting your body through something as tough as a marathon.
The best bath salts for recovery
Westlab Epsom Salt
While the benefits of using Epsom salts in a bath to aid in muscle recovery are not scientifically-proven, it feels absolutely amazing to slip into a hot bath after a marathon, and chucking in a load of magnesium sulfate makes the water feel even nicer and isn’t going to do you any harm. Throw in some bubbles too, and grab a glass of wine.
Epsom salts have been used by athletes aiming to ease aching muscles for centuries and having a packet of Westlab’s salts in your bathroom for when you get home after your event is just another way to give your legs some well-earned VIP treatment.
The best foam roller for recovery
Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller
Buy now: Amazon | $34.99
If you can get a sports massage after your marathon, it’s a brilliant way to reduce muscle soreness and flush the lactic acid out of your legs. Many marathons offer free massages near the finish line, but if that’s not an option, you can use a foam roller to achieve a similar effect, even if it does take more effort on your part than getting someone else to do the hard work.
- Read more: The 10 best foam rollers
The GRID foam roller has three different textures on the outside, with each of the trio replicating a different part of a massage therapist’s hands. The firm nodules are like fingertips, the tubular sections mimic the fingers, and the flat sections are like palms.
It can be quite a painful experience, but if you roll key muscles like the quads and calves in the days after your marathon it will help them to recover faster by increasing circulation.
The best pain relief recovery product
Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel
Buy now: Amazon | $13.34
You might well be in pain after a marathon, but it’s not smart to take a lot of NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin to try and deal with it. For one, it’s worth keeping tabs on the pain to see if it’s just regular muscle soreness or a bigger injury that will need treatment, and for two they can harm your kidneys if you take them while dehydrated.
Biofreeze is a cold treatment gel that you can apply to any particularly sore spots to quickly reduce pain for a few hours. While you’ll still want to keep an eye on any painful areas to check whether you have picked up an injury, the gel can be invaluable in keeping you moving when suffering from the standard muscle soreness that follows a marathon effort.